There are a great many teachers out there who are fed up with the notion that their job is not so much to offer an education to children, but to offer to entertain them. They will be bored, rude and badly behaved, goes the mantra, unless the teacher performs some kind of circus act before the white board. To this end a number of bright and loud edutainments are sold to schools to keep the children interested, even as their attention spans diminish.
I think this strange cultural virus has infected some home education families as well. Partly because home educators get accused of all sorts of strange behaviour, including keeping our children locked indoors, tied to the kitchen table, some home educators feel the need to be out of the house at all hours, providing lots of stimulating edutainment, just to prove the opposite. There are even families on a very tight budget who feel, somehow pressured, to go charging off to every home ed event and outing they can possibly squeeze into a week.
It’s an easy temptation to fall into. Those of us who are tied by both financial considerations and, like me, being too ill, are actually let off the hook a bit. Even so, I did go through a silly guilt trip that I wasn’t dashing off to all the outings and that my children were actually at home doing a lot of their learning. As it happens they do have activities outside the home and home ed activities with other families, some here, some elsewhere. The way their activities work means they have both schooled and home educated friends. I quite like that.
It is the psychologist Dr. Ray Guarendi who coined the phrase “do, do, go, go, get, get” to describe the way some parents insist their children are at every and any event, after school club and organised meeting and have every gadget, latest this and that; whatever pours out of the dodgy factories of China.
One of the reasons I don’t like this approach, (and I don’t think I’ve ever heard Dr. Ray pick up on this particular bug bear of mine) is that I think it’s bad for children to be perpetually organised. The idea that if their time isn’t coordinated by an adult they will get up to no good is at the root of this I think. The importance of free time and quiet time and simply play time has been subsumed into all day timetables for children as young as 3. It’s inhuman (imho). Some of it seems to be more about adults being afraid of free time with their own children, than about ensuring a child receives all the opportunities that are for their benefit.
The problem with the do-do-go-go-get-get approach is that it is self perpetuating. The children, including home educated children, can become institutionalised in that they can’t be bored. They can’t do nothing for while, and they can’t make their own activities. Someone must give them something to do. The game must be pre-organised.
They become used to never having to just be.
None of our greatest thinkers learned like that. C.S.Lewis talks of having hours with books in a library. Charlotte Mason walked the moors and woodlands around Ambleside and so on. Even in fiction, such as Sherlock Holmes, there are times of complete inaction where the only thing happening is thought.
While I am sure the children are looking forward to the return to cubs and beavers and ballet, and the coninuation of swimming; And while they have seen friends and will have the weekly small home ed group and monthly big one, I think the holidays have been good for them (and me). They have played, made things, sat around reading, sat around not doing anything at all.
Having organised time, clubs and outings aren’t bad in themselves of course. Children do very well in them, but they shouldn’t take up every hour of a child’s waking life. We know very well that this approach isn’t doing schooled children any favours at all. We know they go to school, go to the afterschool activity, go home and bolt down their tea before homework and screen and bed. That’s a bad way to live. There’s no time for family life or even friends, just doing and doing and then sleeping.
So as we gallop towards term I must remember, they need time to be, and I don’t need to timetable them to within an inch of their lives.