More About Routines: Why They are Important
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 19, 2010
When Jolanthe from Homeschool Creations wrote a review of my book, Homepreschool and Beyond, she asked her readers to check out my blog and then post on her blog as an entry to win the book. They could choose between naming some of the articles that originally inspired me to write the book (see the tab, “my articles”), OR share which of the 4R’s (relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud) they needed the most help with. Here is the breakdown of the replies about the 4R’s:
As you can see, routines won hands-down. Many of the mothers stated that they needed help with their routines; some even wondered if routines are really necessary. In response, I’ve decided to write a couple of posts that will answer these concerns (I will also write a post about the second most chosen of the 4R’s: Reading Aloud.) Anyway, here is the first post—“More About Routines.”
I know from experience that routines can be hard. Routines involve self-discipline…they just aren’t going to happen by themselves! We’re starting our 18th year of homeschooling now, and we have tweaked our routines more times than I can count. Our routines have changed due to my husband’s work days and hours, the ages of our children, our health, the time of year (in summer we play in the morning and do school in the afternoon, for instance), and more. You’d think that after 17 years I’d have it all together by now, but I don’t…especially in regards to my homemaking routines right now. In fact, writing this post has been convicting to me–I know what I need to do, but making myself do it on a consistent basis is another thing. So don’t be discouraged—you’re certainly not alone. Read on, and know that I’m working on this with you. Be sure to check back again soon to read the next post on this topic, “establishing routines that will work for you”.
What are Routines?
I want you to know that when I talk about routines, I’m NOT talking about a down-to-the-minute “schedule” that becomes a burden or a slave driver to your family. You don’t have to rush through your day, trying to meet artificial deadlines every fifteen minutes or half-hour. What I’m talking about simply a sense of “what comes next.” Perhaps a good term to remember is a “relaxed routine.”
A relaxed routine doesn’t mean that you don’t have any goals, though; as with everything, there is a need to find a balance. For us, this has meant that meal times, snack time, naptimes and bedtimes are kept as consistent as possible—you might think of them as the “skeleton” of your routine. The rest of the routine, however, is much more flexible. I like to allow enough time to follow my children’s lead within the routine—so if the children get caught up in their play, or want to paint 4 pictures during art time, or feel like doing 3 math lessons (yes, this has happened at our house), it’s OK. We might have to shorten the next activity, but that doesn’t throw the rest of the day into chaos.
It’s a good idea to have some basic goals for different times of the day—for instance, “we should have our breakfast, chores, family worship time, circle time, a preschool activity (art OR cooking experience OR science activity OR game-time OR manipulatives OR planned/creative play), snack time, and outside play time finished before 11:30 so that we can eat lunch at 12:00”. Another one might be, “we should finish lunch, get washed up/brush teeth, and be ready for our read aloud time by 1:00 so that the preschoolers can be napping by 1:30.”
There are several different types of routines that you might want to put into place: Morning routines, mealtime routines, bedtime routines, and school routines….some parents prefer to think of them separately this way, while others think in terms of the whole day’s routine. We do a bit of both. Additionally, I plan cleaning routines and personal routines as well. I call our cleaning routines “standard operating procedures” or SOP for the kids. (“Did you finish the kitchen SOP?”)
Why Are Routines Important?
Now let’s address the question, “Why are routines important?” And, “Are routines even necessary?”
I believe that routines are not only necessary, but vitally important.
Routines help children in many different ways. One of the most important things that routines provide for children is emotional security. Children—especially young children—derive security from that sense of “what comes next.” This security helps children learn to trust that their parents will take care of them, and this trust enhances the parent-child bond. This security/trust/bond is especially important to grow and maintain during the baby/toddler years…but of course, it should be a continuing part of life, all life-long, for every child.
Routines help children stay on an even keel emotionally, and will prevent emotional meltdowns. This will save your sanity. It helps your children behave better and makes your home a more peaceful and happy place to be. Conversely: Children who aren’t on a regular routine are often over-tired, hungry, irritable and stressed.
Without a daily routine there could be important activities that you overlook on a day-to-day basis—even things like personal hygiene (brushing teeth, baths, etc), as well as important activities such as reading aloud, time spent with each child, etc.
Routines help children grow helpful habits that will benefit them the rest of their lives. Good habits help us do the things we should do with little thought or effort. Habits involve not only the “big picture” of our daily routine in general, but all those little things that make up our daily routine as well (personal hygiene, picking up toys, etc.)
I believe that our very character, attitudes and manners are affected by the habits we learn (or don’t learn) as children. Charlotte Mason wrote, “the habits of the child produce the character of the man . . .every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”
Once a good habit is learned, little mental effort is involved in the task at hand…it’s just something we do. It requires little thought and practically no effort. You might say that we work on “autopilot.” This is more help than you can imagine. As Charlotte Mason says, “A mother who takes pains to endow her children with habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.”
Finally, routines help young children grow their self-confidence and independence. Once children are secure in their routines, they’ll know when its time to brush their teeth, get dressed, and so on—and they’ll be confident and ready to try those activities independently.
Next post: Developing Your Own Daily Routines
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