Ihave had some emails from people about my blogs recently, and thereis one in particular that I would love to answer. I was asked:
"HeyI've got a question for you regarding one of your blog or tweettopics. When you say that structure makes people feel secure, doesn'tthat also sometimes stop people from progressing? Because I have astructured life, Monday is dinner at one of my friend's house,Tuesday I grab McDonald's before going to a church kids club whereI'm one of the leaders. Wednesday is dinner at another friend'shouse. Thursday is with [my daughter] one week and back to the Mondaynight friend's house for dinner before going to bible study.
Fridayis squash. My life is very structured but I think in it being sostructured, I'm in a comfort zone and not going anywhere."
Thisis such a great question, and I am so glad that I have been askedthis because I have been thinking over the past few days about thedifference between schedule and structure and also about disciplines.I have decided that I think that a schedule is what you do, so whatthe guy above is talking about. For example, at 5.30am I get up andhave my time with God, at 6.30am I have a coffee and a chat and apray with my husband, on a Wednesday we go to toddler group etc etc.There are certain portions of my 'schedule' and my family's'schedule' that don't change unless for a special event. For example,a non-negotiable in our house is that we attend church on a Sundaymorning. A non-negotiable when our children are teenagers will bethat they attend youth group. However, we are family that are alwayschanging our location and our activities. I travel a lot, which meansmy baby (soon to be babies) travel a lot. My husband is self-employedwhich means sometimes he has a tonne of work, sometimes none. We bothstudy - school schedules change frequently! Sometimes, however, we doget stuck in a rut with doing the same things day in day out becausewe are in a 'schedule/routine'. Because we never want our environmentto limit us, just as we should want to prevent when we are teachingour learners who have autism and developmental delays, we sit downeach Sunday evening and review our 'schedule' of the week. Is eachportion or activity contributing to our vision for our family andalso our goals for ourselves? If it isn't, we may need to review howwe are spending our time. If it is a crazy-busy week, how are wegoing to protect the things which do spur us on, develop us, motivateus, encourage us? For example, how are we going to protect our studytime, our devotional time, our couple time. How do I protect mybusiness-development time with a busy family? I take a portion ofeach week to think these things through and each month my husband andI have a date during which we discuss our loose plan for the month -which disciplines and structures are family? Which do we want tointroduce to our lives? So, in short, yes I do think that a relianceon schedule as opposed to structure can debilitate progress andextinguish motivation. Ensuring we have access to new activities anditems continually is really important for the motivation ofeverybody, not just learners who have autism or developmental delays.It is something to really consider.
Now to 'structure'.Although schedule is something that we are not rigid with in ourhome, and in our business Shelley and I strive not to tie ourselvesup with schedule or our families and programmes up with schedule,structure ishighlyvalued. I feel that structure is just knowing, wherever you are andwhatever you are doing, what is expected of you and what you expectof others. Annie has always had a structure to her day - wherever weare she will sleep for certain time periods, eat at certain points.Annie knows the behavioural expectations of her, and I know theexpectations that my husband has of me and vice versa. It is soimportant in relationship to be able to predict one another'sbehaviour. Boundaries and structure really do provide stability andallow development and motivation to flourish. To me, structure is allabout consistency.