Homeschooling: Children Need
Activity – and Nothingness – for Their Own Sake
By Linda Dobson
Many 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.