Friday, August 27, 2010

Routines and Schedules

What role should routines and schedules play in the lives of my children? How are they helpful? How do they hinder? I have been known to vocally reject the arbitrary schedules imposed by traditional schools for when children should learn certain topics. I strongly believe in letting a child grow into wanting to learn, not arbitrarily imposing it based on age.

And yet, I think people crave structure in their lives and create it spontaneously - even without realizing sometimes. We have routines and schedules in life and to ignore them or pretend they don't exist is akin to sticking your head in the sand.

Furthermore, my children ask for routines. They want to understand time and the schedules that exist around them. What do we do on this day? When are we going to visit Grandma? How long until lunch? What day of the week is it? How many days until Sunday? How many hours until my baseball game?

But really, aren't strict schedules one of the big weaknesses of mass schooling? Right when you were really getting into thinking in French and learning a great deal, the bell rang and you had to stop thinking in French and start thinking in mathematics. Then as soon as you get in a good groove with math, it is time to stop again and focus on history. Schedules don't care if you'd like to spend the entire day doing science experiments or baking. The bell and the clock are merciless.

Homeschooling means not being held to a strict schedule (unless you choose it). I love that by homeschooling, we can spend our time following our interests and we have more time because time is not lost in administrative tasks or in as much getting the kids to settle down. What takes seven hours in an elementary school classroom of twenty can take less than two hours when you are working with just one or two kids.

And yet.

Without a schedule or routine, how do you remember all the things you want to pursue? How do you make sure that music practice happens before baby takes a nap? When I've told my son we will build bridges and realize I've been putting him off for a week because I forget and then he only asks when I'm in the middle of cooking dinner, we both feel frustrated. I am a easily distracted person. Sitting down at the computer to look up a phone number can result in me spending an hour doing all sorts of interesting internet things but I forget to look up that phone number. Cleaning the kitchen can result in me deciding to reorganize the cabinets and two hours later the kitchen is a bigger wreck than it was when I started and I'm sitting in the middle of it, reading a cookbook and planning to bake brownies. (Sidetracked Home Executive anyone?) Making plans and following routines can help make sure things happen.

So this year I created a school schedule just to see if it would help. After one day of feeling rushed, I realized I would let it be more of a guide and a routine than a strict schedule. The past three days it has guided us, but we have not followed it strictly. I think that it has been serving us well.

Having routines helps make sure that the house doesn't become a giant trash pit. We already have many such routines in place. Adding a school routine of spending about an hour in the morning on music, than about an hour in the morning and another one in the afternoon on "school-y" pursuits helps make sure that all we want to do in a day happens. It isn't set in stone and it is flexible. But having it posted helps us remember what our goals are for the day. And happily, it seems to lead to extra time spent learning and investigating and really communicating about what our desires for learning are.

So as the year goes on, I hope that having a schedule/routine continues to help us and not hinder us. If it is hindering us from loving learning, it's got to go. But if it is helping us pursue our goals then it is a good thing!

How do you feel about routines and schedules?

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