Half term brings a gaggle of buzzing children and families onto the streets, in the parks, the pool, the library and the shops. I love to see it. Love to see families swinging along together enjoying themselves. Those who are anyway.
There also seems to be a rash of parents who don’t seem to be enjoying it.
Although children and shopping don’t generally go together well, I still don’t like to hear the remark; ‘can’t wait for them to go back to school’. It’s like people don’t like to have their kids with them. These people make me wonder; why have children in the first place!
I suppose if your children are in school all day you might get out of the swing of doing things together. Not that this happened to us when ours were at school.
Then, when we were home educating, we had to get into the swing of doing the opposite. ; we had to practise not doing things together sometimes.
I was so into providing stimulating activities, of constant communication with the children, debating and hypothesising, coming up with ideas, I had to focus on doing the opposite and ignoring them at times.
Now, I would never normally advocate that parents ignore their children. I’m usually encouraging the opposite, especially when I see so many children who’ve been in school all the time trying to get the attention of a disinterested parent on their mobile phone chatting to someone else rather than the child at their side.
However, when you home school and are mostly together a lot you have to find ways of being separate, to have separate activities, to give the children time to direct and manage their own time rather than us always doing it for them. They need opportunities for their own pursuits, to make their own mistakes, to resolve their own problems, to interact, fall out and solve their own disputes, to work play and occupy themselves independently.
This is vital for developing independent maturity. And independence builds confidence.
Obviously we need to do this safely. And always in balance with other activities. But one mistake I made early on in our home educating life was to think I should always be in charge of providing stimulation, engaging and encouraging them to be busy, all the time.
Not only is this unrealistic – children need ‘down time’ as much as stimulation – but it also inhibits the development of other vital skills they will need to lead their own lives.
I see this in school children. Released from the control school has over their lives some are lost to know what to do without it. Many children also have their lives filled for them with out-of-school activities, play dates, workshops and courses organised by pushy and obsessive parents without consulting the children. So these children rarely have the chance to build the skills needed to organise themselves. To have a taste of leading their own life rather than being lead along a life someone else has mapped out for them.
As with everything, there needs to be balance and contrast in what we provide for our kids. Children need directed time and undirected time, they need engaged time and solo time, they need attentive parents and parents who’ll leave them be at times.
And this is true in all aspects of our parenting whether home educating or not.