Over the last several weeks I’ve had several conversations with teachers. They are finding the times challenging. Teachers are always dealing with different types of children. They are at different learning levels. They are at different maturity. Same with parents, by the way.
One major issue is that the lives of the children are out of sync. Children seem to thrive best when they are in the midst of a predictable routine. It is that lack of routine that seems to be a challenge for young people. Without that routine, at best they do not thrive. In worse cases, they struggle.
Saint Benedict could be considered the “Patron Saint of Routine.” The Rule of Benedict is not very long. The large print edition is only about 130 pages. Why did Benedict write the Rule? He realized that monks needed a certain routine for them to thrive.
Take a look at Benedict’s Rule. He writes about obedience. He insists on a spirit of silence when daily prayer is said. He lays out when prayer time should be. He outlines what psalms are to be said within those pray times. There is a certain way that the monks do things. There are consistency and order in the life of the monastery.
Benedict talks about how the monks want to sleep (“Without their knives, lest they stab themselves”). Ex explains what is to be done when mistakes are made. He writes how superiors are to deal with the fault of monks. He outlines how the monks are to handle tools and property on monastery grounds. He explains how to deal with the sick. He says what to do in terms of food, drinks, and meals.
Some would say that this just looks like just a bunch of rules and regulations. But Benedict had a method. The rule falls into two sections. Chapters 1 through seven are about spiritual doctrine. Chapters 8 through 73 are regulations for ordering a healthy community life. He integrates work time, prayer time and a system of administration. Sounds a lot like a good model for a family doesn’t it?
Prayer is the foundation upon which all other formalities and rules are based. Without personal and communal prayer, work and obedience are prone to be nothing more than sterile formalities. The communal prayer brings the monk into the very presence of God who “orders all things a-right.” (Psalm 11:7; Romans 3:21-24). I was speaking to a dad recently. He spoke about his family’s routine. They have put prayer time at the top of the priority list. He commented that this has had a dramatic effect on the family.
How does this translate practically into our day-to-day lives? How can we incorporate a benedictine “Rule” amid the coronavirus pandemic? Many people are writing about how important a routine is. They are saying that routine is not only critical for children; it is crucial for adults as well. Routine seems to have a domino effect in keeping healthy amid a changing situation. One article talked about sleep and routine. Keeping a regular sleep and work routine is key to keeping stress down. This applies to both adults and children. One should not sleep in. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Avoid daytime napping or doing things in bed like watching TV, checking phone meetings or online learning. The bed should be a sleep sanctuary. Sleep and work routines that you had before sheltering in place should be retained.
I was reading an article by Dr. Denise Pope. She is an author on parenting techniques and education strategies. She talked about how it would help keep order for families to have a routine that would help the children. She calls it”PDF” or “Playtime – Downtime – Family Time.” She has an outline for pre-school aged children, one for elementary school-aged children and one for teenagers.
They included the following:
- Reading for pleasure.
- Personal interest projects.
- Social time.
- Family time.
- Exercise and meditation/deep breathing.
- Good sleep.
- Sensible screen time.
Children learn important academic, social and emotional skills employing a routine. It will prepare them for returning to the classroom. It will help them to thrive both in school and out. Then she writes. “Be patient with your children and your partner. Be gentle on yourself. Have empathy for teachers and express your gratitude for them and others.”
Sounds a bit like routine and moderation from Benedict’s Rule again, doesn’t it?. I love it when modern science agrees with 1600 years of Catholic tradition.