Thursday, March 31, 2011

Simplicity Parenting: Step 2: Schedules

Pronounced by Mr.Payne as "sheh-dules", of course, like Colin Firth or Hugh Grant...a-hem, back to business. Changing this aspect involves   s l o w i n g      d o w n,   less time that is tied up in scheduled activities. More time to be a child, to eat as a family, to dream and to sleep.

When we first moved to this country with two small children, I was blown away at the schedules of a very sympathetic family I met at the hotel. We met, but we hardly ever had time to talk, because this mother of four was so busy driving her children to all of their activities, even though they were in the midst of moving to another part of the country. The youngest, at 4 years of age, was "supposed to" be at karate four times a week, but he usually only made it three times. What was surprising to discover was that this had become the norm here, everyone sighed and bemoaned their busyness, but it was expected once you had children. True, my own 4 year old was in her second year of school in France before we moved, but I had kept it to half-days (against all that was considered normal there) and we never went out again after we were home for the evening.  No one did. Evenings are times for dinner with your family and bed in many places.

It's funny how time and habit can change one's perceptions. Once my daughter began kindergarten, the notes home about "opportunities" for sports and outings and "fun" events at school came every week. "Come play in the bouncy house on Friday night when you are not in class or doing homework, fun? Hmmm.) School started at 8am, yet school skate parties were scheduled during the week from 6-8, to make it convenient for parents who worked. What about making it healthy for children? Soccer was offered on Saturday mornings, that was our traditional time to go to the market and muck around the house. Lily was not interested in soccer, but she was soon signed up for a ballet class on Saturday because I had always wanted to take ballet and was thrilled I could offer my child this great "opportunity." When did children or adults get to do any mucking around? You know; no agenda, maybe take a walk, work in the garden, go on a picnic? During the week there was school, after school we studied French, made dinner, gave baths and got to bed by 7 so that we could wake up early enough to be at school by 8. I hated it. The following year, though we were homeschooling by then, saw an acceleration in the activity level. Lily began ballet class in the evening. She was accepted into the TAG program, which meant we paid an inordinate amount of money per month, but she could go to class four times a week, some of those nights were from 5-9! As she never went more than twice a week, the worry became more about how much money we were spending and not "taking advantage" of the class time, but I had another baby and toddler at home and was not willing to go out after bedtime any more often than that. I wanted a regular rhythm, a "normal" from my childhood family life, where things happened at the expected time each day.

Balance is what Payne says we are to aim for. He asks families to take a look at their calenders and label each day with an "A" or a "C" for active or calm. His proposal makes sense; when you have one active day, try to sandwich it between two calm days in order to offset the stress of the active one.  This is just not going to be popular with some of my friends or readers, so please understand that I am making no judgments or criticizing choices made by anyone else. I am taking the defense of healthy childhood, and what works for some families may not work for others, but here are Payne's recommendations. He offers the idea, and the results he has seen as proof, that taking three or four days a week when there are no organized outings or activities, no after-care, no classes, no sports, can be wonderfully calming and healing to a child's spirit. Children are being barraged with too much activity, too much busyness going on around them, and to grow and thrive they require a regular rhythm and regular down time. Down time, by the way, is not screen time...but that, my friends, is another post!

When you sign up for the Simplicity Parenting starter kit at their website, you are sent a link to a very good podcast on this subject. "Stemming the deluge of childhood overdrive," is how Payne puts it. Here is the link again to his website:


  1. I had to smile and heave a sigh of relief after reading this post. You see, guilt ridden that my children aren't enrolled in daily evening activities, I've been beating myself up over this. We have a fairly relaxed attitude to school. We study and then have a break, study some more, have another break maybe, study some more and wrap it up for the day usually around 3-4 PM. And maybe this will come to bite my kids eventually. It's just that we take it easy. And yes, maybe too easy and I am working on that. I promise. When my daughter took evening Taekwondo classes 3 times a week they were felt to be a hugely disruping event in our lives. Usually, by the time we'd come home the kids were starving at 7:30 and still needed to be fed and bathed. I'll take a day like yesterday any time! School time followed by a walk to a playground. There the kids got rid of some energy while I sat back with some crochet and a phone call with someone who is becoming a pretty good friend. Yep. That works for me.

  2. Amen! (special word choice just for Marlis). It is good to take time at home to do what needs to be done, and not be rushed. There are times when I am hurried along by circumstances; a dentist appt., an emergency call from work, even kung-fu can be annoying. We balance this by having nothing else scheduled on kung-fu days.

    It was lovely to sit on my front porch step knitting and chatting with you crocheting the other day, thanks!


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