Two great ideas dropped into my email inbox today – a post from a blog I follow, that I highly recommend and a ‘Psychology Today’ article. They are both about similar subjects – giving kids enough space. Click here for the blog post and here for the ‘Psychology Today’ piece.
In the ‘Rethinking Everything’ post (I wish I’d thought of that name for my blog!), titled ‘Learning to be Alone’, Barb talks about the importance of parents teaching their kids to be alone. However, I think it evident from her post that she agrees with something I believe in, that kids are already OK with being alone, to some extent, but we teach them not to be by over-scheduling them. At the end of her post she says, “Maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to teach aloneness at all. Maybe we’re born with a natural drive to discover and enjoy aloneness and realize our own comfortable, magical inner workings. Perhaps all we have to do is allow what occurs all by itself and trust the divine process.” So instead of having to teach our kids how to be alone, to beat loneliness, we just need to leave them alone more; give them the space they already take themselves. Barb gives tips how to do this including, “Welcome boredom. A healthy state of boredom inevitably leads to new ideas and inspirations” and “Encourage daydreaming. When you see your child staring off into space, don’t engage them with something “useful,” just allow and honor their private thought” both of which I do already.
It was interesting when we visited family recently and my very social kids were around a lot of cousins, that after a while my son shut himself in the bedroom and played alone with his action figures. His cousins kept opening the door and begging him to join them and thought he was very odd (since we were only visiting for a week) and I did feel pressure for him to stop appearing so odd but I resisted it because I knew that’s what he needed and I admired him. He’s always liked to play alone in his room, as well as with friends, and I told them, “That’s what he wants, so please, I’d be very grateful if you closed the door and just left him alone.” I was proud of myself that I didn’t cave into social/family pressure! And of course I was so proud of him that he knew what he needed (and a teeny bit jealous because I’d never have been able to satisfy myself like that at his age. I was far too concerned to ‘do the right thing’). My son knew he’d be happier playing by himself, processing the challenges of visiting with so many cousins, and he did it, despite pressure to be/do otherwise.
The ‘Psychology Today’ piece is titled, ‘As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity. New research suggests that American schoolchildren are becoming less creative.’ It discusses declining scores on ‘Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT)’. It says that, “….data indicate that “children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.” The scores on this test are important not just for these utterly essential attributes which I’m already sold on and desperately try to encourage in my kids but also because, “the TTCT seems to be the best predictor of lifetime achievement that has yet been invented. It is a better predictor than IQ, high-school grades…” which might wake up some conventional thinkers too!
Dr. Peter Gray the author says, “We are also, as I documented in a previous essay (To read it click here. The article is titled ‘The Dramatic Rise of Anxiety and Depression in Children and Adolescents: Is It Connected to the Decline in Play and Rise in Schooling?’), increasingly depriving children of free time outside of school to play, explore, be bored, overcome boredom, fail, overcome failure—that is, to do all that they must do in order to develop their full creative potential. In the next essay in this series, I will present research evidence that creativity really does bloom in the soil of freedom and die in the hands of overdirective, overprotective, overjudgmental teachers and parents.”
So here we are again – back to the importance of free play and valuing boredom, this time for the development of creativity in addition to what Barb wrote about, developing the life skill, learning to be alone. Homeschooling offers ample opportunity to do this, especially for parents on the unschooling spectrum. And I do so appreciate and value this and see this happening right before my eyes with my kids but I do, consciously, have to push back against feelings of inadequacy that ‘I’m not doing it right’, that we ‘should’ be ‘doing’ more i.e. something tangible like worksheets, Maths exercises, literacy exercises, anything that looks like ‘schoolwork’ when I know, quite clearly in my heart, I’m offering a creative, rich, supportive, linguistically sophisticated environment (i.e. lots of time and encouragement to talk about anything and everything) and that’s the best thing in the world for kids.
Our approach to learning is scary when it’s looked at through the lense of a conventional life but I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t want a conventional life for my kids. I want something better for them. I want children who are MORE emotionally expressive, MORE energetic, MORE talkative and verbally expressive, MORE humorous, MORE imaginative, MORE unconventional, MORE lively and passionate, MORE perceptive, MORE apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, MORE synthesizing, and MORE likely to see things from a different angle – not just as compared to ‘average’, ‘conventional’ kids but to almost all kids and I’ll think they’ll be happier for it! I just wish all kids, everywhere, had the same opportunities. And that both their parents, as is our case, supports this.
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IF YOU’RE NEW TO HOMESCHOOLINGMIDDLEEAST, welcome! I highly recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. The fastest way to access this is to look for ‘Archives’ on the right hand side of the home page, click on ‘February 2012’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens. If you want a quick first visit, you could type a term e.g. ‘socialization’ or ‘university’, into the ‘Search’ box or of course you could just read my latest posts without doing anything!
Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this is an adventure into homeschooling that is not yet 3 months old and the journey has been a rollercoaster – philosophically and emotionally, catalogued daily for the first couple of months. For you to get the full intellectual and dramatic impact, it’s best to start at the beginning. You might be contemplating home educating and wonder what those early nail-biting days feel like or you might enjoy reading somebody else’s take on an experience you share with me, or you might be more generally interested in my thoughts and feelings on education and parenting. Whatever the reason you’re reading, I’m really humbled that you’re taking your valuable time to do so and I really hope I can be some kind of hope or inspiration for you. Thank you!