School ended last Thursday and I felt like someone had thrown a ton of bricks at me. Like everyone else we'd been running to field days, award ceremonies, buying teacher gifts, going on end of school trips and eating whatever I could toss together from the pantry at night (and it wasn't pretty!). Friday we basically did nothing but go to the library and play. I knew that I needed to work out a routine for the summer because frankly, if we just hang out all day things slide south really quickly. Kids get whiny, boys wrestle and injure each other and I get grumpy.

Now I'm not super rigid with our routine but I do find that having a general rhythm to our days helps us all. The kids know what to expect. I know I can work in a quiet break for myself (along with a spoonful or two of Nutella, iced coffee and cherries). There's still lots of room for flexibility and fun.

So here's what I find to be helpful in the summer, breaking our day into chunks, where we have active and quiet time, together and alone time. It doesn't all happen every day and sometimes art will happen in the afternoon instead of the morning or not at all and that's okay.

I'm sharing because several Facebook mamas were asking what I did and wanting to get a bit more organized. Frankly, I think people think I am more organized that I am. (Please don't look in our office right now!) There's places where having a plan helps me and places where having too much of a plan stresses me out. For example, I like to map out our day but I do not like having a monthly meal plan...I need some spontaneity day by day :).

So this summer I tried not to over book us. There have been summers we've been absolutely pinned with trips and visitors and swimming and vbs and though we've loved it all, I haven't planned in down time. I was very deliberate about doing more of that this year. We are doing a few sets of swimming lessons, vbs, kids' camp for Ruby with me as counselor, a Disney cruise with my family (yahoo Oma and Opa!!), trips to Vancouver and have a few guests coming but there's lots of time to chill out as well. I know it doesn't sound like it when I list it all out.

I think with the ages of our kids this kind of plan works for us on most days.  Also, we definitely will be doing day trips, play dates and other activities. You'll notice that I don't write a lot of times except the set times for swimming.

Hamilton Summer Daily Plan

Get Ready kids get up, dressed, teeth brushed, rooms cleaned, beds made

Chores before or after breakfast do Mom’s Choice Chore and Kids’ Choice Chore- to be done by 9:00 when we check. If chores are done by this point you earn computer time for later (20 minutes). If not, you’ll still have to do it but miss computer time.

Swim 9:20 leave for swimming

Shower return and kids hang up swim stuff, take showers

Learning Time Ruby- 3 minute timed test Jasper- workbook page (really practice writing), read to mama, learning game (20 minutes) Tymen- practice letters, writing a friends’ name, number game, read Bob book to mama (20 minutes) Kids can do computer time now if they earned it in the morning

Art paint or color or clay or playdough or help make something fun for lunch

Lunch

Rest time library books for the big kids for about an hour/nap for Theo

Alone time- individual play like building sets or art which usually ends up with them playing together.

Outside play- bikes, pogo sticks, scooters, family bikeride, play with friends

Dinner

Evening- always different

Math facts are always a good idea. I remember teaching little creatures in September who had completely forgotten how to add, subtract, multiply and divide!

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20 minutes of computer time for finishing both Moms' Choice Chore and a Kids' Choice Chore by the appointed time.

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Tymen and I have been soldiering through Bob books before kindergarten. I like seeing that light go on. It's just about 5-7 minutes per day but over the last few months he's taken off.

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Art...beautiful art. Sometimes we do it and sometimes we play a game or make a fun snack.

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Time to play outside every day. My biggest goal is to wear every one out.

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Because kids that play hard, nap hard....yet another reward for a mom of four!

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Chores- Yes, I'm the Mom Who Makes Her Kids Do Them

I am a big believer in chores. I think that it is good for kids to learn how to participate as a family and to help. They learn a whole lot of skills and responsibility this way. We don't pay for chores done as everyone in a family needs to learn to participate for the overall good.  Allowance and money management is something we do separately.

I am very intentional about attitudes that go along with helping. I really keep things very positive and manageable, often with privileges linked to successful completion (computer time, special baking times). I praise and appreciate and talk about being part of the family. I keep chores easily accomplished within 10 minutes so no one feels overwhelmed. A big thing too is that I don't allow complaining, just like I don't with any kind of food. It is a blessing to be a part of the family and to care for each other. Not to say that there aren't chores that they don't love but if they are earning time doing some of their favorite things, they push on. I do inspect chores and while I don't expect a four year old to clean a mirror like I do, I do teach along the way.

Sometimes for the really big clean up jobs (like when 50,000 kids come over and every toy we own is on the floor) they get overwhelmed (so do I). I have everyone individually clean up 20 things and then come to me for a high five and a chocolate chip or something that keeps it fun and breaks it up before they go clean up another 20 things. Sometimes we race, me against them. I try to keep it fun.

In our daily schedule I always have kids helping along the way with clean up, clearing dishes and anything I might just ask. However, I am also incorporating into their day a Mom's Choice Chore and a Kids' Choice Chore. The Mom's Choice Chore is is written on the calendar (different each day but pretty much the same each week) and these are very age appropriate according to what I know each child can do.

Here's my very un-fancy calendar with color coded kids and their daily chores written out. Mom's Choice Chores.

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Then there are Kids' Choice Chores which we brainstormed together. They can choose one per day and also have a pass each week.

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Here's our list:

Clean glass doors inside and out.

Clean up shoe closet and put everything in right buckets.

Sort out blue toy buckets in family room.

Wipe bathroom counter downstairs bath with green cloth.

Check under Ruby’s bed and Jasper/Tymen’s bunk bed and clean up socks or toys or books.

Wipe down all six kitchen chairs with blue cloth.

Empty upstairs bathroom and downstairs bathroom garbages to the big green garbage can in garage.

Wipe the shoe closet door and front door on both sides with a green cloth.

Clean the van windows inside.

Check under couch for toys and put away.

Wipe kids’ desks in office with two wet wipes.

Make sure the kids’ books are nicely in box in family room.

Check the van for garbage and throw away.

Ruby-Free day- no extra chore today!!!

Jasper-Free day- no extra chore today!!!

Tymen-Free day- no extra chore today!!!

Both their Mom's Choice Chore and Kids' Choice Chore can be easily done in under 10 minutes, so daily chores should take less than 20 minutes. To inspire the dilly dalliers in our ranks, if they are done with these by 9:00 so I have time to inspect before swimming, they earn 20 minutes of computer time during the day. This helps us to get stuff done before we head out. For kids that get themselves ready and rooms cleaned each morning,  we give stars and they can earn bikerides with just them and mom or dad each week. For the whole summer  they can also earn a dinner and a movie out with one parent too.  Big reward for lots of smooth, reminderless mornings.

I think that keeping up with things as we go (as much as we can)  keeps this plan feasible. A complete disaster of a house feels overwhelming for all of us.

It took a few minutes of planning to get the basics down but I know this investment in time will save me a lot of work nagging, repeating myself, and reminding. It also will give me time to think of a reward for myself beyond peace and daily absolute harmony. Trip to Europe, all day spa treatments....

Truly, we are a messy, noisy bunch and there is no perfection at our house. There will be random socks under beds, crayons on the floor, and books flipped over around the house no matter what I do. Having a general plan will help me (and them) enjoy being together for sunny summertime!

The joy of chores at Chez Hamilton.

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