Wednesday, August 21, 2013


How Do I Teach a Child-led Curriculum: How to Use Routine

This week I am posting a 5-day series on a subject that is close to my heart: How Do I Teach a Child-led Curriculum?

Today, I am talking about using routine in a child-led curriculum.  Here is the rest of the schedule:

Wednesday: How To Use Routine in a Child-led Curriculum

Since this is a preschool blog, I will be discussing the entire subject with a focus on young children, but the principles can also be applied to older children (who can often have even more input in planning their schedules).

Why Routine is Important

Routine provides children with stability and predictability in their day.  When a child knows what is coming up, they will argue and resist it less, if at all.  Children also feel like they have more control over their own lives when they can expect a consistent routine because nobody is telling them to do unexpected activities.  Remember Glasser's ideas from yesterday?  Power is a basic human need that motivates even children!  Consistent routines meet that need: when children know what is coming next, and do not need someone to tell them what to do, they feels powerful.

Routine in a Child-led Day

You may find a different way to make routines work for here.  Here, I will present what works best for me with the hope that it will help you develop an ideal routine.

Our routines are built around meals and snacks.  Here is our day in a simplified outline:

Wake up: Snack

Time 1: Exercise, friends arrive, free play

8:00 am: Breakfast

Time 2

10:00 am: Snack

Time 3

12:00 noon: Lunch

Naps & Quiet Time

3:30-4:00 pm: Snack

Time 4

6:00ish pm: Dinner

Time 5: Calm down, bed time

The meal and snack times may vary, but not by much.  We have five "times" during our day.  Three of those times can be used for "school."  One and half of those three is usually used for outdoor play (I could write another whole series on outdoor play, it's importance, and ways to engage in it!).  This means that at our house, we usually have one and half or two times a day when we engage in more structured activities.

Those structured activities can be structured centers, child-choice centers, small projects, games, imaginative play, building projects, group lessons, science experiments, writing exercises, reading books, crafts, music time, Spanish, parachute play, or just about a million other activities!  I usually have three lessons (usually Spanish, reading/craft, and a themed lesson) ready to pull out at any point needed.  Tomorrow I will talk more about planning lessons!  These structured activities (of my choice) are the only thing that the children would not be able to predict in a day.  The children can, however, tell you when these "school time" activities would take place, and they usually play a very large role in choosing what the activity is.  I love to let my children choose what they spend their time doing.  This is the heart of child-led curriculum.

My children know that we have snacks at 10:00 am, lunch at noon, and naps after lunch.  They know that in the mornings as they arrive, they get to play -- or do whatever else they want -- until we eat breakfast.  They also know that after breakfast we will clean up and do something else.

If we finish breakfast and they want to build a yellow brick road (out of giant foamy letter squares) and act out the Wizard of Oz (yes, we do this about once a month) that's what we will do.  This fun little activity lets them practice language skills, drama skills, counting skills (we count everything, all the time), color skills (wait, what color was that road?), re-telling skills, and much more!  And since they wanted to do it, they will learn those skills much faster and happier than if I sat them down and had them work on worksheets.  Of course, they also know that when it gets close to 10:00, they will need to clean up and move on to snacks.  And that's okay, because we always have snacks at 10:00.

My children often ask to be in charge of School Time.  I usually conference with them briefly to find out what their plans are, and then they usually proceed.  My oldest especially loves teaching everyone else, but even my younger ones have asked to paint for School Time, and that's okay too!  In fact, it is better than is wonderful that they are excited enough about something to request it and enjoy it!

One of the hard things about a schedule like this is that it is difficult to pull children away from something they are enjoying.  Once they get used to a schedule, though, they expect to keep it!  Their bodies become accustomed to eating every 2-3 hours, and they can get very cranky if their meal or snack is twenty minutes late!  They also look forward to their rest time and really need to lay down.  My 1st grader still lays down for 15-20 minutes every afternoon--it is resting and rejuvenating for all of us!

How do you use routines at your house or school?

How Do I Teach … 5 Day Blog Series is brought to you by the following blogs:
Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ Homeschool Gameschool ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ No Doubt Learning ~ Mrs. Redd’s Classroom Blog ~ Proverbial Homemaker ~ My Joy Filled Life ~ Preschool Powol Packets ~ Adventures in Mommydom ~ Vicki Arnold ~ Only Passionate Curiosity ~ Living Life and Learning ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ 3 Dinosaurs

I may share at any of these parties!


Unknown said...

It's nice to see how you do things. My son learned to tell time so that he would know when his snack times were! We've lost some structure over the summer but we're starting to bring it in again now. A dose of outdoor play helps them sleep so much better at night-I'm not an 'outdoorsy' person so I have make a point of sending them out, but it brings a smile to my face to see them enjoying themselves.

Carla at Preschool Powol Packets said...

Thanks Crystal! Food is a big priority for kids, lol! I completely agree with the outdoors being important--we spend as much time as possible out there...if the weather is especially beautiful, we might spend all of our learning times outside...this would be a really fun post by itself! ;)

Anonymous said...

I completely agree! Routines are important! It's funny how something even as simple as going to be a little later can throw my kids off!

Carla at Preschool Powol Packets said...

I know, right?! No Doubt Learning! It's amazing how they become attached to a routine...I think it speaks to how much they need it!