For years it seemed that there was always at last one child under my feet at all times. Homework was done at the kitchen table. Homework supplies were kept in the kitchen. Homework time stretched on past dinner. And then one day I realized I was the only one downstairs in the evening. The kids had scattered. They were all busily at work on their homework. They were just doing that work in their bedrooms. I wanted a tiny bit more time with them each day. It took a while for me to come up with a solution to that lack of evening time. Here’s a strategy for introducing our tradition to your family.
The importance of family dinners has been covered and proven many times over. But what happens after “before & after dinner” time? Do your kids also rush in from homework and race right back to their rooms after a reasonably relaxed meal? How about introducing some Evening Time?
Evening Time is an hour to ninety minutes of family time around the evening meal. It can be used for meal prep or clean up, but the main thing for me is to have it continue for about half an hour after dinner is cleaned up. We move into the family room and either continue our dinner conversation or do some reading.
At first, the kids thought I was crazy. Why on earth would they want to read when they had homework to do? Then they realized they could bring homework downstairs and work during that time if they preferred. The point was to just have a time when we were all in the same place at the same time with an opportunity to do more than prep, eat, and run.
I believe the introduction of Evening Time has had several benefits. For one thing, my kids plan their homework time better since they know they are going to have a break around dinner. For another, if they have a question or want to explore an idea related to their school work, they have that time on a regular basis. They also know that reading for pleasure in the form of a newspaper or magazine is a perfectly worthwhile activity. I want them to have a balance in their lives. How can they have that if we are living rushed and stressed lives where reading for pleasure simply doesn’t make the cut?
I knew we were on to something when my most reluctant child picked up a magazine related to one of his interests and weeks later decided to use a high school elective to take a class in that area. The class was only offered as an AP class, but he was confident to take it because he knew it was of high interest to him. He’s also considering ways to work in that field in the future. Yes, this may change many times over, but the point is a connection has been made and I now see him leafing through the variety of magazines I have in the house on a regular basis. Another of my kids has used the time to read a book on her Nook. She’s discovered that reading is fun and a way to take a quick mental break from everything else that happens during the day. And my oldest? After being the most reluctant reader on the planet, he reads all the time.
I’m not sure this will work for everyone, but I am sure it is worth a try. Your children are quick to copy what you do, for good or ill. If you’re kind and generous, chances are they will be, too. Then again, if you really mess up in front of them, they’re sure to hold that memory dear for a lifetime. So why not give them a family tradition that’s worth keeping? Grab a newspaper, a tablet, or a book and sit down for half an hour after dinner. Invite your kids to join you–firmly. Here’s wishing you the same wonderful outcome we’ve had.