Monday, November 22, 2010

All Play and No Work...

If you see my Facebook updates, you probably think we are *that* homeschooling family. You know, the stereotypical one where the kids do nothing but play all day. Today, we spent over five hours at three different parks! Most days when I am not working involve the park, the zoo, the aquarium, or two out of the three. Backyard picnics are common, and we are familiar with well over a dozen different parks in our area. That is a very deliberate decision on my part.

As we began looking into homeschooling, I was most familiar with the traditional school-at-home model. Lots of seat work, plenty of worksheets, etc. When I first began to hear of unschooling, I was extremely skeptical. Like most of us, I had been inoculated early with the drudgery-is-discipline mindset that we must all get used to doing things we don't enjoy, so let's start young.

My life hasn't really borne that out, though. I like my job. I enjoy what I do at work and at home with my family. OK, I loathe housework, but even then, I can see some satisfaction from the results (or at least I would if things would actually stay clean for more than a split second...alright, so housework is not the best example. Still, it is something that I choose to do--on those rare occasions when I do it.) Anyway, my point is that I don't do tedious things that make me miserable just for the sake of doing them.

Reading some of the Charlotte Mason beliefs regarding the importance of outdoor play for children really resonated with me. My own memories of hour after hour spent exploring, climbing trees (there were many days where I spent as much time up in a tree as I did on the ground), playing with my sister and friends, learning new skills and testing my abilities reinforced the value of this time.

So, the last several months, whenever possible, we have spent as much time out of doors as possible.  What have we gained?  Plenty of exercise and vitamin D and other health benefits.  Lots of new skills, including monkey bar prowess, backwards somersaults, increased balance and agility and a greater understanding of gravity, momentum and other forces.  Stretched and vibrant imaginations.  Increased cooperativeness and improved social and interpersonal skills.  Confidence.  Better sleep at night and greater peace after afternoons spent getting the wiggles out.  Hundreds of joy-filled memories.  And somehow, with all this, academics haven't suffered.  There are many, many reasons why we homeschool.  The freedom to do all of this is a substantial part of it.