“Dan, we have a problem.” I said, trying to make myself heard over the banging sounds from the center of town where Doc and Leonard were already working to get their Saloon off the ground. Dan leaned against the gate of one stall in our Stables, looking in at Rosy -- our brown with white spots mare -- who was eating her afternoon allotment of grains.
“Are we running out of grain?”
“No, this is a different matter. I’ve identified a massive drain on Athens’s productivity. The children. Do you know how much time our best workers spend chasing after their children or feeding them? Hours. Hours of daylight every day wasted. I saw Sopha Karlson stop logging for over an hour to clean up her youngest, Lora, after she rolled around in the mud to ‘be bear color.’ Sopha only got back to work that fast because Gloria sent over here oldest, Mary Jorgdaughter to look after Lora. And of course that wasn’t without a price because Mary was helping Gloria weave.”
Dan smiled, he wasn’t getting it. I heard him chuckle, “be bear color.” Crawly Edmundson didn’t just chuckle, he laughed from one stall over where he scooped large shovelfuls of straw and manure into a wheelbarrow.
“Dan, this is a massive risk to our production schedule. I’ve had several ideas on how to address this. The first is to round up all children of non-working age, build a building just for them, and put them inside it for the day, while their parent’s work. We can put some dogs and cats in there too, give them something to play with. Perhaps have an adult come in at lunch time with a bucket of food for them. I know that one is rough but you get the idea. The second is to put all those miscreants to work. They could at least do some basic sorting or maybe some simple leatherworking tasks. The third, is to have one parent stay with the children all day and get the other to work a longer day. I think the third is the least practical, there is only so much daylight -- especially when fall and winter hit, if it is anything like home there will be very little daylight to work with. ”
“Sorry. So the first idea is to lock the children up with cats and dogs and a bucket of food. The second is to have a child work gang and the third is to make one parent do double the work?” Dan said.
Dan closed his eyes. “Francine, do you remember when you and James had that falling out over the length of paternity and maternity leave?”
I ground my teeth together. “Yes.”
“Do you believe he was right when he said your people would come back more loyal than ever if you did the right thing and gave them ample paid time to be with their children? That it was a good investment?”
I sighed, “Yes, employee retention, of those employees who took paternity or maternity leave went up sixty three percent following that policy change.”
Dan said, “How do you think employee retention would have done if instead of providing longer maternity and paternity, you told people their children had to perform manual labor, or sit in a building with a bucket of food, or they had to work double time to make up for the ‘wasted time’ their spouse was spending at home?”
“Dan, this is a different situation. These are working people, farmers, they understand work needs to get done. Children work on homesteads and farms. They also know we need to build as fast as we can to prepare ourselves for our loss of immunity in two weeks.”
“Can your villagers leave Athens, Francine?”
I paused for a minute. I didn’t know. My starters package gave me their initial loyalty but could they decide to leave Athens?
“If you really want to find out, I would institute one of those policies. There is no better way to antagonize a parent then to go after their child. Here’s a different idea, build a School. Get one, or a few of the young adults to run it, who was that you mentioned that took care of Lora? Mary Jorgdaughter? See if she’ll run it. The parents will be happy because their children are learning, and you’re happy because the parents are working.”
That’s...much better than my ideas. I stuck my head out the stable door and shouted, “Mitchell!”
I walked back to Dan waiting for Mitchell to arrive.
“A school is a much better idea Dan, thank you.”
He looked shocked. I don’t often admit that I’m wrong and I certainly have never told Dan his ideas was better than one of mine, but I can’t afford to keep all my rough edges, not with James gone.
“My lady?” Mitchell says after walking through the entrance of the stables at a brisk pace.
“Dan suggested that we build a school for the town’s children and that we select one of the young adults to run it. I think it is a fine idea. Do you know if Mary Jorgdaughter has any schooling? Can she teach the young ones their letters and numbers?”
“She knows some Lady Francine. We try to teach our young ones the basics of writing and numbers, enough for trade and missives; but mostly they learn to survive and pickup their parent’s craft if not some other relative’s.”
“Can you bring her here? Before you go, how will this affect our building schedule? I don’t wish to delay any of our critical infrastructure. Perhaps we should delay the School. I hadn’t planned on providing municipal services for quite some time...”
“Municipal? I’m not sure what that is my lady, but I suspect that we could build the School without suffering any delays if we just asked the town’s parents to work a little extra to build it. I’m sure they’d jump at the chance to have someone else teaching and watching after their children for so much of the day.”
“Good thinking Mitchell. Go get Mary.”
Mitchell nodded before before hurrying out the stable doors.
“Good job on Level 20 Dan. Were you accepted as a tutorial master?”
“Yes, I can start my first tutorial zone anytime now.”
“Then why are you still here? We need our tank and two more damage dealers. But the tank comes first. You know the criteria. Committed to the game, focused on tank archetype, smart enough to realize the value of being one of Athenia’s elite.”
“Yes, Mom.” Dan winked before disappearing. He knew that mom barb always got me. I’m no one's mom, on purpose.
Mitchell strode through the door, Mary Jorgdaughter in a light blue ankle-length dress walking close behind him. She bowed, showing her doe-skin shoes with red embroidered flowers over her toe box.
“I have seen you with the children in town, do you enjoy them?” I said.
“Some more than others -- did you see the Larson twins chase that pair of chickens into the river? What a waste of chicken. My mamma was not happy. You like those boys Crawly?”
Crawly stopped shoveling out the stall next to us, and poked his head to say, “Those boys can go jump in the river themselves, Mary. Chased my best ewes into the forest the very next day.”
“Sounds like those boys need something to do during the day, Mary.”
She tilted her head at me in question.
“Mary, Athens must grow and it must grow fast. We are still working to complete this Stables, along with the paddocks outside for our sheep and goat, as well as the Tannery. We would get all of this done faster if the town’s children, or the ones that are old enough, were all in one place during the day, learning and playing. We call it a School where I’m from. A Teacher spend most of the day with the children, teaching them numbers, letters, history...anything really.” I said.
“What does this have to do with me?” Mary said.
“I’d like you to run the School.”
“Me? But, what do I do when those Larson boys act up? They won’t listen to me. Besides, I have to help my mamma during the day, I can’t spend it we have so much clothing to make, let alone the carpets for everyone’s home -- I’m almost done with yours.”
I wave my hand at her, “If the kids act out you tell their parents, their parents discipline them, then they never do it again, problem solved. I’ll speak with Gloria and make sure your schedule is cleared.”
Mary stared at me and cleared her throat, “Have you had children?”
“No. Why?” Mary shuffled her feet.
“No reason...I’ll work it out with my mamma and the other adults. I’ll figure it out.”
“Perfect. Thank you, Mary. I have every confidence in you. Mitchell, how can we get the School built without delaying the Stables and the Tannery?”
Mitchell scratches his neck, “I can ask for volunteers to work double time. I could see some wanting to pitch in extra to get their children out of their hair while they work, get some knowledge out of it. But you should know, double time isn’t a good idea for very long, they’ll tire out and get even less done over time. The Schools should only take a few days to build so it is worth it to work double time, but that won’t always be the case.”
“Very good, Mitchell. Make it happen.”
Two notifications appeared:
Congratulations! You have invented a new skill: Educate to Elevate (Level 1)
Providing an education to the next generation will secure your town’s place in the future. Your people will make better, smarter decision and your workforce will be more productive without children to take care of for most of the day.
Congratulations! You have discovered a new skill: Double Time (Level 1)
If your people believe in the task, they can work twice as long to get twice as much time. Beware, they longer they do this, the less effective they will become, and the longer they will have to rest to recover.
Research speed? None of my own pre-game research had mentioned having my townspeople research. Ah, maybe I would have to ask my Blacksmith or Tanner to experiment and learn new techniques to upgrade our metal or leather armor quality. That made sense. There’s no internet to download tutorials from in Incrementum. I made a note to look into School upgrades or related buildings which could also yield a research speed increase. Researching faster than other Homesteads could be a massive competitive advantage.
After reading the skill I understood what Mitchell was talking about with Double Time. It could be worth it for short projects, but if I tried to have villagers work Double Time for too long, I’d end up getting less done than if I had never asked them to do Double Time.
I closed the notifications and said, “Alright, back to work everyone. We have a town to build.”