If you follow me, you know my feelings about continuing education for homeschool parents. In a nutshell, I do it, and I think others should consider it, too. It’s great to learn new things, but even more important for parents to expand and have independent lives outside of “just” homeschooling the kids. That’s my philosophy and I’m sticking to it.
Continuing education can be about anything. Naturally, parents may choose to learn about homeschooling, teaching pedagogy, learning stages, working with exceptional children, matching materials to learning styles, pathways to college and academic things like that. But continuing education can also be about other things, too, like saving money, organizing a home, gardening or anything else. And it also includes things like making laundry soap and lowering hemlines, baking the best whole wheat bread and raising a calf, learning to cut hair and using natural products to clean bathrooms, plus everything else that parent didn’t already know before.
I virtually always have something I’m reading, watching or listening to as I am doing something else. I stash books in the car, always have DVDs waiting on the coffee table, and subscribe to an endless stream of conferences, seminars and webinars that I play in the background as I work in my office. I enjoy it and recommend it to anyone not easily distracted when multi-tasking.
So when I heard Hale Dwoskin the other day talking about a strategy to let go of unwanted emotions that may be blocking health, happiness and prosperity, I listened as I often do, only partly tuned in as I was doing something else. Though it sounded like a very important technique, I admit I hardly heard a word.
But the disc remained in the CD player and began auto-playing a few days later. I had less on my mind and listened a bit closer this time. And what I heard on the recording reminded me of something worth sharing with you.
Paraphrasing what Dwoskin said, it went something like this:
Children are born with a natural way of dealing with things. They choose their reactions to events by gauging the reactions of others — usually, their parents. When a young child falls down, for example, before expressing emotion about it, he may look around to see if anyone is watching. If someone is, he may cry out for help. But if nobody saw it, he’ll probably shake it off and get right back to playing. The point is that children are naturally able to let things go. I think Dwoskin called it natural exuberance. And all kids have the capacity to detach from unwanted feelings rather than gripping onto them forever (causing distress later in life, an excellent segue into the pitch that came later). But then, he said, when young children get older, and for the next 15 or 18 years of their lives, by continually being asked to sit down and be quiet, their natural exuberance is lost. And lost along with it is the ability to let upsetting feelings go.
This idea is so important to you and me. To all parents. It reminds us of the lasting effects of extinguishing natural behaviors in children.
Think about this. There isn’t a parent among us who doesn’t understand a baby’s or young child’s need to explore and play. But something happens as children grow, and many parents seem to forget what they knew before. They begin imposing rules, restrictions, guidelines and boundaries. Children are asked to sit still. And often they’re asked not to talk so much. And what was alright for tiny children is no longer alright for bigger kids.
In our culture, generally, about the time when school starts up, is when adults begin telling children to shut down.
So much research exists about the need for play. Experts have cautioned against taking away from children this very important developmental need. Preserving childhood exuberance — that resilience and ability to bounce back – really is linked to that freedom. Freedom to play, freedom to explore, freedom to develop ones own natural curiosity about the world. The practice of sitting children down removes the freedom to play. The act of silencing children takes away a method of expression. And this has been linked to extinguishing their natural resilience. Caused in large part by the very people who love them most.
Dr. Walter Drew, Founder of the Institute for Self Active Education has said, “children’s spontaneous, creative self-expression increases their sense of competence and well-being now and into adulthood,” (source) and, “play builds self-esteem and a sense of personal power” (source). The importance of play is recognized world-wide, even included in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which includes a section about preserving a child’s right to do it (source).
As we schedule our children and go about our daily maneuvers, as we guide our kids and determine the exact level of freedom we will allow them to have, let us always remember to include time for their all-important need for play. For all ages, too — not just the very young. High schoolers and college students haven’t forgotten how to play. Middle schoolers haven’t either. Thus time for play must be prioritized for children of all ages, allowing that natural development to occur. By doing so, that natural exuberance — that wonderful childhool resilience – may continue to strengthen throughout the years. So that our grown children have retained that important ability to deal with the emotions and stressors of their adult lives.
The Serious Need for Play (Scientific American)
The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Play, Play, and Play Some More: Let Children Be the Animals They Have the Right to Be and Play (Psychology Today)
The Wild Ones (Howard Chudakoff of Greater Good Magazine)
The Lost Art of Play (from Education dot com)
[This photo of Ladybird Johnson is available from Flickr Commons]