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Homeschooling: Children Need Activity – and Nothingness – for Their Own Sake

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Homeschooling: Children Need

Activity – and Nothingness – for Their Own Sake

By Linda Dobson

homeschoolingMany homeschooling families have learned that academic success follows large doses of activity with no ulterior motive, that is, doing something for the sheer joy of the doing, period. For most children, sheer joy doesn’t come from doing worksheets or term papers.

Homeschooling and Nothingness

Many homeschooling families also try¬† mega-doses of nothingness, known in the old days as unscheduled, unfettered “free” time. “I began homeschooling by scheduling by scheduling my son’s entire day,” says Oklahoma’s Marcy Worth. “All the activities and books were so educational and I didn’t want him to miss out on anything. Thank goodness for my friend Nancy who slowly but steadily showed me how to lighten up and give my son the chance to “just be.” Within the first few months of relatively free afternoons, “he discovered a talent for writing science fiction and a hunger to know anything and everything about law enforcement,” Marcy recalls. “I guess it’s no coincidence that today he’s studying criminal justice in college.”

Many homeschooling parents agree that it’s good for children to experience boredom from time to time. They’ve discovered that some of their children’s greatest creativity arises during the moments no one is telling them what, when, or how to do something. As a bonus, children will usually turn to a favored activity or topic, providing you with clues as to where their interests lie.

Homeschooling Parents Know Play Leads to Learning

Children being the active, energetic creatures they are gravitate toward play to fill unscheduled time. Homeschooling parents, convinced that play is a child’s most important work, will bend over backwards to ensure free time. Play is so vital to a child’s ultimate success that Ann Lahrson fisher devoted the first six chapters of Fundamentals of Homeschooling to play, considering it a habit of homeschooling along with conversations, togetherness, and growing up.

Play, Ann explains, gives children a sense of timelessness, power, and control, and a creative outlet for self-expression. In addition, play provides the chance to imitate and practice life skills and allows time for the processing of new knowledge. “Play is so much more than a critically important element of learning,” Ann says. “Play is learning! If play is learning in the early years, learning can be play in the later years. Learning is play!”

See also Play Is Vital for Healthy Children

I know this can be a hard concept to grasp. I know it goes against almost everything we’ve been told and/or likely experienced in our own educational history. But “down time” makes sense, even more so today in an academic climate filled with a swirl of demands and expectations greater than we parents ever experienced in school. Your child’s mental and emotional health is just as important as her physical health, not only for success in homeschooling or traditional school, but also for her desire to do well in the first place.

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4 Responses to “Homeschooling: Children Need Activity – and Nothingness – for Their Own Sake”

  1. Belinda says:

    Thank you – this came at just the right time – I was just berated by my sister because my children have playtime scheduled into everyday – every hour of bookwork is followed by an hour of play (they have 3 one hour blocks of bookwork a day). My sister feels that the playtime on their schedule makes the school day the same as the weekend/holidays and 3hrs isn’t enough ‘school time’. Her children have to squeeze 5mins play in-between their scheduled activities of school, cello, piano, gym, netball, science club, church, computer club, judo and homework. Although I must admit – we’ve been homeschooling for almost 2yrs now and they haven’t ‘discovered a talent for anything in particular’ or ‘a hunger to learn everything and anything’ about any topic – but they have done well in some sports they tried and some art exhibitions they entered – and they have years yet – they are only 6 and 8!

    • Ouch, that hurts, doesn’t it, Belinda? The good news is sis can berate all she wants while you keep thinking, especially good if it’s set to some tune or other, “These are my children, and I’ll do what I know is right.” Add a “na, na, na, na,” if it makes you smile. A schedule that makes every day like a weekend or holiday? I’m down with that!! [g] Thanks for reading and sharing, Belinda, and keep enjoying that learning journey!

  2. Monica Brown says:

    We are on holidays in Australia and today I was delighted to watch my 7 & 9 year old creating their own backyard Olympic events. I continue to wonder at the scope of children’s imagination…and thank God that home schooling cultivates it. Free time gives them opportunites to seek from within and expand this to their own personal beyond. A gift they will need throughtout their lives.

    • How wonderful for your children, Monica! You’ve nailed the heart of the matter: opportunity to seek within to bring out to expand their Selves. Important work that too many have been forced to skip. Can’t help but wonder if that’s why the world is in the state of affairs it’s in. I hope the Brown family gets some serious enjoyment out of your holiday! Thanks for reading and commenting in the midst of it!

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