The benefits of having a weekly timetable

The never ending nature of lockdown means it often feels like the days are blurring into one. A week flashes by and nothing has gotten done. Creating a weekly timetable is a great way to build a sense of routine and normalcy. This can be comforting in the situation where so much choice has been taken away from everyone, it may even restore a sense of control. A schedule will also ensure you and your family are balancing work with relaxation and stress-busting activities such as exercise. 

Moreover, a clear schedule and routine will reduce the chances of arguments as your child will have clear expectations of what they are meant to be doing at what time. Furthermore, having a clear distinction between ‘work mode’ and ‘off mode’ will enable your child to focus better when they are working, and hence be more productive. Finally, if household space is feeling a little tight and everyone seems to be tripping over each other, having a schedule will help ensure everyone can focus and relax without their space being invaded. It will also allow your family to make the best use of any shared gadgets.

Create a schedule with your child

It’s important to create a schedule with your child. Life will have changed dramatically for them over the past few months, and there may be things they’re struggling to understand and accept. Creating a schedule will help your child regain a sense of control – a buffer against the vicissitudes of life during COVID-19. Sitting down at a quiet time with your child to create a schedule will mean that they know what is expected of them. As a result, daily life will become less of a constant negotiation. Allowing an older child to create their own schedule – which, of course, should be subject to your approval – will make them feel as if they are mature enough to make independent decisions. They may take pride in this next step towards independence. Being trusted to manage their own time may even boost their confidence.

You could also get your child to help you create your schedule. This is a great opportunity for you to share how you maintain a work/life balance. It may also help them to appreciate everything you do for the household. 

Follow your child’s school timetable

You’ll want to start by looking at your child’s school timetable and building their schedule around that. There are a number of benefits to this approach:

  • There are set times for both lessons and breaks which will make it easier for you to know when your child should be working and when they should be relaxing.
  • The average length of a lesson (50 minutes to an hour) strikes a balance between being long enough for your child to settle into the rhythm of work but not long enough for them to lose concentration or experience boredom. 
  • Your child will spend a balanced amount of time on each of their subjects – they won’t be able to skip or neglect subjects they find more challenging. 

You should allow your child to have 5-10 minute breaks in between lessons. In school they would have spent this time transitioning between lessons and socialising with friends in the corridors which would allow their brains time to reset. Now they’re at home, you may want to encourage them to get up from their study space and have a short break from their screens. This will refresh both their brains and their eyes. If they manage to do some light exercise in those breaks they’ll return to work feeling especially invigorated and will likely be able to retain more of what they learn.

Schedule fun/down time too

When making your child’s schedule it’s important you don’t just focus on when they should be working. Timetabling in other activities such as exercise, social time and relaxation is equally, if not more, important. It’s also fundamental to your child’s physical and emotional wellbeing. 

There are many different things your child could schedule into their timetable. These could include a walk in your local park, a Facetime with friends or family, a HIIT workout on YouTube, a meditation or mindfulness session, a session on the XBox, a bubble bath, cooking, an arts and crafts session – the possibilities are endless.  

You should also use this downtime to spend more time with your child or as a family. Maybe you could cook a meal together once a week, go for a walk at the weekend or just sit as a family and talk in the evening. Having these events scheduled will give everyone something to look forward to and can help break up the monotony of being at home for such long periods.  

Some activities to try

  • The Body Coach (you may know him better as PE with Joe) – has lots of workout videos of varying difficulty. If you have a smart tv you can screen mirror them and workout in your living room.
  • Yoga with Kassandra – from 10 minute stretches for beginners (check out her 30 day yoga challenge) to longer more challenging sessions, these are a great way to stretch after sitting at a screen all day. They’re also the perfect length for an exercise break between lessons if your child’s brain is hurting.
  • Headspace – their 20 minute episodes on Netflix are a great introduction to meditation. They also have an app which includes a family subscription package.
  • Arts and Crafts– Creativity is really important for children at the moment, especially as there are less opportunities for them to indulge their imagination by playing while at school. Moreover, being creative is linked to reduced stress and better wellbeing. There are lots of options for arts and crafts activities in the home – from making pottery with air dry clay, watercolours, colouring books, origami, knitting, textiles – and most of these activities will cost no more than a few pounds for the materials. 

Chores 

You may have noticed that your home is messier in lockdown now more time is spent at home. Giving everyone jobs to do is a good way of making sure one person isn’t left to feel like they are the only one who is doing everything.

It’s good to organise chores as a family. You can discuss what each of you needs to do as individuals to keep the house tidy. You can then make a rota of chores and delegate who will do which chore on each day. This meeting will enable everyone to feel like a valued part of the household and also means that children won’t feel that they have an unfair amount of chores compared to their siblings. 

Display the schedule

Once you have created your schedules you should have them up somewhere like the kitchen. Having your timetables on display means everyone can easily see who is meant to be doing what and at what time. This is especially useful if you have more than one child to keep track of. You may want to encourage younger children to decorate their timetables as they may be more excited to use them. There are lots of free templates online which you can use to start them off. 

Use the schedule to encourage productivity

Instead of using the schedule purely as a ‘who is doing what’ checker you can also use it to help set goals. A good activity is going through the day’s schedule in the morning over breakfast so everyone is clear with who is doing what. You could also discuss the goals of each person. 

  • Have they got a certain piece of work which needs to be finished? 
  • Have you got a deadline at work you need to finish? 
  • What downtime activities is everyone looking forward to? 

What happens on a bad day

Some days your child might be productive and follow their schedule, other days they may struggle to focus on schoolwork and be argumentative. What do you do on these days?

  • Point out the rewarding activity your child will get to do once they have finished a set period of time 
    • Maybe you are going for a walk at lunch
    • Maybe you’re cooking their favourite dinner that evening
  • Be firm and re-explain your expectations

Here are some suggestions for documentaries they can watch if schoolwork seems like it’s not going to happen.

Documentary suggestions

Please note: these are only suggestions and there are plenty of others your child can watch. 

  • David Attenborough documentaries – there are lots of his documentaries on both Netflix and iPlayer. Here are some to get you started: Blue Planet (explores the planet’s oceans), Our Planet (focuses on the diversity of habitats around the world), Planet Earth I and II.
  • Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (Netflix) – explores how factory farming is decimating the planet’s natural resources — and why this crisis has been largely ignored by major environmental groups.
  • Blackfish (Netflix) – explores the issues about keeping killer whales captive.
  • Plastic Ocean (Netflix) – documentary about the plastic in our oceans and the environmental impact this has.
  • Kiss the Ground (Netflix) – Activists, scientists, farmers and politicians turn to regenerative agriculture to save the planet’s topsoil.
  • Explained (Netflix) – a series from Vox which digs into a wide range of topics such as the rise of cryptocurrency, the future of meat, coding, why diets fail, and more.
  • The Planets (Amazon) – A series that explores our solar system and the planets within it, the stars, the moon, and the future of our tiny corner of the universe. Better suited or secondary school-age children.
  • Into the inferno (Netflix) – documentary about volcanoes which includes stunning views of eruptions and lava.
  • The Big Short (Amazon) – comedy-drama film which explains how the 2007/8 financial crash was caused by the United States housing bubble.
  • Black lives matter – there are many films and documentaries you can watch to help educate you and your children. Netflix has a whole section dedicated to BLM you can explore. Or, this article rounds up films and documentaries which cover major events in history.

You may feel anxious to ensure that your child is learning as much as possible given that they have missed so much time at school. But this doesn’t mean you should purely focus on doing academic work. There will be days when your child follows the schedule and is super productive. But there may be days when they aren’t. On days where they are struggling or are argumentative it’s OK to break away from their schedule and allow them to do different activities. Getting away from textbooks and screens altogether and engaging in something artistic or creative, like crafts or baking, will allow your child to ‘reset’ and will give them a valuable chance to have some immersive fun – the kind they are missing out on now that spending time with friends is off limits. And, if you have time, you can always join them and make some happy memories together. 

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