The dreaded “R” word: Routine!

As long as I can remember, while I was growing up and living under my parents’ roof, I bristled at restrictions on my personal freedom. I hated being told what to do, when to do it, what to wear, where to go…some things I understood were reasonable (brush your teeth), others not so much (go to Church). The older I got the more I felt it (and my parents weren’t even that strict). I longed for freedom, dreamt of it constantly.

It is perhaps no wonder then that, as an adult with a lot of freedom (in the sense that I don’t have schedules to adhere to), I eschew any notion of scheduling my time. If I don’t have to get up early for some appointment, then I’ll sleep until I feel I’ve had enough sleep. If I don’t have to go shopping within a certain window I’ll just go when I feel like it or when there is a break in my day. Unfortunately, this concept extends to “I’ll get to that when I have time” which then often doesn’t happen. My business stuff, my La Leche League stuff, little projects I know I should get to, etc. are often done in haste at the last moment, and I always feel like there is so much to do that doesn’t get done.

The truth is I think I could benefit from a routine to better manage my own time. But I also believe that my kids, especially my daughter, might also benefit from it too. And this is particularly true when it comes to homeschooling activities. Oh sure, she’s learning a lot on her own. She plays independently at a variety of activities. But deep down I suspected that she would be happy to be doing even more, to be engaging more fully in certain things if only someone could lead her to them, and especially if she could do them with me. Up until now I’ve felt okay about largely letting the kids do their own thing, but she is getting to the age now where I think she is ready for more. Ready and, importantly, quite willing.

So I was talking to a friend who is a poster-child homeschooling mum. She gets cool projects that she does with her kids (recently they were studying ancient civilizations and had a week of meals from different ancient cultures), and makes sure that she gets sit-down time with each of her three boys regularly throughout the week. She actively seeks out fun stuff for them to learn and do, and while she tends to focus a bit more on the “three R’s” than I would, there is no doubt that her kids have an enriching homeschool experience, thanks to her efforts and energy. She confided to me recently that the key to her success is having a routine. It can be flexible, blocks of time can be moved around, but basically there is a flow to her days and the kids know what to expect. She says it makes her much more efficient with her time.

I pondered this for a while and realized that I could really use a system like that. In her family they get up, have breakfast, then from 10 until noon is project time. She’ll alternate sitting down with each of them and getting them started, or answering questions, etc. They are all focussed and she is engaged with them on whatever they are choosing to work on that day. Afternoons are either for classes they take outside the home (sports, music lessons, etc.) or time for free play and for her to get her housework and other jobs done. This really appealed to me, and I’ve been going through the last few days watching how my day flows and seeing how I could fit it into something like what she has. Mornings are usually my most productive times, but if there is housework that has to be done it usually gets eaten up by that. By afternoon I’m getting tired and thinking about dinner, etc. or how I need to go grocery shopping. By evening I am pooped and wanting time to myself. So a system like my friend has would be good for me.

It is going to require a bit of discipline and this is where I need to remind myself that this is not a restriction imposed on me, this is something I am choosing to make my life better! I’m going to have to be good about going to bed on time, so that I can wake up early. I’d like to be up around 7:30 so I have time for a walk with the dog and a quiet cup of tea before the kids wake up. Then I’ll make breakfast, clean up from that, and hopefully by 10 I’ll be ready to sit down with one of them to work on a project. Other mornings will be devoted to my own work, and there will possibly be a day or two when we have to be somewhere in the morning. Then I’ll make lunch (for everybody at the same time, what a concept!) and afternoons will be reserved for running errands, shopping, and whatever activities or get-togethers we plan.

All this means that my house is going to have to be clean and ready to go when I go to bed the night before – no more leaving dishes for the morning, or leaving messes lying around that I’ll be driven to tidy up before I can focus on anything else.

To let you know how determined I am to give this my best shot, I bought an alarm clock for my bedroom – I have not had a clock in my bedroom since I had children!! I don’t plan on setting the alarm, but knowing what time it is will be helpful in making sure I don’t stay up too late reading. As I go through the next few days I’m consciously preparing for this routine, which I plan to start in full around the second week of September, when homeschool programs start up and after Son’s assessments are done. Meanwhile I’m going to start looking into projects for the kids. People say that kids do better with a routine. Our home life has been good regardless, but I often feel that opportunities get lost because we don’t make specific time for such things. Wish me luck!

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