For the introduction to this series, click Here!
As many of you know, Marvel is our first little one.
Needless to say, these were unchartered waters.
We were are a little green when it comes to the whole "parenting" thing. And then, the icing on the cake?
We jumped into the pool in the deep end.
By adopting an older child and taking the poor thing halfway around the world to navigate everything from language to cultural norms to family....Nice.
But, after reading so much literature and speaking with so many people who had been 'there', I knew that structure would be key.
Flexible. Adjustable. Compromising.
And yet... Unchanging. Solid. And Dependable.
For us? It was important that Marvel have some control over the schedule and be able to refer back to it often. There was a season, right after we got home, when I was able to stay home with him so this schedule became quickly integrated into our lives. We started the day off by looking at the schedule to see "what was first" and it wasn't long before several times a day, Marvel would come running into the room say "First this, then this, then this!"
It was obvious that structure gave him peace and helped him feel in control of what was happening.
We used laminated pictures with velcro backs to indicate individual items.
There are two velcro strips on the board that the pictures can adhere to and a variety of activities to put on the board!
Many of Marvel's favorite things on the schedule included tv (go figure), book time, and learning time.
As you can see, below the schedule there are folders for each day (except Friday when we did field trips) with workbooks in them. During those first few months, we were strategic in what we learned each day and each learning time was rewarded with a sticker!
Now? Marvel is in school all day and rarely desires additional learning time in the evenings. But when he does (usually on the weekends) he will go through his folders and pick out a workbook to go through on his own!
I think that the best part of our calendar/learning time system was the foundation it laid for Marvel. Now, when he's bored on a Sunday afternoon (and is out of tv minutes) he often goes to look at the calendar to see what comes next and will fill any empty minutes with things like puzzles, books, and learning time!
The other piece of structure that-- we realized very quickly-- would be important to Marvel is the Responsibility Chart
Marvel came from a living situation in which chores were obviously part of his reality. He very quickly began taking on little bits of responsibility each day without us even prompting.
The first was his desire to care for Moses, our dog.
Marvel really wanted to take care of Moses, thus his daily chore became feeding and watering Moses and letting him in/out as needed. The rest of the days had rotating "chores" like helping with laundry, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning his room, and cleaning the backyard.
The chart was built for longterm use and the idea of adding additional chores as well as additional children to the mix. We really only use the top week and rotate there as necessary but I am hopeful this Responsibility Chart has a long life in our family!!
Finally talking about surprised and changes to the schedule were and still are really important for Marvel to be able to process and deal with what happened next.
One example of a [really recent] time this was made completely evident was when school was out of session one day but they had an optional child-care. I hadn't really prepared Marvel for the fact that his teacher, classroom routine and basically everything "normal" was going to be different.
That was a big big big mistake.
It reminded me that even though Marvel seems so well-adapted at times, we have to be consistent in the way we handle new situations because his little mind and body are still processing so much!!
In our world, structure has been a glue that has held us together at times!!! Definitely an important tool!!
Stay tuned for the next edition of Tools of Transition!