A Surprise in the Woods!
Planning the Week ~

Mitten Strings for God: Chapter Seven

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"So much of the structure that we impose on our children's lives is really intended to make our own lives easier. We don't want to give up our freedom, and so we fail to grant our children theirs. As every mother knows, it's easier to sign up for sports camp than to carve out a week to allow your children to follow their own inclinations at home. But children need time that is utterly their own - time to take up residence in their own lives, time to dream through an afternoon, time to play with the kids next door, time to wake up to their own pleasures. Above all, they need some time when we adults aren't calling the shots."

When I'm asked why we homeschool, I usually respond that there are too many reasons to list. But more often than not, (depending on the nature of the conversation, and the person asking the question), I usually then go on to list out those reasons. :)

One of the reasons at the top of that list is that homeschooling gives my children so much TIME. Time to be children, time to figure out who they are, time to get to know their brothers and the rest of their family. As a family, homeschooling allows us to draw up our own schedule, fillling it in as we see fit - making sure there's lots of blank space on that chart.

Play needs to be part of that blank space. Children can discover so much - about the world, about themselves - through their play. Some discoveries just cannot be taught or arranged by the adults - they must be stumbled upon by the children themselves.

For example, last week we had our Nature Club's April Meeting. We had a lovely time, searching for signs of spring in the woods. The initial plans were drawn up by parents, and the walk itself was led, more or less, by the parents. At the end of our walk, we gathered together to share our findings - drawings, poems, etc. The children had a great time - you could read the excitement in their faces, pink from the fresh air and exercise.

But the moment we were "done," the kids were off - off to the rocks. And before long we had a group of - oh, easily 30 children, of all ages and sizes - climbing the rocks, taking part in some kind of game. Completely child-driven, child-led and child-imagined. It was like they were speaking their own language - I'd hear snippets as they'd run by in packs - something about tribes and some kind of mission. We parents just stood back and let them do what they had to do. They let us have our time - now this was theirs.

My heart soared on this gorgeous spring day, that my children - all these children - all had so much time to PLAY. To just be children. Given a half hour of freedom, they knew just what to do with it.

Of course, this example shows what children can do with all that time, when they are all together. But what about when they are on their own?

"Perhaps we adults have lost the fine art of lollygagging, but at least most of us mastered it as children. We knew what it was to bored and to find something on our own to do; we knew what loneliness felt like; and we discovered the value in being alone sometimes. Left to our own amusements, we found resources we didn't know we had. We learned, as Worsworth wrote, to see through "that inward eye that is the bliss of solitude." These were valuable lessons - and I fear that our own busy, well-entertained children may not ever have the chance to learn them. Inventiveness and self reliance are being scheduled right out of them."

And of course the other question I often get asked re homeschooling is: "Don't your kids get bored?"

And to be perfectly honest, not really. Or if they do get itchy, it's usually not long before they find something to start up (or, ahem, something is suggested for them). I am a huge fan of boredom. I think in today's culture, boredom is quite underrated.

And to be further honest, though we're as busy as the next homeschooler (classes, clubs, field trips, etc.) the reality is we are home a lot. And no matter how much you are home - whether you homeschool or not - you do need to plan ahead for these times.

I'm still working on this myself - I don't mean to sound like I have it all figured out! But here are a few ideas I've been knocking around regarding making home time fulfilling for everyone ~

Explore and cultivate hobbies, give them room to grow. Involve the kids in the everyday running of the household - washing the car, walking the dog, etc. Set up comfortable places to read, convenient spaces to play. Rotate the books on display week by week. Make art supplies accessible, and keep a workspace available nearby. Keep music on inthe background, something different or something familiar - whatever you think will strike the right mood that day. A basket of CD's on a shelf, next to the player invites children to consider the music themselves. Make your child's bedroom a sanctuary - a place to dream, and relax. Set up shelves for things like aquariums, terrariums, rock collections or lego creations.

Well, I've run out of time for today, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter! How do you encourage your children to entertain themselves? What kinds of space (both physical and emotional) do you provide for them?

And ~ I hope you are all enjoying your weekend! See you all again sometime soon. :)

(Next week's chapter: Secret Places)

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