We have had a few more discussions on the expectations and purpose of our afternoons – which we have called Productive Free time. As a result of these discussions we have dropped the “free” and now call this Productive Time.
I initially started calling the afternoons Productive Free Time to counteract the children’s expectation that they could waste away their time, because it was their free time. By introducing the word “productive” my hopes were to teach them that they always had the responsibility of using their time wisely.
We have come to the place to drop the word “free” altogether. Some people may think this is just playing word games but I have found a direct link to the language we use and the attitudes displayed. After talking it through with my children they felt that it wasn’t “free” time, it had a purpose. The purpose was to be productive. I couldn’t agree more!
Though they wanted to know “What are we producing?” Knowledge, skills, habits and relationships. Once they had this short list in front of them, and maybe I had never clarified it so simply before, they were able to see the purpose and scope for such a block of time.
Years back, I had kept the word “free” in there because I wanted this time slot of our day to be driven by the children, their interests, passions, and inclinations. This was a time where I inspired them to run with wherever their imaginations took them as opposed to requiring them to do what I felt was important. This still is my intention.
As a result of this small change to our vocab we also introduced the word “recreation”. Once again I think this word has a clearer intention than the word “free”. The purpose for recreation time is to recreate, to refresh and renew, but there is the hint of creation in the word too – which means to make, no idleness happening here. Idleness will lead to trouble and should be avoided, even if you have the free time to wallow in!
The other issue we addressed is the balance between Productive time and Recreational time. Our children have very little recreational time throughout the week but most of Saturday and Sunday afternoon is theirs to spend as they like. The funny thing is, the more they spend in productive time, the more that directs their choices for their recreational time!