Back To Basics

For the longest time, I had been wondering how to get the boys to help out regularly with housework. Not that they were (too) unwilling to do…. but sometimes I forgot… sometimes we headed out very early (once they finished their milk). For instance, if the plan was to spend the whole day outdoors, I might feel that we might as well bring our breakfast out for a picnic or eat out, as the eating and cleaning up would take quite a while, especially for Meimei who was messy and un-threatenable.

It’s great to spend more time in the great outdoors. But eventually, the boys’ chorelessness got to me too much, and I decided that again, we had to make a choice – chores or outdoors? Chores won, cos we do not have to completely give up on outdoor time, just have to cut down (and say goodbye to our 1000 hours, boo hoo. Oh well, no pain no gain.)

‘Worse’, as I am trying to let the kids eat more homecooked food, and also because they are usually able to go to bed earlier if I come home and cook, we are further cutting down on outdoor time as we leave for home earlier. So…. go out later, come back earlier… oops..

Our current routine

730am Milk & breakfast

The boys have to finish by 830am, or else they don’t have to finish the food/milk and will lose a privilege for the day. Good thing is they usually do finish on time. (But how are they going to have one hour to eat when they start primary school?? Gloomy.)

After breakfast, it’s time for housework followed by wushu practice (just some simple exercises cos mummy is NOT a wushu exponent. Urmm, or wushu practitioner at all :P)

It’s a different chore everyday, something simple. The main purpose is to get the boys in the habit of doing housework, and to drill into them that they are supposed to do housework. (You are welcome, Future Daughters-in-Law.) I clean the house on my own too, so what the boys do are all extra. The house will not be any diritier if they don’t do their chores… this is so that I won’t get stressed about them doing the chore well (i.e. up to my standards) Previously, they helped when I was really cleaning the toilet. I would be rushing to finish the cleaning and feeling very stressed by time ticking by while the boys were either fooling around (not clean!) or very serious about their work (taking too long!)

One chore a day – dust the shelves & wipe the balcony, clean the playmat, mop the bedrooms (with Magiclean wipes), wash the toilet, wash the dishes for one meal, cook one dish each (with heaps of help from me).. Sunday is rest day!

They are done by 9am and run off to do their own thing. (read or Lego or random toys or just playing or run around the house) I continue with my chores if any (I vacuum the house daily at least. Monday is Housework Day and I wash the toilets and mop as well. It is also Child Neglect Day until lunchtime.)

I start lunch prep by 10.30am. So in-between I am free for about an hour to play with the kids or help them out if they need my help (crafts or Lego or they might request I read to them).

Depending on the dishes, we eat at 11am or latest 11.30am. After lunch and fruits and washing up, it’s around 12.15pm. I start dinner prep now especially if we are going out. Then, by right,12.30pm or thereabouts is Meimei’s naptime especially if we are going out for swim class or wushu class in the afternoon. When she goes for her nap, I spend 30 minutes one-to-one with each child. While I am with Didi, Kor Kor usually disappears into his bedroom (reading or doing Lego). Then Didi goes for his nap and I spend time with Kor Kor. After that, Kor Kor goes for one hour of quiet time (ya, no prize for guessing, he reads or plays with Lego). And it’s my rest time for about an hour! Well, I get to rest (i.e. check facebook!) once I finish up some (and there is always some!) miscellaneous tasks around the house.

BUT as the Princess Monster has not been sleeping well recently, I have to spend time coaxing her to sleep. (This traumatic event shall be documented once I survive it.) So one-to-one time with the boys is tentative for now.. depending on how long Meimei takes to KO.

Around 2-3pm (depending on which class we are heading to), the kids resurface and we go out. Reach home by 6pm after class, have dinner, shower and start bedtime routine.

If we do not have class that day, I prefer to bring them out in the morning, after breakfast, housework and wushu practice. Go out around 9am, lunch out, reach home 1pm+ for their naps and quiet time. I unpack from the morning outing and start dinner prep if necessary.

You might have noticed there is no reading time, no one-to-one time when we go out in the morning. I think it’s ok, because when we are outdoors, I am not so distracted by housework or cooking and can pay them more attention, which sorta make up for the one-to-one. As for reading.. back to basics, remember? And the fundamental is my sanity. Not gonna squeeze it in.. though we usually do end up reading unless I am really too tired or busy.

So now, our priorities are, ample sleep for the kids, mummy’s sanity, routine, chores, free play, outdoors, reading, other engagements, roughly in that order. We used to play board games together almost every afternoon, as the kids got to choose the activity for their time with mummy. (They often chose to do two-to-one as they wanted to play board games together.) But I realised that meant they wouldn’t get much readalouds for the day, only two bedtime stories at night. Frankly speaking, I admit that the daddy and I were not too keen to read loooong stories or explain things properly to them at that time of the day. So, prioritize readalouds over board games! The best part? The boys have been playing board games by themselves quite a lot! We have a board game night once a week, with Daddy too, when we play the more challenging ones which Didi can’t manage yet. Sometimes we play simple games too, just for fun and laughs! 😀

By 8.30pm, the boys are in bed. Meimei goes to bed earlier, timing depends on how fast I finish the dinner wash up.

“When you have the choice, choose outdoors.”

That is still our mantra – we choose outdoors over other outings (museums, indoor playgrounds, Science Centre, watching plays, etc). Beaches, parks, water playgrounds, cycling, hiking, yes!



How Many Hours Outdoors??!? 1000!

A few months ago I came across this blog 1000 Hours Outside. At first, it was just another parenting blog which caught my attention and I started to follow it on facebook. Then gradually, I got more and more inspired and decided to join the challenge! Yes, I have committed to gifting my children 1000 hours outdoors within one year!

I began intentionally increasing our time outdoors and tracking the hours in February. It has been two months, and we have clocked 117.5 hours. Argh, yep, we are behind schedule. To hit 1000 hours, we need about 83 hours a month. But well, February we were down with HFMD, and in March we had an overcast and wet week at Taiwan (SIGH. And even after we came back to sunny Singapore, we are spending a few more days at home just to recover from the depressing trip. Now I know I need to live in a tropical country. I need the sun. Anyway, that means my April tally gonna fall short as well.)

But why 1000 hours in the first place?

Charlotte Mason recommended that children between the ages of zero and seven spend 4 – 6 hours outside every day.  This amount of time is backed time and again by research showing the astronomical health, social, and developmental benefits that accompany time in nature.  That amount of time on a daily basis was unrealistic for us so we aim for that amount of outside time three to four days a week.

Four to six hours a day, three to four days a week puts us roughly in the ballpark of 1,000 Hours within a year – which gave the website a catchy name.  So I went with it.

I tried googling for other guidelines on the amount of outdoor time children need. But all I could find were the minimums – that children need at least n minutes outdoor. But why would I want to give my children the minimum when I can give them more? I am not a CM homeschooler, no special reason other than not wanting to follow any one philosophy, preferring to let my children relax and lead our learning. But hey, I do like her idea of children spending a lot of time outdoors! And of course, there are many, many good reasons for outdoor play!

Nine more months to go before Kor Kor starts primary school, and 882.5 more hours! Definitely not giving up. So, what are the lessons I have learnt these past two months?

Firstly, even though I have always been quite outdoorsy and thought I had been bringing my children outdoors quite often, it turned out that we did not actually really spend that much time outdoors. Argh. It takes very intentional planning to fit in more outdoor time. I am now more conscious of my choice of activities for the kids. Not that theatre performances or indoor playgrounds or museum visits aren’t good, but now I follow the guideline of ‘when you have the choice, choose outdoors.’ The best part, it’s usually cheaper than other options :p

Secondly, it’s not so good to go overboard either. The first week of February we hit 26.5 hours and the second, 30 hours. Very good, right? But I was exhausted! And I think the kids were too. They didn’t exactly say they felt tired (energizer bunnies, they all), but Kor Kor was complaining he had no time to do his stuff at home (all important stuff of course. The Lego bricks were slacking!!) Breakdown of the hours:

Week One. Sunday 2 hours at stadium jogging followed by playground. Tuesday 9 hours at Bishan Park. Wednesday 1.5 hours swim class plus free play. Thursday 5 hours at ECP. Friday 8 hours at the zoo. Saturday 1 hour playing at the grandparents’ yard.

Week Two. Sunday 2 hours at stadium and playground. Monday 8.5 hours at Pasir Ris Park. Wednesday 1.5 hours at the pool. Thursday 8.5 hours at Botanic Gardens. Friday 6.5 hours at Bird Park. Saturday 2.5 hours can’t remember where. (I noted down the hours but not always the venue/activity.)

We spent three full days outside in a week! When the kids woke up, they had to get ready to go out. By the time we reached home, it was time for them to get ready for bed. After that, I made up my mind to keep to a maximum of 20 hours a week. Then, the HFMD curveball hit us, and it was March when we ventured out again. Happy to report that we did 20 hours in the first week of March, and we all felt happy and rested : )

I think it’s easier to hit more hours outdoor when we spend a longer stretch of time or even a full day from morning to dinnertime. Maximising the utility of travel time and packing and lugging the kids all the way there,.. haha. And the kids seem to be better able to settle down and be really engrossed in their outdoor play. Otherwise, it seems pretty touch-and-go… soon after arriving, we would have to pack up and leave for meal/nap/bedtime.. Fully enjoying the ability of the boys to last a whole day without nap, and Meimei’s ability to nap anywhere in her stroller!

I am expecting to crawl out of this recovery rut by the end of next week latest. Probably will try to visit indoor attractions for the time being while I get back my groove again. Because the key is not to force yourself to do things you don’t feel like doing, Mummies! Am just taking a break, and will bounce back soon! Shall update on our outdoor adventures then : )

[Was trying to go to bed earlier for the past weeks. Also trying to resume a decent exercise regime. But ended up just stoning on the sofa and not getting much done. Even though I kept thinking of writing my blog. I have decided to just accept I am an owl. Run at night after the kids go to bed, then write blog after running and resting.

Please teach me how to be a mother and get enough sleep and have a life!]