When the kids get home from school there is a long list of things that have to be done. Efficiency in our home is essential to getting it all done; but it is also essential in getting it done and not having conflict and wrong attitudes flaring at the drop of the hat!
I have evaluated the times when there are wrong attitudes in our home. many of those times happen when someone is not doing what they are supposed to be doing. A lot of time it happens when there is not a routine set down so everyone knows what is going on. There are times when I notice that I am irritated at the kids for just being around; because in my mind they are supposed to be doing something else. Yet the reason they are not doing something else is that I have not been clear in laying out my expectations for them. The easiest way to do that is to establish a routine where they know what they are supposed to be doing without needing me to prompt them and tell them.
Our afternoons have had to start functioning like clock work in order to accomplish what needs to be done each evening. It has taken an open mind in coming up with a routine that accommodates everything on the evening 'to do' list. For example, the kids have always done the dinner dishes-for about as long as I can remember. It has always been a teat for me to be able to take the evening off of dishes. Now, with homework, showers, instrument practice etc., I have had to look at the evening and think of it differently than what it has always been.
Changing things that have always been can sometimes feel scary. Sometimes things need to be changed though. New routines need to be made. We can not be afraid to change things around if our current system is not working. Life changes - we need to be willing to change too!
Unlike our morning routine where we schedule the time according to the amount of time needed for each task; our evening routine has to be made according to the actual time on the clock. This is needed simply because we have a set time for bed. Every school night the kids know that bedtime is promptly at 8:30 - no exceptions! (Wednesday nights are different because we have church that night. On Wed night the routine is that everyone is in bed 15 minutes after we pull in the drive way - no exceptions!)
Having a set time that needs to be met for bed, can pose a problem when the kids arrive home at various times on different days. here is how we rectified that problems. A routine is followed(doing each task in the amount of time allotted for each task) until dinner. If we are running a few minutes later because of a later arrival time home - we take the time off of dinner. Thus, dinner always ends at the same time each evening. Then, from the time dinner is over we follow a schedule (tasks done according to the actual time on the clock.) That way bed time is always promptly at the designated time.
Here is a sample of Abbey's after school schedule. Her schedule /routine starts the minute that she walks in the door:
*Empty lunch box / take off shoes and coat / take bag upstairs to bedroom - 5 minutes
*Prep for next day=
(lay out clothes for next school day- put coat /shoes / gym bag in front entry way) - 10 minutes
*Shower - 15 minutes
*Dinner - 40 minutes
5:40 - Family devotions
6:00 - Practice Cello with Anna - (Anna plays in her room quietly while Abbey practices)
7:00 - Homework in bedroom - NO TALKING RULE IN EFFECT
7:50 - Mom and Me Time
8:15 - Brush Teeth / Drink / Prep for Bed/ Pray with Dad
8:30 Bedtime - Reading Privilege until Lights Out
9:00 - LIGHTS OUT
During their instrument practice time Rob and I do the dishes together. This gives us a chance to talk without the kids running around. I actually LOVE this time with him; and have found that changing this aspect of the schedule was not that bad! (The kids then do all the dishes for all the meals on the weekends) Then from 6:30 - 7:00 Rob plays with the little ones while I pack the next days lunches and get breakfast prep done.
The nights really run effortlessly and the kids know what they are supposed to be doing throughout the entire evening. The house sounds a little funny with all the kids practicing in their rooms upstairs at the same time. I find, however, that the noise does not bother me at all because I know that all the kids are where they are supposed to be. The noise is telling me that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Thus, the stress is gone.
If we did not have such a long drive home from school I would make sure the children had some time to have fee time in the schedule. At this time, this is just not possible. Normally they are not getting home until at least 4:30 and that just does not leave time for free/play time. We do try to make the trip home from school fun. We had originally planning on making the trip home a time for homework; but with car sickness and excitement over the day's activities that just did not work out.
Each one of the older kids has a Mom and Me time during their homework time. This allows me to help them with any homework they have - (spelling words, math difficulties etc). I also use that time to sign permission slips, homework pads etch. If they do not have homework that I need to help them with, this is a time for them to talk to me and tell me about their day. The younger kids are in bed and this allows me the luxury of quality / uninterrupted time with each of them.
We do allot a 30 minute time for reading at 8:30. The rule is that teeth have to be brushed, drinks taken before their reading time. They have to read in bed - and once they are in bed they have to stay in bed. they are responsible to watch the time and turn the lights out at 9:00. If they fail to follow these rules they loose their time the next night. This allows us to place value on the discipline of reading and allows for Bible reading if they did not get it all done that morning.(No extra reading can be done until their Bible reading is done for the day!)
If you do not have a system set in place for organizing your time - let me encourage you to try it. you may find an actual schedule works great for you. perhaps, you will find routines a better fit for your families lifestyle. Don't be afraid to try implementing a little of both system. That has worked great for us!!
No matter what system you choose - order your time and your children's time. You will find such freedom in submission to a stewardship principled time management system. Our families are worth it!!