a photo of a dry erase board hanging on a wall with a list on itAhh, the tunes of Grease. Establishing a Summer Rhythm for your family may not be as fun as the Summer Lovin’ that Sandy and Danny were having, but it’s definitely essential for a fun summer.

I had wanted our summer to have this lazy, leisurely pace in the mornings, but frankly, it just doesn’t seem to work for my girls. Not knowing what comes next makes them think that nothing comes next and the next thing I know, they’re building a fort under the table in their dance costumes when we need to leave in 10 minutes!

Our summer has turned out to be a lot more nutty than I expected. Last summer, I was able to work 2-3 days a week and be with the girls the other days. Without looking closely at the calendar, I had assumed that this summer would be the same. A long awaited trip with Mr. Quimby, plus a week of Catechist training, plus 5 days for a family vacation meant that I needed to work more hours during the weeks I wasn’t off galavanting. That meant less time with the kiddos and less structure to the summer. What ended up happening was a couple days with a babysitter, a couple days with Mom or Dad, a week at gymnastics camp, a week with the grandparents, several weeks at another all-purpose camp, and well, you get the picture. At the end of the first week, I thought “We are never going to make it. This is a mess.” Although I still had plenty of time to pick up the girls in the afternoon and head to the pool before dinner, the mornings were rough and we were leaving the house later than we needed to be.

See, I am a fixer. When we have a problem in our family I think about it, chat with friends about it, read a few articles and make a plan. This time, I knew what our family needed and it was a tighter morning routine that followed our family’s natural rhythm and a List with an uppercase L.

I sat down with Mr. Quimby and we went through the steps of the morning, identified the flow and rhythm that would make sense for our family, and then estimated the times needed for each task to keep us on track. We needed the mornings to be handled by one parent since I am trying to exercise in the mornings and Mr. Quimby travels frequently for work.  What we saw was that the first part of the morning was going fine – waking the girls, feeding them breakfast, and then leaving the table. We decided that we were much more efficient when the “on-duty” parent was dressed and ready and prepped breakfast before waking up the girls, otherwise our attention was too divided and the girls used the opportunity to get off task.

But the transition after they left breakfast and headed to the bathroom was when it got bad and trying to collect things to get out of the house was even worse. Ramona needs to sit on the potty for a good five minutes EACH morning and the only way to keep her there is if she has an iPad (which we only use when necessary) or an adult reading her a book.

We figured that if we could get the girls to assemble what they needed for the day in their backpacks so we could pack lunches and gather our own things together, then it would also free up some time for us to stay with the girls while they were doing the bathroom routine.

Hence, the List. I wrote out the things they needed for camp each day as well as things they needed to toss into the pool bag for our after-camp pool outing. I added pictures for the non-reader and hung it on the wall. I used permanent marker on a dry erase board to make the list, and let them check off the items with a dry erase marker.  Once they are finished checking off their items, they have a choice: they can wait outside or do headstands. (Guess which one they usually choose?)

We’ve had this system in place for 6 weeks now and it’s working successfully. The girls are calmer and focused and less prone to distraction. In fact, today we were running 15 minutes early and had time to clean out the car! We follow the routine 7 days a week and that means we are also getting to church on time, which is a real delight.

Most of us have at least a couple weeks of summer left, so there’s still plenty of time to get these good morning routines in place. In fact, I’m hoping that our routines carry over into the school year!


When she’s not making a list, chart or chasing a kid who has absconded with her favorite Sharpie marker, Ellen blogs semi-anonymously at Thrift Store Mama, posts status updates on Facebook, and tweets on Twitter @TSMama1