One of my absolute favorite things about staying home with my kids is how much time we are able to spend together, sharing both the fun and the chores, talking all the while.
Incidentally, this can also be one of my least favorite things on the not-so-good days, but that’s another post.
My kids are my constant companions. They are at my side helping me count to ten as I scoop coffee in the morning. They are busy burrowing into the piles of laundry while I attempt to fold it. They know our usual grocery list and are very familiar with the Costco routine involving “the cold room”, the aisles where they have to hop on the cart to avoid being run over, and the hot dogs that come at the end of the trip.
We cook together, paint together, read together, clean together, potty together (moms, you know what I mean), and so on. A lot of togetherness all around.
Too much togetherness can certainly be overwhelming, but I want to be clear (to others and especially to them) that I consider being with them to be an incredible gift.
The hard mornings that run into the blissful quiet of nap time that ushers in the hectic evening rush of the dinner hour that settles down into the slow stillness of night after all the books have been read and all the songs have been sung. These ordinary days full of ordinary tasks running the fine line between the beautiful and the boring. They are motherhood. They are important.
Attributing great value to this calling of motherhood frees us up to slow down and make the most of our time. Not with endless cleaning or crafting or keeping up with the virtual Joneses. But to see how much learning occurs in the normal course of our beautiful, boring days and enjoy the process.
If your kids are like mine, their little minds are picking up on everything they see and hear. A little mindfulness can go a long way in weaving learning into everyday routines.
Perhaps it has to do with my being a teacher in a former life, or with the fact that I apparently am always operating on island time. Maybe it’s that I’ve long since stopped adding “clean the floors” or “dust all the surfaces” to my to-do list.
Whatever it is, this weaving comes naturally to me and I want to share what we have found to work for us.
Weaving Learning Into Everyday Routines- Strategies to Help You Along
1. Adopt an island time mindset.
Not in a way where you are constantly late to things (like me) or in which you keep forgetting what day of the week it is (also like me). But in a way that lets you take advantage of all the wonderful learning opportunities that are there for the taking. Let yourself slow down and embrace a little flexibility.
Create times in your daily routine that are free to explore, to talk and to engage in your surroundings without feeling the pressure of always having to move on to the next task. And bonus, this is also a great tip for enjoying your time with your kids more.
As an example, when I intentionally plan for plenty of time at the grocery store we are able to enjoy the outing and really engage in the whole process. On the flip side, when we are rushed and under a time constraint, I am much more likely to become frazzled and forgetful and (regretfully) snappish with my kids.
2. Invite them in.
Inviting our children to participate in what we are doing is a practice that often takes time to develop, but it is one of the best habits we can nurture in our homes. By this habit we double (at least) the time that we have to build relationships with our kids and to pass on valuable skills and lessons.
Certain aspects will look the same in every home– fold laundry together, teach them to important kitchen skills like how to properly use a knife. Other aspects will look differently in every home. What hobbies can you pass on and do together?
Don’t view this as a law or another thing to be done. Rather, take it a day at a time and remember that the small steps you are taking will mature into worthwhile fruit over time.
3. Stress less. Talk more.
We are a preoccupied people. We are more “plugged in” than ever before and there are more things to distract us than ever before. This strategy is thus the simplest and simultaneously the hardest to implement.
We will do ourselves and our kids a favor, though, when we commit to intentionally focusing on whatever or whoever is right before us. Totally preaching to myself here too.
Take the time while you have it to talk to your kids. Talk about healthy eating while you prepare dinner. Talk about character traits and superheroes or princesses. Talk about how the sun rises in the east when you’re driving down the road and they’re being blinded by its rays. Just talk.
4. Plan for the long run.
A week may go by and you realize that most days have passed in a blur of activities or were spent caring for your sick family. It’s easy to feel like you didn’t make the most of your time that week. When you feel like that, when you’re tempted to be discouraged or feel like you just aren’t doing enough, remember that yesterday is just a drop in the bucket in the big picture.
5. Give yourself a pat on the back.
Seriously. You deserve it. You are already doing so much of this because you are in your kids’ lives and you are showing them you care everyday. Helping our kids develop good character and a love of learning to boot starts with simply loving them and investing in them with our time and affections. So keep it up.