Sequence in Our Lives

posted by Thanh Shanahan

I am a creature of habit, I function better when things are in order. Some people might say I’m anal, but it is how I work. I was that way as a teacher and I am this way as a mom. And hopefully, I’m raising kids who also do well with order in their lives. In addition to the order being the flow of our day, I have visuals that can help my kids.

5-week calendar

On the side of our fridge, there is a calendar that I can change with Vis-a-vis markers – it spans about 5 weeks. I use different colors for each person or our family as a whole. This has come in handy when my daughter has asked about something that is further down the road. She likes to look at the calendar and even asks what number she should look for. Her friend’s birthday is coming up. She asks me, “What number is Becca’s birthday?” “29. But her party is June 4.” She is able to locate both numbers, which gives her a sense of how much longer we will need to wait before we can celebrate with Becca.

Weekly calendar

In my kids’ bedroom, I have a small dry erase board that spans a week. Every Friday night, we change out our calendar and list all the things that are coming up. I’ve been doing this for about 2 years now, when my daughter, who like most children, was always curious about what was happening. My artistic husband adds some great pictures to the words listed to help her better figure out the activities. Those pictures now come in handy for my son. This has been key to my daughter recognizing the days that pass (both the number and day of the week) as well as months. She looks forward to specific days she sees on the calendar! Some days are the same each week (church, swim lessons, library, etc.). Some things happen each week, but on different days (zoo or Wonder Works). She also recognizes when our week will be busy or light.

Order of our day

Our days are pretty predictable – the location of where we head changes, but the flow does not. I know that my two appreciate the predictability. They know that as soon as they walk into any house, they sit on the steps to take their shoes off. They know that when we leave the zoo, their treat is fruit snacks in the car. With our order of the day, I am able to introduce an early sense of time to my daughter. She knows that she is to stay in her bed in the morning until 7:00 am and that the white noise machine goes off at 3:00 pm after their nap. And they both know that “8 is late” when we are trying to get upstairs to bed.

I was introduced to executive functioning the last year I was teaching before I had my daughter. I imagine this sense of the flow of the day will be beneficial to them as they go through life.

Thanh Ngoc Shanahan

Thanh Ngoc Shanahan, M.A., spent 13 years teaching young children in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school settings. She began her career in early learning at the Concordia Early Childhood Education Center, where she worked as a preschool teacher, developed and implemented early learning curricula and helped transition the growing program from four classrooms to 12 classrooms in a state-of-the-art early education facility. At the Chicago International Charter School, she taught a rigorous, data-driven curriculum to kindergarteners while incorporating technology into the classroom experience and mentoring student teachers. After serving as a second-grade teacher at the Daystar School in Chicago, Shanahan launched a family child care program in 2013. She earned her B.A. in early childhood education with a specialization in music from Concordia University in 2000 and her M.A. in early childhood education with a special education emphasis from Concordia in 2006. Shanahan has appeared on Town Square, an online network that connects family child care professionals in Illinois to professional development resources curated by the Erikson Institute. The creator of a Town Square series on the benefits of excursions for young children, she was also a featured presenter on a Town Square module on developmentally appropriate technology use. Conversant in Chinese and Vietnamese, Shanahan is passionate about teaching because she loves to help young children engage in exploration and discovery.

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