Yesterday we caught up with a few other homeschooling families and enjoyed a blissful day outside in nature. While we chatted and enjoyed each other’s company the children played. They explored the creek bed, had adventures amongst the rocks, ran up and down the grassy hills, took nets and buckets down to the little bit of water in the creek to see what they could catch, made some art, went on scavenger hunts, played hide-and-seek, drew maps of their surroundings and followed them to the ‘treasure’. All of this child-initiated, with no help from us. For 4.5 hours they played like this without interruption. We observed the natural rhythm of their play… running and jumping and climbing, then sitting down to do some drawing for a while before heading out again to do something more active. They were so engaged and there was so much learning happening, without any help from us. There was no need for us to interfere. They didn’t need any suggestions. They entertained themselves for 4.5 hours like this and were still sad when we had to go home, there was more to do! All I could think was that this is the childhood I had in mind for them. This is enough.
So often society tells us this is not enough. It starts not long after you have your baby. You have to have all the latest toys to enhance your child’s development. A search for ‘baby and toddler classes’ in my area tells me there is baby sensory classes, music classes, gymboree, baby sign language, art classes, sport classes, school skills classes, swimming, dancing, and probably more. I remember being told by a well meaning friend when my daughter was 2 that I should put her in daycare so she can socialize. This all sounds like craziness to me! Children have survived for so long without all this. Survived is not the right word….thrived. When do children have time to play? To discover what interests them? To come up with their own ideas? To use their imaginations? To relax?
Children don’t need constant entertainment and stimulation. They need freedom and space to come up with their own ideas. I often hear people say that they can’t provide enough stimulation for their children at home, they need classes/school/childcare, etc. Academics is starting earlier and earlier and parents feel like their children will be left behind. I want to say… They won’t. You are enough. You don’t need anything. Watch your children in their free time and it will be obvious, they are learning all the time. Please don’t doubt yourself. You are doing a great job.
Now that I have a child that is school age I’ve also heard the comment that children need more structure. They need to learn that they have work to do whether they want to or not. Life is not all fun and games! After all, that’s what it’s going to be like in the workforce. Really? I should be preparing my 5 year old for the workforce now? I don’t think so, there is plenty of time for that. I am not focused on raising a person who is a ‘good worker’. I am nurturing a child and valuing that she is someone today; respecting how she is living her life right now. She will be an adult for a long time, she will only be a child for a very short time in her life.
“I will spend eternity knowing my children as adults. But tonight, right here, right now, and for the next precious years, I have the rare privilege of knowing them as a child. What a gift to experience the children in our lives as children! For a brief moment during the journey of mortality, we get to watch them laugh, learn, experience, grow.” ~Author Unknown
To my girls,
I will let you be children. For as long as I can, I will let you be children. I will protect your childhood fiercely. I won’t pressure you to do things you are not ready for. I will let you play, for hours I will let you play. I will let you discover yourselves. I will let you really know yourselves before you are pushed out into the big wide world on your own. I will let you imagine, and dream, and laugh, whenever you want to. I won’t ever wish this magical time away. All too soon you will be all grown up. You will worry about grown up things. But not now. For now you are a child, your job is to play, and that is important to me.
I will protect your childhood.