Sunday 22 March 2015

"Importance of Routine" -- Part 2 of Transitioning Your Teen to Secondary (Home)School

This is the second post in a series about transitioning your teens to secondary school. It is the first of two parts about teens and routine.

Your teen's transition to high-school level learning
can leave him feeling out of sorts.

In this first post about routines, I’m actually going to talk about life routines in general, rather than the specifics of a studying routine.

Life routines are those rhythms of your daily, weekly, even monthly lifestyle. As a home-educating family, it’s highly likely that your studies just fit among these routines anyway, and for that reason, I want to look at the whole picture before narrowing the focus to education.

Any new change or introduction to one’s family is disruptive to the current routine. A new baby, for example, requires a new pattern to your lifestyle. It’s also helpful to the baby to establish some kind of schedule for him or her.

We recently got a puppy. Our routine has changed, and we spend a lot more time in the back garden now, holding a little bucket and spade for quick clean-ups. We’ve also changed our read-aloud times to be those when the puppy is most likely to be curled up for a morning nap.

Transitions require new routines.

The transition to secondary school, too, is an important time in a family’s life to re-think patterns, priorities, and activities. Like babies, teenagers are going through a period of huge changes -- in their bodies, their emotions, their brains.

Their need for regular rhythms is crucial in a wide variety of ways, but two interesting ones are: routines help manage stress and thus, studies show, decrease incidence of illness, and they also help the brain increase in its executive function.

Executive function is about problem-solving, managing time, remembering details, communicating, and gaining the kind of maturity that’s needed for navigating the adult world. Repeating patterns, as you probably know, helps to strengthen the brain’s “wiring”, so having a regular routine will help a teenager lay down these important patterns in his brain.

For example, if my children know that they need to finish their morning chores before formal school-time starts at 10 am, then they have two choices: dawdle and potentially lose a privilege, or whiz through their work quickly and, with their spare time, do something enjoyable like listen to music. This is the same every day, and they can either get more efficient at the routine and have more fun, or suffer the consequences they’ve brought on themselves.

Let me encourage you, then, to look at the whole picture of your teen’s lifestyle right now. If you are ready to move toward a higher level of studies, then it may be time to find the routines that are already part of your day, and build on them.

For example, maybe you already spend some time in structured learning in the mornings. Building on that foundation, you could now add an extra hour in the afternoons for a bit more study. It may mean a re-shuffle or re-direction of afternoon activities, but within a short space of time, your teen will have formed a new habit of concentrating on books in the afternoon.

One final point: routines, as I’ve said, are a whole-life pattern, and for that reason, I encourage you to keep a regular rhythm going into the evenings. More importantly, I highly recommend that it is inclusive of the whole family, so instead of having teens drift off into their rooms for electronics or social media, keep everyone engaged together for some of the time.

Don't underestimate dinner-time talk.

Sally Clarkson, author of Educating the Wholehearted Child, has credited the success of her now-grown children to their regular discussions at the dinner table, more so than any books or exams or courses that they took. There is a huge advantage to your teen’s problem-solving skills in the habit of dinner-table chat – not to mention, strengthening the family – so I hope that you will build this into your teen’s new routine.

Finally, sleep. I probably needn’t remind you that a teen needs a lot more sleep than he/she typically gets. For that reason, keep in mind that a whole-life routine continues all the way until his or her head hits the pillow at night.

At a decent hour, of course!

They're growing! They need sleep!

Next week, this series of transitioning teens to secondary school will cover the topic of a routine for studies.

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Suggestions, ideas, tweaks, or maybe you're just a happy Dreaming Spires student who wants to leave some encouraging words! Thanks for posting! Kat