Last August when I was a stew of pregnancy induced hormones and anxiety the midwife suggested one on one time with each of the kids for an hour each day, every day. She wrote it down like a prescription.
“And whispering only, too. Make them do it, Annie. I mean it.”
We whispered for a week and my mind was reset. The noise level climbed again and today you’d be lucky to hear yourself shouting above the din the majority of the time.
The individual time, though . . . that has stuck with a few minor tweaks. It never worked for hour stretches because 60 minutes during which 4 children were unsupervised in this house was begging for a disaster. We began with 20 and have worked up to 30 minutes. Also, every day made it less special and anticipated and we weren’t getting the school in that we liked to.
This year we moved the times to Wednesdays and dubbed them ITs (said Eye-Tees). The kids love their “Individual Times” and we all look forward to the change of pace in the middle of the week. They’re starting to learn to wait to ask me for special projects or privileges during those precious half hours. We have played Minecraft, arm-knitted, painted, made cookies, played cards, drawn, read, crafted, built Legos, given manicures – the choices are all theirs.
Ground rules are simple: follow the Golden Rule. Would you like your IT to be interupted? No? Then don’t interrupt your sibling’s! Keep an eye on Gemma and find something to do that will not destroy anything or bother anyone else until it is your turn. The person who finishes their chores fastest usually gets to go first but sometimes there can be bickering. Today they drew cards out of a regular deck to see which order the middle three would go. No tears or arguing followed – praised be Jesus!
We are all about learning and practicing virtue all the time but ITs provide opportunities to practice patience and generosity and charity and experience an immediate benefit from it. They are also learning to think ahead and prepare. If they have all the parts and pieces ready for a project, we will get so much more done in the time we have than if we are trying to track down a full deck of cards or the supplies for a craft. Some Wednesdays I set a timer and some I just stay right with them until they are done. It’s funny how the girls want to do things WITH me but the boys want me to watch them do things or read aloud while they do as they like. The best part of it all is that the concentrated time with just me seems to fill them up and I try very hard to look and listen for ways to encourage them specifically during their time. It’s like a mini stay-at-home speed date. With my kids. It works for us!