What I’ve learned from my kids: Time

Time is relative, apparently. Whatever that means. As I get older I find myself with less and less of it, to do more and more. Having children isn’t making it any easier, either, but there is a positive to be taken from watching them … here’s my second post about what I’ve learned from my kids.

Everyday, at work or home, I manage my time, from the moment I wake up (often to the sounds of one or both boys arguing) through to trying to figure out if I want to watch another episode of 3rd Rock From the Sun on Netflix (my latest guilty pleasure) before bed. 

At work I try and plan my day around timed appointments and meetings as well as working flexibly to accommodate emails, tweets, phone calls, etc. Sometimes there’s not enough time for everything, but like you I do my best.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to get any sense of time instilled in my boys. Unless it’s being somewhere for a certain time (cinema for 11:00) or a friend is coming round for tea, they’re not interested.

You know what, that’s OK. It’s my attitude to time that I’m trying to force on them, and that’s not their fault. Nor is it necessarily wrong. We have a rule at home that they can have 15 minutes on the iPad each day, but not after tea / before bed. Being kind or doing something to help someone else can earn them an extra 5 minutes, just like being rude or unkind will lose them 5 minutes. Obviously this is a time sensitive activity, but once they’re on the iPad time does not exist for them. At all. No.

Once they start playing a game (they both love Monument Valley and Alto’s Adventure) time is irrelevant. There’s no point saying they’ve got 5 minutes or 1 minute left before they need to put the iPad down. Sometimes they’re playing something that does not have a natural break or save-point that they can access bang on the time limit. Is it therefore wrong to force them to stop midway through a game, or wait for a natural break, which could be quite a long time away?

When they’re playing outside, with friends or each other, they don’t feel hunger or worry about missing dinnertime; they carry on playing until it rains or gets too dark to play. Then they remember that tea wasn’t produced or they’re getting wet without their coats on. Then, of course, it matters.

Again, when it comes to bedtime and we go up to read a book or two, time does not mean anything when they’re enjoying the story and want to keep going and see where the characters and storyline go. Even when they’re tired they don’t feel time in the same way I do: so long as I keep reading the story they’ll stay awake and listen. The same applies if they take over and read for themselves.


Time, to them, is inconsiderate. It stops them from doing what they love and what they’re enjoying. And this is what I’ve learned. I also find time inconsiderate. There’s never enough of it, it never lasts long enough, and I don’t make the most of it. So, what can I do to sort this out?

I’ve learned to stop worrying about it. Emails don’t need to be answered immediately (and shouldn’t!). I let events pan out where I can instead of shutting it off because it’s run it’s allotted time frame. I can always catch up on the TV programme somehow if I miss the start or end because of something else has a higher priority.

So how do we manage this relaxed attitude to designing courses, where learners are required, or at least recommended, to spend a certain amount of time on their studies? Do we specify the time they ought to spend on study between the course start and exam points, highlight more granular time spans per week or per topic? Do we ‘trust’ the learners to do the right thing and do enough study?

Time doesn’t work, not for me. I’ve done courses that require set hours, and I resented the ticking clock announcing how much or how little I’d done in order to progress however far I’d come. For one course, the EDCMOOC, I found myself putting in far more hours than the course specified just so I could keep up with it, not even excel at it. At first I thought the mistake was mine, but after a while I realised it was the course organisers that had just plain misunderstood what was required to do the course.

It’s not easy to plan a course and its materials: not everyone reads or learns at the same pace. What one person can lap up in an hour may take someone else much longer to read, reread, read further, take notes, be distracted, read again, put kids to bed, etc. So how is time handled here? Is a ‘recommended’ time allowance for a course actually doing more harm than good?

You know what, I feel better for being more relaxed about time. I’m not tied to it the way I used to be. Yes, I still get to where I need to be at the time I said I would, that’s just basic manners, but I am trying to enjoy the unexpected or unplanned more than I used to. And that, for someone like me who needs to know what’s going on and be in control, is not easy. You try it.

Image source: Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)