This week has been one of renewal: I finally went back to an exercise class, I set up my desk to ensure personal space for my writing and blogging. I played outside with the boys instead of insisting that homework take center stage (not that I would condone this often, but we needed to play together). We managed to share more family meals than usual (still not perfect), and I was available to supervise homework while cooking – somehow the planets aligned and it was successful! Best of all, I stopped to watch my kids doing things. I know that may sound strange to you all, but I have been so busy being busy, I sometimes neglected to enjoy the two reasons I am working hard in the first place. For example, I had found some time to blog. During this time, Peanut practiced his baseball skills in the yard. Normally, I would have valued my personal time and just continued blogging, but I did something else instead; I sat at my window and watched my son pitch, catch, hit, repeat…I loved seeing Peanut figure out how to throw the ball different ways. I noticed how tall he had become…the batting practice “thing” was finally the right height for him! I also realized he needed a haircut!
You may be thinking at this point just how bad I am at being a mother. Why on earth would this week seemed so special? I do spend time with the boys, and I notice them a great deal too. Being a working mom makes weekdays a little stressful; I am usually running around like a headless chicken, too busy catching up with housework, coveting a moment to myself, becoming “Mommy on a mission” with panic-stricken eyes if extra homework is assigned. Instead, this week I was much more “Mommy ain’t stressing over it” and yet things got done. The secret to this week: a schedule!
Many people feel schedules are beneficial. Some folks prefer to wing it, and it works for them. I am in the strange category of loving to be able to allow my moods and whims to dictate my plans, but I need a schedule to actually achieve things satisfactorily. Bizarre, I know!
As a teacher, I know the importance of schedules for children. If a child knows what is going to happen throughout the day, he feels more secure and confident about tackling the challenges of the day. He know what to expect. A child also benefits because she can engage prior knowledge before a new activity or event, which makes said activity more meaningful and useful. For example, imagine you are going to start homework with your kids. If a child has no schedule, she will hear the parent state that it is time for homework and may scramble to get started or procrastinate. She may have been engaged in something that she is not mentally ready to let go of, so her mind is not yet on the job at hand (homework) and the overall outcome might be a slow start, forgotten equipment or a general disengagement from the activity.
Now let’s look at the more scheduled approach. The family has a basic schedule which is visible to everyone (on a chalkboard wall, or notice board). A child might be deeply engrossed in a board game, or playing outside with a friend, but he also knows that at, say, 4:30 he will be expected to begin homework. He will not be “super child” and have an internal clock telling him when to stop his game and sit down to homework, you as the parent will have to remind him, but there will be the knowledge and expectation that this will happen and his brain will process the transition better. He will (probably begrudgingly) know that the previous activity is over and already be activating his prior knowledge to assess what is needed for the homework: pencils, eraser, notebooks, organizer etc. Thus, settling into the homework is gentler on the child and fewer battles may be fought! The schedule also offers a routine…the child knows to expect homework at that time and cannot argue about continuing his game. Over time, it becomes a habit and inner acceptance makes the child more comfortable with the day. Believe me, I am not promising your child will enjoy homework, he will just have a better way to cope with transitioning into it.
So, how did I create my schedule? To be honest, I did not do anything fancy. I just used common sense with regard to what I already know about my family.
To begin with, I followed these steps:
1. Evaluate your family’s current schedule: whatever you all generally have to do, no matter what, such as Physical Therapy (for us), homework, cooking, housework, etc. These will always be part of your week so you may as well admit it 🙂
2. Decide on non-essential but important activities that you want to do: playing with the kids, family time, personal time etc. These are really the most important parts of your schedule as they hold your family together. Treat them with equal importance as the first list.
3. List things that come up now and again, that you know you will want some time for, but may not appear on your weekly schedule. You will need to save some time for these activities even if they are not listed each week. Blocking off time as a blank space does not mean you cannot fill in that time with extra housework, fun trips, vegging out on the sofa or taking a nap!
4. Be flexible to a point. For example, we have a long commute from school in the afternoon so if our sons have play dates with a school friend, our whole evening schedule goes out the window. The schedule will have a contingency for that so my boys know what is still expected of them when we get home.
5. Try out your schedule for a week. See what works and what needs to be tweaked. Invite all family members to comment on how they feel about the schedule and how it works for them. Revisit weekly for a while.
6. Don’t over schedule your family. I see my students struggle when they have sports, music, religion, language class etc. filling every day of the week. Some even have full weekends. I can spot an over scheduled child a mile off. They are often doing well at school but are tired, look like they would hug me forever when I declare a very light homework night, and they are stressed! I limit my children to two activities. Other families may have different limits that work for them.
Once these lists are made, you need to decide how you want to keep track of a schedule.
Check in to see how I do that in my next post. In truth, I could show you now, but my blogging time is up and I have a schedule to keep!
A friend recommended this book. I have not purchased it yet so I do not know how good it actually is. I am passing it on to you as a suggestion. I am not being paid, unfortunately, for my promotion.