I recently read an interesting article about after school routines (found here). Written by a nanny, she compares the two families she works for and their different views on screen time. One family sets time limits on the amount of time their children can play on iPads/watch TV while the other, allows unlimited use. The children of the second family, however, must complete their homework and other set tasks before they allowed to do anything they want. The author then explains that they don’t always turn to screens, listing outside activities or even board games as ways they choose to pass the time before dinner, whereas children from the first family would sneak in as much screen time as possible, outside their set amounts.
I then remembered a discussion had with a friend who shared her rules on screen time at home. Similar to the second family described in the article, her son earns screen time after doing tasks she sets, such as writing practice (which has improved because of the extra effort). This made me think that we too, need to rethink our after school routines.
Our children return home from school and kinder tired on most days so I understand them wanting to take it easy and ‘vege out.’ I also believe that play is important not only for childhood memories but for learning as well. Hard work was instilled in my siblings and I from a young age and extra work was given to us to help with our learning. Upon reflection, I can see how it did help us at school, even though at the time, I hated doing more work at home. This reminded me about ‘Outliers‘, a book by Malcolm Gladwell, which explores why some people are successful (a great read, if you have the time!). In one chapter, the book too finds that extra homework is of some benefit.
I had a good think about all of this and ‘balance’ kept popping into my mind. So I decided to incorporate my learnings from both the article and book. After both children do their readers, all I ask of them is to complete two pages of English and Math books (I just bought Kumon books for $6.99 at Costco) and then they can do whatever they want. It literally takes them less than 10 minutes to complete this extra task and so far, they have been very happy to do it because they then get free time. While most days they choose the iPad and laptop, there have been instances where they have asked to go to the park or played with their toys. And I know that outside play will be chosen more once the weather picks up!
This routine only plays out if we don’t have extracurricular activities after school and piano practice is done before school (since they like to wake up at 6am… fun times). So for right now, this routine works for us but I am very aware that things can change very quickly and I am very happy to adapt to whatever comes our way.
So yes, these are busy days. I don’t want to know how hectic things will get as they get older! But it is a great feeling to have found a routine that works for us and makes our afternoon run a lot more smooth!