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Karen Brennan
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How to create a balanced schedule—or—how to raise healthy crops without fertilizer

Monday, March 24, 2014

As we end our winter session (and hopefully winter, too) we move into Chapter 5 of  Simplicity Parenting, “Schedules.”  A lot of this chapter applies more to families with grade school age or older children, but there are some gems for parents of little ones, too. 

Although your children are not there yet, it is interesting to note that as of 1997, free time for the average school aged child—after sleeping, eating, studying and organized activities-- had decreased from 40 percent of the day in 1981 to only 25 percent.  Too many schedule activities might limit a child’s ability to direct himself and to find and follow his own path.  Even toddlers can be overscheduled, but it is more of an issue for the older child, so you might want to revisit this chapter in a few years.

Children need free, unstructured time—that’s the basic message of this chapter.  Kim gives an analogy between raising children and raising crops.  He compares enrichment of childhood to using chemical fertilizers on a field.  While enriched soil will produce more crops faster, overfertilizing exhausts and depletes the soil.  I think you can see where this is going.  He advises stewardship of the land—trusting rather than controlling, rotating crops, allowing time for the soil to rest.  “Rest nurtures creativity, which nurtures activity.  Activity nurtures rest, which sustains creativity.  Each draws from and contributes to the other.”  Our children, like a field, need time for leisure and rest.”  He compares deep, creative play to a cover crop.  Deep creative play or anything activity where your child is focused and in control helps them connect with who they are, helps them grow their roots deep.  Daily life is the field growing crops—it is the on-the-go time.  This part of life, the active, interactive part, is important, too.

Try picturing your child when she is playing deeply and creatively.  What is she doing when you and the surroundings disappear for her?  Do you recognize it when you see it?  “This is some of the most valuable time for your child to process sensory stimulation, and children who don’t experience it can be more nervous, less able to relax or sleep.  Remember that this deep play is something that you can create time and space for, but adults do not control or direct it.

Kim says that the first step to letting go of overscheduling is to notice.  We can make sure that our child has unscheduled time on the schedule.  More good news—simplifying your child’s schedule will also simplify yours!

Next week we’ll move on to the gift of boredom, balanced schedules and Sabbath moments.

In the meantime, have a wonderful week until we meet again!