Have you ever been on a kick? I’ve been on a writing, editing and reading kick this past week. The week before, I was on a sleeping kick.
Humans work in a natural rhythm of having lots of energy for something for a while, then backing off and resting. Kids are the perfect personification of this human trait. It creates what we see as “bursty” learning.
Then there is daily practice. Every once in a while, I get on an exercise kick (right now, I’m on the opposite of that. Is there a name?). What I’ve found is that when I’m in groove, I have no trouble waking up and pounding the pavement. I’ve also found, that if I keep my light routine going through the times I don’t feel like exercising, that my enthusiastic days are even better. It takes no time to get my body prepped for a workout. It remembers.
Having the natural rhythm of interest, while maintaining daily routines; this is a balance I’m finding to be not an either/or equation, but important to include both.
A good example is my writing. I make it a point to write everyday. It doesn’t matter what I write, but I write something. So when I feel the muse coming on, I’m in the practice of writing. I don’t spend a lot of time staring at the blank screen. I’m writing so many things, it’s usually a pop-over from another screen to write something before it leaves my head.
If I didn’t keep up the practice of writing everyday, when the muse arrives, I’d have to “set up” my writing place. Get in the groove. By the time I settled down and managed to get writing, where would the muse be? Off at Starbucks getting a coffee and reading the paper from being bored of waiting.
On the other hand, if I tried to make my muse appear everyday, whether or not I have something to say, I’d be spending a lot of time thinking that writing is hard. When actually, writing is not hard at all. It just seems hard because I’m asking myself to do something my brain is not in gear to do at the moment.
The balance is to keep up the engine idle while I’m not driving. Then, when I’m ready to produce and learn and grow, I don’t have to start the engine. All I have to do is step on the gas.
This approach works well for kids. Keeping the engine idle with low-key, low-demand, regular activity keeps their brains ready for when it’s time to race. It’s too much to demand that they perform “their best” at all times. They can’t. It’s too tiring. It burns their gas reserves.
They only need to do enough to keep the engine idling. When they are ready, they’ll rev up the engine and burst ahead. We can’t stop them. Then, when they get to the next rest stop, time to idle again.
Idle with the same activities that we would “do our best” on: outside play, hands-on activities, workbooks, reading, drawing, writing, discussing, classes, everything. But do it all with no-goals other than to just do it. What happens when we get there? Who cares. Just do it, with whatever enthusiasm (or not) that you have. Just watch if you don’t want to participate.
Like the old exercise motivator: “Get out for 15 minutes. If after 15 minutes you don’t want to exercise anymore, come home.” Odds are, after 15 minutes, you’ll get warmed up, and will be able to do the whole workout. And if you don’t make it past 15 minutes, well, you were out there for 15 minutes idling, and keeping the engine warm – without the stress of revving up at home thinking about how we “should” be working out harder.
The “idling” activities are like that. “Just come outside and play. Just do any one of your workbooks you want to, any page, any number of problems. Just sit with me while I read this outloud for two pages. No requirement to finish. No requirement to do “good”. Just do. Idle.”
When they are ready to burst forward, they’ll be warmed up, all ready to go. Soon they’ll be on a “kick” too, and we can watch them burn rubber as they blast off down the racetrack.