Yesterday was amazing. I set new ground rules going into week three (this is an organic process). We had a morning meeting and talked about what my expectations were for each day as we head back into more structured learning, and my kids were, surprisingly, on board. Then we jumped right into learning for them and work for me.
They have probably been feeling a little lost with all this free time. I’ve been reading up on the wonderful ways that social isolation is helping kids. And an abundance of free time is something that is extolled by professionals as the path to executive functioning skills in kids.
I was never one to keep my kids inside and away from independent roaming of the neighbourhood when they had free time, nor did I structure their time at home, but my kids were pretty scheduled outside of our home life. And with all that gone, they have free time in abundance.
The first two weeks at home were spent thoroughly enjoying that free time. But because they have spent so many years scheduled, that free time had turned into a drag once the novelty wore off.
And it coincided with the school board starting to put plans in place to carry on learning in a virtual environment. So I felt the need to get my kids back on track. But…
According to Lenore Skenazy’s article in the New York Post:
As for parents worried that all this non-academic time is dooming their kids’ futures, research at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that the kids who have more free time to create and structure their own activities develop stronger executive functioning skills — that is, better planning, problem-solving and follow-through — than kids whose lives are more continuously structured by adults.
Putting that into practice in my house has meant clearly defining three expectations:
- Complete a minimum of one hour of learning/school work
- Complete chores assigned by Mom
- Practice skills (soccer and rehearsing for play)
No phones or screens until all three are done (with the exception of the laptop for research if part of the learning component).
I left them to it and went back to my desk. And they spent the whole morning working together on a project about lowland gorillas.
They planned it out, did the research, wrote the material, managed each other’s expectations and even recognized when they’d had enough of working together and decided to take a break.
With that sense of ownership over their learning and their morning, they helped with lunch and then moved on to the other two expectations without complaint before settling in for a couple of hours of free screen time in the afternoon.
I got a ton of work done, and not just because they were busy doing their own thing, leaving me with uninterrupted time, but because my veins weren’t coursing with stress hormones from trying to manage them and worrying about them getting into fights or hurting each other’s feelings.
So, not only is this “course correction”—as Lenore Skenazy calls it—good for kids, it’s going to be great for the adults, too. We need it as much as the kids do. We need to learn to let go, to let kids figure it out for themselves and to work through hard problems. This is a small silver lining in this terrible situation in which we find ourselves. But it’s a good one.