Being Flexible, Having Choices
There are days where a truly flexible routine is called for. Life happens! What does it mean to be flexible?
- It is a series of activities that are not constrained by specific times
- It is a plan for the day that is held onto lightly
- It is open to change
What often happens though when we have a flexible plan according to these definitions, is that when life happens our day falls apart – something interrupts our day, we get distracted or refocused, our children do what they want to do and mess is created, they get into trouble, we get stressed and so forth.
A flexible routine must start with knowing our intentions – what do you hope to achieve. Our intentions have to be deeper than our lesson plans or to-do list - doing the grocery shopping, teaching a reading lesson, and taking the kids to piano lessons – they are just our activities - but our intention for each day should be the heart training of our children. We use each and every family life activity to teach something to our children – something about God or something about themselves (their character).
Therefore when we create a flexible plan for our day we have to be prepared to handle life’s interruptions and still train our children’s hearts. Remember Mary Poppins – she always had just the right thing in her bag. We need to be like that – we need to be prepared!
I structure my day in blocks and in each block I have priorities. Our blocks of time throughout our day are labeled: Relationships, Responsibilities, Study time, and Creative/Productive time. Each one of those blocks happen at least once each day, some are repeated two or three times. Sometimes these blocks get shuffled around – that is a part of our flexible routine.
When we write our routine up we generally create a chart – times down the left, children’s names across the top, or something like that. This tends to be our routine; when life happens we walk away from this chart and just let whatever happens, happen. This is not intentional parenting.
Let me paint you a different picture. Instead of writing a chart, which is static, we need a system which is as flexible as our day. If your day is broken into blocks of time, let’s imagine each one of those blocks as boxes. Each activity that we wish to complete in that block of time is recorded on a card, filed away in that box. We take our first priorities (those same things that were written on your chart) and make them your preferred activities. Write each activity on one card, in black pen. But we want to be prepared for the unexpected as well – so we write a second group of cards – say this time in blue pen: what can the children do independently, what can the children do together without my supervision, what can we do as a whole family. Just to extend the idea a little further I would also keep a box of cards not connected to any block of time – maybe using purple pen – for independent activity that can be used at any time, in any block of your day. Now I have choices.
When a situation arises that takes us away from our preferred routine or activities (cards written with black pen) we can quickly go to a box and find something for our children, or family to do (blue or purple card) that fits the situation and yet maintains order and training in our family life.
Let’s run through a few scenarios:
- The phone rings – instead of letting your child have free play while you talk to your distressed neighbor, you can ask your neighbor to hold on for just a moment, set your children up in the playpen, on the couch, on the floor beside you, to read a book or play with one toy. Maybe even have a toy that is specifically set aside for phone conversations. You’re routine has been disturbed, and yet, you’ve pulled out an option that maintains order and training.
- You have to go to town to pick up something for your husband’s business – older children can possibly be left at home working on independent activities but younger children need to come with you. You can grab an audio story or favourite music CD and have listening time in the car. You can have an art/activity box in the car that you let them play with while you drive, you can use the time for talking one on one. Your day’s plans have been interrupted, and yet, you’ve pulled out an option that maintains order and training.
- You, yourself are not well. To be honest a DVD sounds awfully attractive on these days. And though I use the DVD I do try to keep them to a minimum and create other activities for them to do first. This is where your purple cards are a lifesaver because you aren’t thinking particularly clearly on these days and it is easy to lose your intentionality. Games, puzzles, toy sets, construction kits, books, art activities (non messy ones!), outdoor activities including nature treasure hunts are all good purple card choices. You’re day is going to be hard, and yet, you’ve pulled out some options that maintain order and training.
Live life with your kids!
Read more on Routines
Return to Time Management home page
Return to Lifestyle Homeschool home page