The other weekend my kids spent about 12 hours playing with Lego.
They stopped to eat and that was about it. It was a mega Lego binge.
Some comments I had recently read about unschooling came to mind as I watched them. Comments about balance.
There was certainly no balance happening in our house that weekend. Actually, I think most days around here are pretty unbalanced.
But we are supposed to be striving for balance! Or so I am told…
‘Balance is what children need’. And I’m sure they don’t mean the scaling large rocks and climbing tall trees and doing an upside down arabesque on the top bunk type balance. We’ve got that covered.
No, the balance they mean is an everything in moderation, every day, kind of balance.
A little bit of reading.
A little bit of maths.
A little bit of screen time.
A little time with friends.
A little bit of science.
A little bit of outside time.
A little bit of free play.
A little bit of art.
And all I can think is how very dull and limiting that would be.
Kids don’t need balance. They need the freedom to follow their curiosity and motivation.
Balance is, I think, a schooled idea. School days are divided into subjects. A little bit of everything, every day. This is incredibly limiting, and not at all like real life.
As unschoolers, we don’t have to be restricted by schooled ideas about ‘balance’.
“We live without subjects, in a world where life is not separated into neat little pieces but instead swirls and flows together in ways we could never design.” – Rue Kream
Balance can be limiting
Imagine being super interested in something only to have someone dictate to you when you can and can not work on it. Frustrating much? If you have a restricted amount of time to practice/play/work then how deeply can you really delve into something? What if you’re just getting close to figuring something out and your time is up and you have to stop and do something else?
Would you want to invest in something if you knew you had to deal with the frustration of stopping at the whim of someone else?
Would it foster intrinsic motivation if you were not free to explore your interests whenever inspiration struck? What a way to kill passion. I know the fastest way for me to lose interest in something is to turn it into a job I have to do at set times.
Enforced ‘balance’ can limit learning, passion, motivation, curiosity, and enjoyment.
Balance is unrealistic
It’s just not how people typically learn! Unless forced to. If you watch a child who is free to learn naturally you will notice that they become interested in something and then they immerse themselves in that fully, until they are satisfied. They can go for weeks or months totally absorbed in learning as much as they can about one thing. The next minute, they’re onto something else! Often they come back to previous learning and build on it months later when curiosity strikes again.
This is what learning looks like when it is not controlled by schooling. It often does not look like linear progress at all. It does not look like balance.
Balance is not a realistic goal. It is working against our brains and the natural way we learn.
What do children need? Time to delve deeply into the things they care about. The things that light them up!
They need large amounts of unhindered time to pursue things they want to, for as long as they want to. Forcing them to stop when they’re in the middle of something in the name of ‘balance’ is not helpful. It’s unrealistic and limiting.
After the Lego binge weekend, the next weekend looked much the same, but this time it was electronics.
They were building circuits all weekend and Miss 6 even constructed a car with Spielgaben pieces and recycled materials.
Our day to day life is unbalanced. And that is ok.
Some weeks we stay home all week because we don’t feel like going out, or because the children are immersed in their own projects and play.
Some weeks we are out most days playing for hours upon hours with friends.
Some days all the children want to do is read books.
Some days they are absorbed with building something new in Minecraft.
Some weeks they paint every day.
Some weeks are all about imaginary play.
We don’t seek balance. We seek freedom, autonomy, authenticity, curiosity, passion, joy, and more.
If you looked at life over a year, things would naturally seem more ‘balanced’ anyway. But trying to force day to day balance? That’s just not necessary.
So, here’s to being unbalanced. In the best way!
The loose parts and blocks the girls are using to make the chameleon and habitat in the images within this post, as well as the frame for Miss 6’s car, are from our Spielgaben set. Spielgaben are currently offering a 10% off + 3-month layby payment program to Happiness is here blog readers. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and mention Happiness is here.