Play is an important—no, play is an essential—part of childhood.
Give your children time to play. Uninterrupted, unscripted, unhurried play. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t believe that school is the work of a child .. I believe that PLAY is the work (and much of the education) of a child. Especially under age 8 or so.
I remember the long afternoon hours of play on our street where I grew up. Mud pies were the feast of the day, impromptu races of various sorts kept us active and healthy, relaxed ball games that included everyone (even the youngest or least coordinated of the children), building forts, driving our “motorcycles” (ie: tricycles), and even acting out our own made-up scenes from Gilligan’s Island with all the neighborhood children playing their favorite characters. I know I could rightly argue that watching Gilligan’s Island in the first place was a rather non-educational event, but the natural play that occurred as we acted out our roles was important.
I always wanted to play the Professor. He was one of my childhood heroes. Any man who could make a radio out of coconuts and spend his day surrounded by test tubes and beakers, never losing his logical take on life, was someone after my own heart (I was a rather odd kid!).
Odd, maybe. But I was me—totally individual in my thinking and make up. Fortunately, no one came and interrupted our well-developed game and said that I couldn’t play the Professor because I was a girl. I was allowed to give free reign to my imagination and fully explore, through the simple joys of play, what I thought it would mean to be a scientist as an adult. And by the way, as an adult I did end up working in a medical laboratory—surrounded by test tubes and beakers! Maybe playing Gilligan’s Island seems a bit silly, but we played with all our hearts and it was a game totally of our own devising, no adults telling us what to do or how to do it.
Now-a-days, the myriads of organized sports and outside activities and co-ops and classes and lessons that children participate in from preschool on up seems to be almost the antithesis of that healthy, hearty, spontaneous and child directed play that goes into shaping the character, dreams and thoughts of an individual, growing person.
Just my humble opinion — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.
(Excerpted and adapted with permission from A Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s Timeless Educational Ideas.)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Taylor-Hough is a long-time homeschooling mother of three (now adult) children as well as a freelance writer and the author of the bestselling Frozen Assets cookbook series and A Simple Choice: A Practical Guide to Saving Your Time, Money and Sanity. Visit Debi on Facebook.