Tuesday, November 14, 2006

PARENTING: Playtime a necessity

The American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that free play--not structured lessons, educational activities, or sports--is actually good for your child!

Click here to read about it.

This is something I think most parents already knew, but it's amazing how we've let the "experts," whether actual child psychologists or those that play one on TV (to sell the latest in educational, developmental, superior-al toys), convince us that we are cheating our children if they are not learning the piano at five, taking foreign language lessons after school by eight, and of course, involved in some form of managed exercise, whether ballet, little league (four nights a week plus games) or "open gym" at the local fitness center.

I'm not knocking those programs. The era of the neighborhood pick-up games has gone away (though we still see them in our nice quiet cul-de-sac.) I wonder, however, if the supervised activities evolved to fill the gap or did they cause the gap in the first place?

When I was growing up, I wanted lessons, but we couldn't afford them. I learned to dance from friends or watching others, sang in church, and got other activities (drama, debate, etc.) in school. As a parent, I first bought into the "structured lessons maximize your child's potential!" ideal and as a homeschooler, planned on lessons to fill out the curriculum. Nonetheless, we quickly learned that too many lessons, especially when you have to drive 30 minutes one-way for a 45 minute lesson, are hard on the family and the schedule.

Our compromise is to offer each one the chance at one kind of lesson at the beginning of September, January, and May. They try it and if they like it, commit to the lessons for 4 months, after which they can opt out. So far, Steven has tried football, art, guitar and fencing; and Alex and Liam, horseback riding and Tae Kwon Do. Amber has her black-belt in Tae Kwon Do, plays piano (no lessons in several years), has taken art, horseback riding and ballet; and is currently exploring drama. We've all had Japanese lessons in our home.

With homeschooling--which means less time needed for academics--the kids have a lot of free time. Sometimes, they are bored stiff. Other times, the place is a mess from their latest projects or escapades. Sometimes, their creativity seems more focused on finding ways to annoy each other. Overall, however, the house is far more relaxed than when we were heavy into the lessons routines.

It's lunchtime in our homeschooling house. Liam (6), Alex (8) and Amber (11) are building yet another Littlest Pet Shop City in the basement with everything from dollhouses to old boxes they've cut and taped together. Steven (13) is bounding about in his room, lost in an magical adventure featuring his best friends as warriors, healers, and wizards. Later, he may type these into the story he's composing--or maybe not. It's not an assignment for school. In an hour or so, I'll make sure they're fed and heard them back into school, but for now, their time is theirs.

I think the AAP would approve.

NaNo Update:
Holes: 28
Tech: 54
Word/phrase: 76
Fixed holes: 8

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