Like most educators I follow the school calendar cycle and count my years from August to May (or June) instead of marking the new year in January, so it only makes sense that I should write down my new year’s resolutions as we stand ready to plunge into a new school year. I developed these resolutions after spending a great deal of my summer reflecting on my parenting and seeking advice and knowledge. One of the most important things I think I accomplished this summer was to clarify what my parenting style actually is and where I would like it to go. I did this by reading everything I could get my hands on and taking the time to observe other parents at work, not judge, but observe objectively. I now know confidently that Montessori is the base of my parenting and things that I gravitate towards tend to build on that base. Themes that appeal to me and my style are empowering my kids to be independent, establishing defined boundaries, and creating a joyful childhood.
One book that really touched on the above themes was “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne, M.Ed. It really resonated with my new clarity of style and motivated me to move from theory to action. Many of my resolutions are based on this great book and I have tried to supply my thought process for each.
My 2013-2014 New School Year Resolutions:
- Keep toys, puzzles/games, and books to a simplified level. Clutter overwhelms me, particularly visual clutter. I can’t even handle a pot rack, it stresses me out! Despite my fear we still ended up with way too much kid clutter, especially books. Payne explains the reason for the simplifying in this way, “As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.” I spent a few days simplifying. I started with the toys. I threw out the broken ones and easily put the baby and obnoxious toys in the Goodwill pile. It took me two rounds of simplifying to get the books to a reasonable level. Reasonable is going to vary for each person, but for me I wanted all of the book covers to show on our book shelves. I was nervous about the whines and complaints that were sure to come. They didn’t. My kids did not even notice and truly began to play with things they forgot they even had. This has motivated me to maintain our current clutter level or go even lower. It has also inspired me to only have “no gift” birthday parties from now on. Do you do “no gifts”? How do you like it? Does your kid care?
- Increase our daily family rhythm by having at least two meals together. Similar to Montessori, Payne argues that children thrive with a predictable and stable rhythm to their day. We have committed in the past to sitting down as a family for dinner every night and are very consistent. I wanted to make sure my children started their day in that same consistent and stable fashion by committing to eating breakfast every day as a family. This one is much harder, mornings are rushed times typically. We have just begun to make this adjustment and we are not there yet. I realized just this week I have to wake up even earlier to ensure I am ready to sit at the table when the kids do. This is also a commitment to actually eating breakfast which I am not great at but understand that it is actually good for me! You can see that it says “two meals” and not just breakfast and dinner, this is because on weekends my husband and I might have a date night. If we are going out and leaving the kids with a sitter than we are committing to eating breakfast and lunch as a family.
- Decrease screen time. We have long had the policy in our home of no screen time during the school week. It is something my husband felt adamant about and I went along with it. I did not give it much thought until this summer. I began to observe how my children react with various levels of screen time. A half hour on the iPad can be a welcome break after swimming or before lunch; an hour and a half of iPad leaves my children grumpy. I realized that my children cannot handle very much screen time, so not only are we keeping our no screens during the week rule but also adding only one half hour of screens per weekend day with the occasional movie as a special treat (Fri-Sun). Later in the summer when I started using this rule with them, they may have whined a bit or asked to watch something but when I stuck with my “no” they found other more fabulous things to do. Every single day in the month of August my children have worked together to create a fort. They use blankets and chairs, pillows and books to create their elaborate hide-outs. By denying them the easy entertainment they got bored and then promptly found an awesome way to fix their boredom.
- Get outside daily. During some parts of the year like October to April this is a no-brainer, but here in Texas the summers are just so brutal. Through observation though I realized my kids behaved better and were happier after having spent some time outdoors that day. Summer months particularly August will take some creativity and I don’t want to rely on the YMCA swimming pool to be our only summer outdoor activity. What do you like to do outside when it is really hot?
What are your New (School) Year’s Resolutions? Please share!