Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Cure for Your Child's Boredom?

It’s back to school time, which often means it is also back to a frenetic pace of extra-curricular activities. We want our children to be well-rounded and well-educated and so we sign them up for all sorts of things: sports, dance, scouts, library programs, etc. There isn’t anything wrong with any of those things, but I’ve heard of children’s schedules that make me exhausted just listening to them. I know with many families having two working parents, after-school activities are necessary to make sure children are safe and occupied after school. However, our children need down time as much, if not more, than we adults do.

Imagination can only be truly cultivated in childhood. The ability to be creative and come up with new ideas and new solutions to problems (all valued in the workplace) depends on imagination. Developing imagination requires time to simply be and do one’s own thing.

There is a nine year old girl who lives next door to us. An only child who lives with her grandparents, she has spent most of the summer at our house playing with my children and just hanging out. She is a lovely young lady and I have enjoyed her company, but I can’t tell you how many times she told me she was bored this summer. I had never really thought about it much before, but that isn’t something I hear from my children or their other homeschooled friends very often. I started to consider why that might be.

The simple fact is that, in general, homeschooled children are left to their own devices much more than traditionally educated children. Homeschooling doesn’t require as much time on task as a traditional education so these children have more free time in which they need to occupy themselves. They are not told what they need to be doing or should be doing every minute of every day. They are used to amusing themselves.
Therefore when faced with a bulk of unoccupied time, they have no real problem finding something to do. In fact, their lists of what they would like to accomplish often exceed the free time that they have. When they get together as a group, they often create elaborate imaginary games which entertain them for considerable amounts of time.

So, then, could the cure for your child’s boredom actually be more unstructured time? I realize not every parent can or should homeschool, but a concerted effort can be made to allow for more free time, at least in the evenings. Perhaps limit extra activities to one per semester so that every night isn’t occupied with something to do and someplace to be.

If your child is not used to it, they may find the unplanned time “boring” at first and will complain, but in time, their ability to use their imagination and fill that time with activities of their own choosing will develop. Soon, you may not hear them complaining about being bored anymore, and instead hear them complaining of not enough time to do all that they want to do!

1 comment:

Eric Baker said...

I was thinking about your blog which you posted. It really got me to thinking on all the crazy things I did as a boy. I never had an issue with being bored. I honestly don't think that I was ever bored. If anything I had a glut of things to do. I would find entertainment in just about anything.

It is true that kids today are wired to receive an overload of information. When they don't get it they feel unstimulated. They really (generally speaking now) don't have the same ability to focus. They are hyper-focusing on everything rather than allowing themselves to get lost in some activity.

I feel that is where the issue is. They get bored too quickly and move on. I feel that this is more societal programming, by constant reinforcement. The TV is on, the phone is in their hand, the computer is on, the computer is playing music and a game at the same time. They are doing all this while drinking their Red Bull and being amped up on everything.

The world simply was not like that when we were younger. Yes all that varies to degrees, but most kids are exposed to it. I see your homeschooling angle a little different. I don't think that it is so much the way the work is structured, but the environment in which they doing it. They're not really seeing the other children's attention so diverted. They learn much by observation in each other.

No, not all schools are chaotic, but the home environment, when properly orchestrated allows for more focusing on task in their work. They see other children focusing the same way and that ability to focus is reinforced. When one allows one to leave the fields fallow so to speak when you return to them they bear fruit again.