The goal of our afternoons has always been delight directed productivity. I have tried to avoid the use of the word ‘free time’ as it generates in the children (and in me to be honest) that I can do whatever I want with my time; I can waste it, it is free. Instead I’ve tried to teach the children that time is given to us by God and that we need to use it wisely. It is more about a heart attitude than what we actually do.
Helping our children be productive with their time starts from a fairly young age when you teach them to focus on a toy, when they learn to sit with a book, or play with playdough for a set period of time. These activities are age appropriate delight directed productivity.
As they grow older they take the self control and focusing skills, along with reading, writing, and any other skill they have learnt and start to apply it to their own individual talents and interests.
Let me define productivity as I have defined it for my kids –
- It is a specific, purposeful activity – you know what you are doing, you are not drifting
- It is something you delight in – it fits with the individual’s strengths and goals
- You are making something – you may be making a story, a friendship, a project, a memory (even when you rest you are making energy!)
To define delight directed I need to say that it isn’t just want they ‘want’ to do (they could delight in wasting time and dawdling!!) – delight is more about their passions, interests, talents, etc. Delight interests could be long term (my son has been interested in war history for over 10 years) or it could be short term (my daughter studied colour for a short season and then moves on). Sometimes I structure their delight studies, in that I find a class, mentor or particular resource for them to work through, but most times the kids just discover on their own.
Giving my children Productive Free Time, most afternoons, has given our children time to practice the things that they enjoy. Be it music, or art, or writing, technology, photography, reading, organising, card making, building, Lego, sport, computer skills, blogging – the more they practice, the better they get, the more they enjoy the activity.
What our Afternoons look like now:
For the next month our afternoons will look like this:
- Mondays: Jess, Nomi, Daniel spend most of the afternoon working for me (sometimes paid chores, sometimes chores-in-training)
- Tuesday & Wednesday – Jess has delight studies, Nomi and Daniel have community drama
- Thursday – Daniel has ‘table time’ – focused planned activities, the girls and I will do paper crafts online lessons
- Friday – After our ‘outing’ we will try and clean bedrooms and get ready for family night.
This season will be the most structured afternoon times we have ever had. This is mainly because being involved in the community drama means being out of the home two afternoons a week. It will take its toll – it will have huge benefits to the kids. And it is only for a season! Next season will look completely different as far as the activity goes – but our intent remains the same: to develop our children in their talents and interests, to let them follow the delights of their heart.
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