How routine can be your friend right now

These are challenging days, with lots of time on our hands and not a lot of structure. Perhaps your family needs a week or more of unstructured time to decompress from the pace you’ve been going for too long. But when your kids start picking at each other over nothing and you’re looking for a way to add some structure to your days, I have a suggestion.

Right now all our routines are out the window… or are they? We’re still getting up in the morning. We still eat meals and brush our teeth (hopefully). My teens still pick up their phones first thing. Some of us have dogs that need to be walked.

These routines can be harnessed to make your quarantine “school” more effective and pleasant.

Perhaps you have some online or assigned work from your child’s teachers. Maybe you have some of your own goals for your kids’ learning during this time. Today is NOT the day to roll it all out like some kind of new school in your living room. Expecting your child to jump into six hours of “school” at the kitchen table is a disaster waiting to happen, and we have enough of those circulating right now.

Instead, today is the day to make a plan.  Sit down with your child and set a few goals and priorities.

If your child’s goal for this time is to be able to hit a tennis ball against the wall 100 times without missing, and your goal is for them to learn their times tables, write these down.

If what you need is two uninterrupted hours to work from home each day, and your child really wants to be able to lie around in their pajamas, then write these down as your priorities.

Now write down a schedule with only your anchor activities. You don’t necessarily need the exact times, but the order is important. For example:

Take dog out
Breakfast
Get dressed/ready for school
 
Walk dog
Lunch
 
 
 
 
After school snack
Homework from school
Make dinner, eat
Walk dog again
Bedtime

Now I’m going to add in our “work”.

Take dog out
Breakfast
Kid: Times tables (10 minutes) Adult: clean up from breakfast
Kid: Free time Adult: your work
Walk dog
Lunch
Kid: Times tables (10 min) Adult: make a plan for dinner
Kid: Hit ball against garage Adult: work
Kid: Free time Adult: work
After “school” snack
Assignments from school
Make dinner, eat
Walk dog again
Bedtime

#First, did you notice I took out “get dressed/ready for school”? Throwing your kid this bone might work for your family as leverage for some of the harder things you’re going to ask them to do later.

* Did you see I said just 10 minutes for drilling times tables? This wasn’t an arbitrary number. A child’s attention span (on average) if their age in minutes, plus 3, so an 8 year-old cannot be expected to have an attention span of more than 11 minutes. Obviously, when we get into a state of flow or deep work, this may change, but we can’t expect that deep flow state to happen over something like times tables. As you plan your day, keep this guideline in mind. Eight minutes at the table is a good stretch of work for a five year-old. A fifteen year-old isn’t going to work in an uninterrupted fashion on something difficult for more than 20 minutes.

Some days will work better than others. You may find your child wants to learn something else entirely. You may find that your child’s attention span is half of what you thought it was. Some days will fall apart. That’s okay.

Even if during the morning, your kid has a tantrum during their ten minutes of running their times tables and you spend a chunk of your own “work time” trying to help them with their anxiety, your world reverts to normal again with your pre-lunch dog walk. Or at lunch. The anchors fix our schedule, even when the new part is a challenge.

Once you have a bare-bones routine like this working, you might be able to add another activity or two into the mix, always keeping the anchors steady.

Take dog out
Breakfast
Kid: Times tables (10 minutes) and read a chapter of a book
Adult: clean up from breakfast, make a plan for dinner
Kid: Face time with Grandma, then Free time
Adult: your work
Walk dog
Lunch
Kid: Times tables (10 min)
Adult: 10 min of prepping ingredients for dinner
Kid: Hit ball against garage, then 20 min of a YouTube nature documentary
Adult: work
Kid: Free time
Adult: work
After “school” snack
Assignments from school
Make dinner, eat
Walk dog again
Bedtime

Routines are good for us. Kids like to know “what’s next.” While we can’t answer so many of their questions right now (When will school open again? What will we do this summer? What about the school play? Will the Olympics still happen? What about graduation?) we can ease some of the daily angst with routines. All the better if our routines include time to accomplish small goals, daily exercise, and time together.

For some suggestions of small goals and other ways to fill this time, check out this post. Or if your child (or you) are experiencing anxiety right now (and who isn’t?), read here.

Hang in there, friends!

2 thoughts on “How routine can be your friend right now

  1. Pingback: How to help your children who are feeling a little anxious about COVID-19 | Learning As We Go

  2. Pingback: "I'm never going to survive two months of this." | Learning As We Go

I love reading your comments! Thanks for visiting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s