Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An Inspiring Home for Learning, #5

5. Routines help to develop habits and make life lovely.

"The chief aim of the Christian order was to give room for all good things to run wild." (~GK Chesterton)
I'm convinced that having a good, consistent daily routine is one of the most important factors in the life of a child, and, I would venture to say, in our own lives, too. Over the years, I paid attention to changes in the attitudes and behavior of my children when the routine was upset, and this helped to convince me of the power of routine in building habits and character. When routines were kept, the children were better behaved in just about every way-- more cheerful, more compliant, more eager, more willing to delay gratification. They were less inclined to balk at my expectations and more inclined to take initiative in every area of their lives. They were more productive and more creative. When the routine was in place, there was a significant improvement in all of us regarding our habits and discipline. And a bonus was that pleasant routines made for lovely family warmth and spirit.

Keeping a consistent routine or pattern to the days can help to instill in all of us an understanding and appreciation of the very nature of God, and, to talk in circlels, paying attention to His nature can provide insight into how we should order our own days. Creation is nothing if it isn't consistent. There is a definite pattern to the way God runs the world. Sunrise, sunset. Tides. Seasons. Nature-- emergence, growth, abundance, dormancy. Cycles of life and death. Phases of the moon. The earth's steady revolution around the sun. Consistent behavior in plants and animals. Beauty. Order. Promise. Hope. Spontaneity and surprise. Creativity!

Great love is behind God's routines. They bring a deep sense of His care, of His dependability and faithfulness. From them we gain a sense of security and safety (because He has set limits, and we generally know what we can expect from day to day). We can settle in and enjoy our days and lives. It is the same in our homes with our children. In orderly routines there is freedom-- reasonable freedom from fear and freedom to grow in the very image and nature of God ourselves.

Routines help to develop discipline. Discipline produces freedom and leisure.

"The chief aim of the Christian order was to give room for all good things to run wild."

It was important for me not to be an overly authoritarian parent. I wanted to set parameters, to draw boundaries, to expect obedience, but I didn't want too many rules to dominate the working of the household. While I wanted my children to become disciplined and orderly (they did), I wanted the pattern or order of our home to fit loosely and comfortably. I wanted breathing room. I wanted a space for those good things to run wild!

Respect was important, but I didn't want machine-like obedience from my children. I wanted thoughtful, willing obedience. I wanted the kids to have plenty of freedom within the boundaries. So, I set firm boundaries, but I left a lot of room for spunk and personality and personal choice. Teddy Roosevelt said he wanted his children to have a robust righteousness, and that's how I felt, too.

So, I set up a daily routine that changed over the years. As children grow older, they begin to take increasing responsibility for different areas of their lives so that by the time they are grown, they should be self-discplined and self-sufficient-- ready to survive (thrive!) on their own. So, while there is a long, playful bath time in the routine when children are young, that is obviously going to phase out entirely. The same thing is true of our oversight of different parts of the daily routine throughout the kids' life at home. By the time they are ready to leave, they should not need our supervision at all.

Again, the daily routine changed as the children grew older. There was a particular routine for babies, an adapted one for toddlers, and so on throughout childhood. Our general routine for the kids when they were homeschooling consisted of times for going to bed and getting up, chores (we had a set chore chart), meal times, table time in the morning, free learning and play time, morning/afternoon/evening routines, read aloud times. There were times for music practice (up to the kids when). And there was a lot that fit freely into this-- enjoyment of music and art, plenty of time in nature, hard physical play, quiet creative play, exploration, daydreaming, cooking and baking, building things, lots of conversation and laughter, reading, writing letters, and on and on. We lived in a house full of enthusiasm and bubbling creativity, and it was in large part due to keeping a steady routine.

While the routine was mostly consistent, we were not afraid to make spontaneous changes (it's when the changes are consistently based on mere whim or emotion or lack of discipline that a problem arises). In spring, when we woke to a gorgeous, sunny day, it might seem only right to go out and enjoy it. To take a walk, to play, to explore nature (look at all of the new wildflowers; listen to those birds; breathe the fresh air; enjoy the sun's warmth).

We had weekly routines-- music lessons, library day, homeschool meetings in our home, church, dessert day, Saturday scones, Friday Night Party Night (did this all through the years).

And there were yearly routines-- trips to the coast to visit family, other trips, birthdays (we turned them into big, festive celebrations), Christmas and other holidays. These were all made extra special.

You'll have your own daily patterns, rituals, and routines. Make them lovely. Enjoy your children. Be attentive! Give them room to be themselves and to develop according to the lines God meant for them to grow (individually). Your routines have everything to do with whether or not your home will be joyful and full of life and creativity. They have everything to do with whether or not your children will respect you. They build strong, habits, character, and discipline, and offer your children hope for a good future. And they can help to give children a proper view of God's love and care for them.