With our homeschool over now, this last month has been the transition to a new routine. I always find it difficult to change gears. When everyone knows what to do, everything just flows so well. But now the challenge for me is to keep my children busy during the summer. I say challenge because I am not one who likes it when my kids don’t have positive things to do with their day. I like their days to have purpose and to have some sense of accomplishment. So when I try and figure out how to structure their day I don’t necessarily think of lots of activities and busyness.
One thing that I read years ago in one of Dr. Moore’s books (the author of Homespun Schools, Home Style Teaching, Home Grown Kids, and many others) was that a balanced life for a child was one where he spent time learning, working and in service to others. I really liked that idea and that has been my goal for the last many years with my kids. Of course free time to play and explore and just be a child is important. So most days start off with chore time around the house and after that we move on.
When children are young, say under 12 years of age, they naturally have a desire to just play and learn, and explore without a lot of directing from the parent or adult. In our world today we seem to be running kids to this and that activity and have them so involved that the old fashioned play time is becoming a thing of the past. I have heard older folks share how as kids they would play “kick the can” and “anti over” and other games that were simply put together by a group of kids who wanted some fun time together. This last month my Jacob, 9 yrs, Sierra, 7 yrs, and Isaac, 5 yrs had more fun with a pile of old tree limbs that Tobin had cut from a dead apple tree on the property. They built a fort, a teepee, a log cabin (very small but clever), laid them out to make roads and many various other things. This kind of play to me is incredibly valuable. No pre planned adult directed activity could have ever given them the educational and creative value that this did. I think kids need creative undirected time spent just using their imagination and creating. It does not have to tree limbs either. A big pile of pillows on the living floor may keep a couple of young kids busy for a long time! Or my living room has been known on occasion to look like a big tent city. Or a bunch of homemade playdough, etc… and most of all don’t forget dirt. I think kids need to get dirty! I think it is a necessary part of the growing up experience. One mother I know saw how dirty her boys had gotten while at my house playing and said, “It’s just happy dirt, and it washes off” They were just having so much fun while they played that day and the dirt just proved it. :) The process of playing and being creative I believe has value beyond what we can just see.
I personally would rather go out
of my way to find undirected, creative play time opportunities for my youngest
children than to rush them around to preplanned activities to keep them busy.
Some of this once in awhile may be o.k. I am not a fan of sports, but that is
just me, I have simply never enjoyed competitive games so I dislike sports. But,
I don’t think it is a bad thing for a kid to play a sport once in awhile if that
is what the child enjoys and it does not cause a lot of upheaval to the family.
My oldest son played basketball with our community center when we lived in the
city. We did this for a specified time period and that was it. But I am cautious
about this type of thing and limit my involvement in these things because
playing chauffer and taxi driver for my children is not a way of life I want to
have. And of course don’t forget clean up. We mom’s don’t need to be haggard and
worn out cleaning up after our “creative” children. I let the wood mess stay in
my front yard until it was obvious the fun of it was over. They spent one
evening cleaning up all those tree limbs, plastic tarps, tent pegs and any other
items that had been used in the process. It teaches them the responsibility that
comes with anything we do.
Now as the children grow older the idea of building forts and making tent cities does not appeal anymore. :) Now is the time to teach other lessons about real life, lessons on work, responsibility, service and fun time. This free summer time needs to be more directed to be more productive. We would all like to have endless days of doing fun stuff, but I don’t think that is realistic. And driving them around to keep them busy is also not going to be the plan. So for my older children this is the basic plan, each day has responsibilities that contribute to making the household run smoothly, as well as a purpose and a goal such as a project or new skill learned, and some time each day in service to others and then when the main responsibilities and projects have been accomplished, then they have fun time. Fun time is the reward for spending their time wisely. So each day, each child has a part of the home and a job that they are responsible for, and they know that these jobs are what help our home to function and run more smoothly.
Then they spend time learning something new, such as sewing a new jumper or shorts, or reading classic books of different historical time periods (the favorite of my oldest daughters :), learning about the environment around them by identifying plants and bugs, taking a subject of interest and researching it with help from the library or internet, to learn more about it and of course sharing this with the rest of the family, cooking in the kitchen and trying new recipes, a new project to complete like assembling their own cookbook, or organizing their own photo albums or keeping a summer journal with lots of pictures and other cute things that appeal to them, etc… and of course service to others. This service may be as simple as doing something for a sibling or their tired mom :), or it may be helping watch someone’s little children when they come to visit in order to help give a mom a little break time while she is at our home, or it may be helping out at church, playing the piano or singing or working in the nursery, etc… And finally comes the fun things, a swim in the pond, an old classic movie to watch, time spent with a friend, an occasional event, etc..
I know for some who have
busy and active lives this may be looked at as rather slow and not fun, but, I
have always tried to have my children learn to enjoy simple pleasures in life
and not have a life that is demanding outside activity and busyness in order to
be fun. So all of us find it very enjoyable to watch an old Humphrey Bogart
movie or be scared to death by an old Hitchcock movie, eat popcorn and make some
brownies (healthy ones of course :). It also teaches them to value the family
and time spent together as well. If life is to busy then they may never be able
to stop and enjoy the simple things in life, the beauty of a few wild flowers,
or a little bird out in the yard or the changing of the seasons, a sunset or
sunrise and the all the other wonderful little things that the Lord may show us
in our life. :)
I hope you all enjoy your summer and that everyone is able to make the school year routines smoothly change into the summer time routines!
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