I’ll admit it…it took my wife and I a while to figure out that kids need (actually, thrive) on schedules and structure. It’s important that they have boundaries, within which they are allowed freedom to try out different things without fear of serious negative repercussions from failure. Not that kids’ thought processes actually think this through, but they sort of have a build in need for knowing where the bounds are (in some cases, just so they can test them).
It took us even longer to actually implement the structure idea in our lives. I’ll make the excuse that life in the Foreign Service is never quite fully settled because every two or three years (sometimes less), you’re moving to a new place where life has a new and different rhythm. Of course, the reply is that this sort of semi-nomadic existence absolutely requires a schedule for the day, or at least a scaffolding on which you can build a schedule based on local circumstances.
That’s a really long way of saying that, over the last year of nearly six months of separation, a semester of school in Liberia, a trip back to Colorado, a couple of months of summer vacation in Liberia, and my wife starting a new job teaching for an online school, we’ve finally got something approaching a daily schedule for the kids. What finally did it was the new job for my wife. We realized that we would need another adult/babysitter to come and be with the kids for the part of the day when she was teaching. To make this actually manageable for someone outside of the family, we needed a clear schedule to make sure that they get outside and play as well as do some academic-type work and chores everyday. Left to their own devices, it would be Legos or dress-up/make believe (or both simultaneously) all day every day. The framework is more or less 45-minute blocks of time, with 10 minutes (or so) of transition, alternating inside and outside (or active and reflective) activities (necessitating the transition time). Ideally, once everyone really gets into it, the transitions will become less of an issue and the kids will have more time to play and do what they want to do (yes, they do have a vested interest in it. More cooperation means more “free” time.). We’ve only been at it a few weeks, but I will say that it’s gone surprisingly smoothly. Not perfectly, but pretty smoothly.
Of course, there are more changes coming up, to include the school year starting at the end of the month, the random early and late days at my work, ditto the wife’s, school breaks, and, in about a year, leaving Liberia for a new posting. At least now we think we’ve got an ok framework on which we can build a schedule. Until we decide it needs to change (again).