At the beginning of every school year and at the start of every summer holiday, I create a new schedule for Chad. Then I sit down with him and fully explain the new plan, answer all his questions, and consider any reasonable requests for modification. The schedule is ready to go. Almost. For I’ve learned that what looks good on paper doesn’t always work in real life. Some fine-tuning is required before the schedule starts to work efficiently.
“Efficiently” typically only lasts for a couple of weeks, before more conversation is needed. The schedule is tweaked where necessary and we’re back on track. Just when things are running smoothly a holiday or vacation arrives and wipes out the schedule completely. We’re back to square one.
So you may be wondering: Is a schedule really worth all the time and effort?
Yes! For many reasons. But perhaps most importantly, it cuts down on nagging. It prods on my behalf. The schedule tells Chad exactly what he needs to do, when he needs to do it, and how long it should take to complete. As the mother of a teenage son, anything that minimizes continual reminders and non-stop commands is well worth the effort. For less nagging means there is more time for laughter, affection and special mother-son conversations.
So, instead of constant nagging, let your schedule do the talking. By now, I hope you know that it’s just a suggestion.
Wouldn’t you just love to have coffee with a few experienced moms who could answer all your questions about putting your children on a schedule? While we wish we could set that up for each one of you, of course that isn’t possible. But we think we’ve got the next best thing. We’ve asked a few moms to share how scheduling has worked for them, and we want to post their thoughts here for your benefit. So why not ask your husband for an hour at Starbucks and “take” these ladies with you! (Meet them here, here, and here.)
Each of these three women have multiple children and years of experience with scheduling. Most importantly, their lives, marriages, and children are bearing fruit and bringing glory to the Savior.
To serve you best, we asked these women to get as specific as possible. But as we’ve said before, please consult your doctor before putting an infant on a schedule. And of course, these kind women would like you to know that their schedule is just a suggestion.
You know what today is? It’s our birthday. One year ago today we put up our first post (it only took us twenty hours or so). Actually, it was barely over a year ago that we learned what a blog was. It might be fun to give this a try, we thought.
We never expected all of you to show up at Mom’s kitchen table. We’re even more surprised you stuck with us for this long. But we’re so glad you did. And today we want to say thank you.
Thank you for being a part of our lives this past year.
Thank you for going on vacation with us and trying out our recipes.
Thank you for rejoicing with Mike and Janelle at the birth of Baby Caly.
Thank you for laughing on Fridays.
Thank you for joining the 5:00 club.
Thank you for cheering Kristin on in the middle of motherhood.
Thank you for considering courtship.
Thank you for writing beautiful and fitting tributes to your moms.
Thank you for praying for Carolyn in busy seasons.
Thank you for following the Savior by dressing modestly.
Thank you for entering our contests.
Thank you for comforting and encouraging Nicole.
Thank you for asking questions.
Thank you for sending us your emails. We’ve read and treasured every one.
Thank you for holding fast to the gospel.
Our prayer for this blog is one we’ve adapted from Philip Doddridge (a Puritan who never would have imagined it being used in this context!)
“However weak and contemptible this blog may seem in the eyes of the children of this world, and however imperfect it really be, may it nevertheless live before thee; and through a divine power, be mighty to produce the rise and progress of the gospel.”
Lord willing, here’s to many more conversations at our kitchen table.
Carolyn, Nicole, Kristin, and Janelle
Andrew just finished kindergarten! Actually, I feel like I just finished kindergarten or Homeschool 101. The fact that Andrew can now read and that I have survived the school year with my sanity in tact is a testimony to the grace of God and my trusty little schedule.
I use my schedule as a guide and not a rigid routine. Its purpose is to serve my family; I don’t feel obligated to accomplish every item on a given day. The schedule doesn’t always go smoothly or perfectly, because my boys are little sinners like their mommy! But it has brought a degree of order to what would otherwise be a rowdy riotous day with a six, three, and two year old. I can’t imagine doing life, much less homeschool, without it.
7:00—7:30 Breakfast with Daddy
My husband reads the Bible to them and helps my oldest son to memorize Scripture.
7:30—8:00 Back on their beds with a few toys or books
8:00—9:00 School Time
The boys play in the basement for a few minutes while I clean up breakfast and then do school with Andrew. The younger two think they are doing school too, even though they are only coloring!
9:00—9:30 Show Time
They watch a tv show.
9:30—10:00 Blanket Time for Liam and Owen
(Andrew normally reads books on the couch during this time.)
The two younger boys get a snack and a toy and sit on their special blankets. Then at the 15-minute mark I give them a different toy. These are toys that they don’t get to play with any other time of the day. I used to put their blankets side by side, but then they would throw toys from one blanket to the next or tempt each other to mischief. Since I moved their blankets to separate floors, it is working much better!
10:00—11:00 Play Outside
11:00—12:00 Chad Time
My brother comes and plays with them 3x per week. This is a wonderful blessing. I recommend that all mothers have a mother’s helper if possible.
12:00—3:00 Lunch and Naps
3:00—3:45 Project Time
3:45—4:15 Stroller Time
I have been training my three year old to hold on to the stroller when we are out (rather then riding). Taking walks around the neighborhood helps me reinforce this practice.
4:15—4:30 Pick-Up Toys
4:30—5:00 Video Time
5:00 - 5:15 - Table Time with books.
I got this idea from my friend Beth when I lived in Chicago. She had her children sit quietly and read books at the end of the day. I have my boys sit at the kitchen table and give them each a different book to read. Then I set the time and finish making dinner in the kitchen right next to them. Last week, I needed more than 15 minutes, so I kept adding to the timer when they weren’t looking!
5:15—7:30 Dinner and Bedtime Routine
Scheduling—and can I say, re-evaluating and scheduling again—has really served me over this past year. It has not only made homeschooling Andrew possible, but it has enabled me to get a morning devotional time and some “down time” during naps. Scheduling has helped me to be intentional and proactive, rather than reactive in training my children.
Writing this post makes me excited about my summer schedule. And it’s just a suggestion, but why don’t you try a summer schedule too?
From our dear friends Gary and Dawn, this one’s for all the dads whose kids ask tough questions about the Bible. Have a splendid Father’s Day Weekend!
for Carolyn, Kristin, and Janelle
My family is reading through the M’Cheyne Bible plan again, and when we cannot read it together we try to discuss it at our family mealtime. Wednesday at lunch Katie and Gabe both, very seriously, asked me why the Israelites craved Chinese food. I was lost, so I asked them what they were referring to.
Psalm 106:14 says, “But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert…”
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Jack’s life is not so simple as Caly’s. He’s a three-year-old boy. (I can see you moms of sons smiling and nodding to yourselves. You understand.) So far, he’s an only child. He has no other siblings to
fight play with. That means “Mommy” is his primary playmate and conjurer of entertainment. Jack—as much as I love him—is also a whiney child, and easily bored.
Schedule to the rescue again. The same principles that helped regulate Jack’s feeding and sleeping as an infant provide order, structure, purpose, and fun to Jack’s toddler days. There’s “breakfast time” and “toy time” and “school time” and “video time” and “outside time” and “table time,” mostly in ½ hour increments. You get the idea. And so does Jack. Recently, I took him out of the bathtub and he excitedly announced, “It’s towel time!” (I guess there really is a time for EVERY matter under heaven!)
It took some effort to get his wake-time schedule up and running. I blocked out a week where I was home in the mornings and focused on moving Jack through his day. We have a timer (which has since been dunked in the bathtub) to help him know when it’s time to transition to the next activity. Mom encouraged me to label each part of the day to help him understand.
There’s always more tweaking and troubleshooting to do. But now that the structure is in place, I have great flexibility. I often shuffle the late-morning and afternoon activities around, depending on the day. Even if we miss a day, Jack easily slides back into his schedule the following morning.
Moms with multiple children might not need a schedule quite as intense as mine (that’s why it’s just a suggestion). But my three year old is a lot less whiney on a schedule. And so am I.
Caly leads a simple life. She sleeps, she eats, and she has awake time. That’s it. Her life is a constant three-hour cycle of eat/wake/sleep and in that order. And these are the building blocks of her schedule, which I’ve used since we arrived home from the hospital. The purpose of this schedule is to help set Caly’s internal body clock and to teach her how to fall asleep on her own.
EAT: Since birth, I have fed Caly every 2 ½ to 3 hours. Now that she is 4 months it is every 3 to 3 ½ hours. Warning! These times are not universal to all babies. I would encourage you to check with your doctor before regulating your child’s eating habits. In my case, Caly was meeting all of the healthy growth charts and thriving on this particular feeding schedule.
To teach Caly the difference between day and night, I never let her sleep past her feeding time during the day. But at night, I allow her to sleep as long as she will. Now, at four months, she sleeps for a seven to nine hour stretch before she wakes up hungry.
WAKE: I work hard to give Caly awake time after she eats (the exception being her bedtime and nighttime feedings). This was especially difficult those first few weeks when she would often fall asleep nursing. But the extra effort paid off and her body quickly adapted to the pattern.
During awake periods, I give Caly some time to play alone in a safe place (for twenty minutes, or longer if she is happy). I want her to learn to entertain herself, rather than be solely dependent on the attention of others. This wasn’t always met with a smile at first. But I made sure she was fed, changed, and happy before I put her down. Now, my girly has begun to enjoy “swing time” and “floor time.” She plays with her fingers and talks to herself.
As I said yesterday, this advice is nothing new. In their book, The American Home, Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe (of Uncle Tom’s Cabin fame) write:
“Do not allow a child to form such habits that it will not be quiet unless tended and amused….A child who is trained to lie or sit and amuse itself, is happier than one who is carried and tended a great deal, and thus rendered restless and uneasy when not so indulged.”
Of course, awake time also includes special Mommy-Caly play-time: we sing songs, talk baby girltalk, and play with toys. There is also errand-time, playgroup-time, and other fun activities. I love spending every day with my girly!
SLEEP: A nap concludes our cycle. Naps have always ranged in length from 1 to 2 hours. A priority from the start has been to teach Caly to settle herself to sleep on her own. This has meant some tears. The first night that I let her cry herself to sleep, I cried too. Mike was in full support of my plan for training Caly, and he was there to reassure me that this was good for her—even when everything in me wanted to run and pick her up. Now, I can put Caly down to sleep with very little or no crying at all.
Eat. Wake. Sleep. It’s not rocket science. But if you’re still a little fuzzy, I’ve attached an example of what a typical day might look like for Caly. And it’s not the only way to do it, either. My mom used an eat/sleep/wake cycle, but always made sure her babies were awake when she put them in the crib. I’m not going to pretend it’s always easy. And yet the rewards—for Caly, for Mike, and for me are well worth the effort.
But don’t you be forgetting, it’s just a suggestion.
Before Yahoo shuts down our email account due to the flood of requests for us to share HOW to put a baby on a schedule, let me set your minds at ease. Over the next few days, we will be posting our specific schedules, from infancy to middle school. So stick around.
I’m up first. But before I tell you about Caly’s schedule, I want to fill you in on how I arrived at this scheduling decision.
Exactly one year ago this week, I found out that I was pregnant. As soon as those two little lines showed up on the pregnancy test, my motherhood journey began. The most pressing question before me: How do I do this mommy thing? Sure, I spent years babysitting and caring for my little brother and nephews, but this was gonna be different. I wasn’t going to give this one back at the end of the evening. She was going home with me.
The Bible doesn’t tell me whether or not to use a pacifier or to let my baby cry herself to sleep; but it does tell me where I can find the answers to these—and many other—questions. Just check out Titus 2:3-5: “Older women are…to train…the younger women…to love their children.” What wisdom is
found in these words!
But where do we start? Given the endless number of methods and opinions out there, it is easy to become overwhelmed or simply ignore the advice altogether. However, neither reaction is in line with Titus 2. So how do we know who to pursue for help? How do we sift through all of the suggestions? We need to be selective. I recommend that you look for women whose children are characterized by the fruit of self-control and obedience. And when you find one, corner her. Ask her to coffee. Tell her you will pay. Bring your notepad and start writing. Don’t underestimate the benefit that you will gain. You can save yourself a whole lot of heartache and trouble, simply by gleaning from the wisdom of experienced women.
For me, these conversations started close to home. I began to grill my mom and sisters. I intentionally sought out women at church. “Tell me everything! What worked? What would you do differently?”
My conversations all led me to the same conclusion—babies thrive on schedules and order. This isn’t something new or novel that I discovered on my own. I’m leaning on centuries of motherhood experience here (Susanna Wesley, Elisabeth Elliot, and many others). And that brings me great comfort, especially in those moments when perseverance is required.
So, the schedule that I will be sharing over the next few days is hardly original with me. It has evolved from many conversations, and I offer it to you as—just a suggestion.
Here at girltalk we scour the internet daily, diligently searching for biblical resources to encourage you in biblical womanhood. I wish. Scouring the bathroom floor is more like it. But when something falls in our lap, we do try to be faithful to inform you.
Today we have two links that could make all the difference in your children’s lives.
First off, we have a treat for all you mothers of sons who diligently printed out every one of mom’s posts. (My current plan for Jack has only one goal: “Show Yourself Obedient, Son.” But Mom’s posts are money in the bank for me.) These posts were based on an article by Randy Stinson entitled “Show Yourself a Man.” And our faithful friend Justin Taylor (who does scour the internet in search of helpful resources) passed along a link to a series of audio messages given by Randy and based on the content of this article. Consider downloading these to your son’s ipod.
Secondly, for parents of young children—yes, we know you are desperate—help has arrived, in the form of pastor Kenneth Maresco. This father of five sons and one of the executive pastors at Covenant Life Church, is currently teaching a seminar for parents of young children. The first message was last Tuesday. Stay tuned for more.
Ok, it’s back to scrubbing the bathroom floor for me.
A mom wrote:
I hope that a hundred people ask you this so you answer. How do you teach a toddler to stay in bed until 7:00? I have been needing the answer to this question for awhile. Please help!!
Well, you got your wish! It wasn’t quite a hundred, but several moms did write in with this question. I’m answering on Kristin’s behalf because she’s a little too busy keeping her kids on their schedule today. And please know, we don’t think we have all the answers. We’re figuring this out as we go along too. But here are some ideas that have worked for us and for people we know.
If possible, begin when your child is still in a crib (old enough to sit up on their own). Don’t get them out of bed when they first wake up, but place some books or toys in the crib the night before, after they are asleep. Determine what time you will get them up and stick to it. They might cry at first, but soon they will enjoy this morning playtime. If this habit is established early, it will be easy to maintain, even after they transition to the “big boy” or “big girl” bed.
However, if your toddler is already in a bed, take heart—it is not too late. Kristin can attest to that. First of all, make it fun! Tell them they are going to have a new “special playtime” (or give it a more creative name). Consider buying a new toy or book or two that is reserved for that time. Friends of ours have an idea I haven’t tried but really like: toddler devotional time. Their kids get a Bible story book and some kid worship music (try “Awesome God” or “Hide the Word”) to read and listen to for a while.
Because toddlers have no concept of time, you could set a timer (as our mom did) for the number of minutes between when they wake up and when you’ve determined they will get up. Or, like a dad we know, you can use a light timer (which turns the light on at a pre-set time) to alert the children that it’s now OK to move about the cabin, er, I mean room. Or, you could simply train them not to get out of bed until Daddy or Mommy come to get them (as we do with Jack).
And yes, it will require training and probably even some discipline to make this work. The same dad who used the light timer had a clever idea. He stood outside the door the first time, so when his daughter got out of bed and opened the door, there was Daddy! She had no way of knowing her dad wasn’t always standing outside the door, and so she stayed in bed. I know another mom who sat outside the door, prepared to discipline whenever the child disobeyed. This requires some investment at first, but the payoff is well worth it. And actually, Kristin says that in her case, her boys were so used to being disciplined in other areas that it wasn’t that hard!
Oh, and breakfast with Daddy (if his schedule permits) is a practice both Kristin and I appreciate. Steve is teaching Jack Bible memory verses and his catechism, and I get an extra half an hour to prepare for the day. Kristin’s boys have learned to go back in their beds after breakfast and play with toys until 8:00!
Teaching your child to stay in bed serves you (the mom) so you can get a devotional time (and maybe even a shower!). It ensures your husband gets enough rest, and your attention in the morning. And it serves the children. By teaching them to rise at a certain time and to enjoy playing by themselves, you can help them form disciplined habits to last a lifetime.
But teaching your kid to stay in bed? Take it or leave it. ‘Cause it’s just a suggestion.