Here's a question to ask yourself: Is a family who is constantly out and about, going here and there, attending music classes and swimming lessons, etc. better than one who stays home most evenings, and doesn't have their children in a bunch of different classes? Thought provoking, isn't it?

With the amount of choices that exist today, parents feel pressured to send their children to music class, dance class, swimming lessons, gymnastics, and maybe even a tutor. When they hear a friend talk about the activities that their children are involved in, they think..."Maybe I should be doing that".

My opinion is that leading a "slow life" is the BEST way to raise a child. What does this mean? It means having a routine, no matter if your children are babies, toddlers, or school-aged. It means participating in family activities inside the safest, most comforting place there is - the home. It means making a conscious choice about which activities to participate in rather than jumping on the bandwagon of classes.

The reasons for living a slow life are plentiful, however here are just a few:

1) Children who have time to play by themselves in a quiet environment are able to be creative, problem solve, and think about words they learned that day and things they saw and wondered about. They also become self-reliant and their self-esteem improves because they learn how to like spending time with themselves.

2) Children who spend quality "down time" with their families tend to have healthy self-esteems because they feel like they are a part of something important. They also feel good about themselves because they see that they are "liked" by their parents, not just "loved".

3) Children who have enough time to just play are able to develop naturally, meaning they remain their natural, appropriate age rather than having to grow up too fast while they learn how to cope with all that might exist in their busy schedule.

4) Most children who live slow lives tend to do better in school and feel better about going to school and learning. Homework typically isn't a battle either.

5) Children who live slow lives are typically more well-behaved and have respect for rules set by their parents.

Now that we know some of the benefits, what does a typical slow life look like? It depends on the age. This week I'll discuss school-aged children.

Good Routine for School-Aged Children

7 AM (or earlier if need be) wake up, make bed, brush teeth, wash face, get dressed.

7:30 AM Eat breakfast as a family

8:00 AM Put coats and shoes on, grab backpack, and either head to the car or walk to school

3:30 - 4:00 PM Arrive home from school, hang up coat and put shoes away neatly, put backpack at homework area, eat a healthy snack that is already prepared or choose one off of the "Snack Ideas" list attached to the fridge. This snack should be eaten at the table while the day is shared or time is spent talking and giggling with siblings.

Note: Stay away from sugary treats or desserts here as sugar creates hyperactivity then quick lethargy - not great for concentrating on homework. A good idea is to have a carbohydrate, protein and fat snack such as cheese and crackers or an apple with cheese stick, or homemade, low or no sugar oatmeal raisin cookies with a glass of milk.

4:30 PM Go to homework area and begin homework. Ages 5-8 should typically only have about 30 minutes worth of homework. Ages 9-12 usually have 45 mins- 1 hour of homework and Ages 12 and above usually 1-2 hours. After homework is complete, the backpack is organized and placed by the door where they will leave in the morning. This is an IMPORTANT step.

Note: If your child is finished their homework earlier than the usual time, some parents like to sit with their child and practise basic skills like sight words, math basic facts or read together until the full homework time is finished. This works well if your child rushes through his/her homework. If she knows she must stay until the time is up, she will more likely take her time or enjoy the one on one time with you.

5 PM (or 5:30/6PM depending on the age of your child) FREE time to watch TV, play inside or outside, read, make a craft, have fun on the computer.

6 PM (or 6:30/7 PM) Eat dinner as a family.

6:30 (or 7/7:30 PM) Clean up as a team and then everyone can head off to have more personal FREE time or you can do a family activity together such as watch a movie, build a puzzle or go for a walk.

8:00 -10:00 PM (depending on their age) Bedtime

Note: If you have an elaborate bedtime routine, be sure to start this 30-40 minutes before you want lights out. I recommend making the routine simple, short and sweet so that more FREE or family time is available to enjoy and whining for "Just one more story" is not an option. More information on how to set up a simple, effective bedtime routine can be found in my e-book, Juggling Family Life. (special instructions for children who don't want to go to bed are also given in a step by step method)

If your child is involved in any after-school activities the routine will have to shift a bit. A snack should be given in the car on the way to the activity, then once home, homework should begin while dinner is being prepared. FREE time or family time can remain the same after dinner. I highly recommend that you enroll your child in only ONE activity per term. The reasons for this are too many to describe here - another article perhaps, but just know that this is very important for your whole family's life.

Author's Bio: 

Erin Kurt, parenting & life coach to working mothers, and founder of ErinParenting, is also the author of Juggling Family Life and creator of The Life Balance Formula and the How to Get Your Child to Listen program.