Monday, December 1, 2008

What will they think of next

My children have, over the last three or four days, turned my backyard into a miniature golf course. Yes, all on their own, they have designed and built a golf course consisting of eight holes. The course is quite complex: one hole has a slide, one has a tunnel, several have pits to avoid, and because of the state my backyard is in, all of them have very large sand hazards. I must say I am blown away by their ingenuity.
So to whom do I give credit for the amazing creativity and engineering prowess of my oh-so-talented children? Well, actually it is not so much who as what. I am convinced there are two factors that have helped to develop their natural curiosity and creativity. It is not really my doing, or Tim's for that matter, however I do think it is because of a few decisions we've made for our family.
The first thing that has helped is that we do not watch television. We used to love our TV and spend hours in front of it, happily amused and entertained. In fact, even when we were not sitting in front of it, the TV was on just for background noise (as if we ever needed more noise!). However, when our second child was a toddler he took television viewing to a new level. He did not just enjoy it, he lived for it. He would sit for hours with his eyes glassed over, not moving a muscle, just mesmerized by the images in front of him. It was a little scary to see our very active, very busy little boy just languishing like that. It was clearly an unhealthy thing for him. Oh we tried just limiting the television viewing. Would a half hour a day really hurt? I enjoyed having an "electronic babysitter" that allowed me a bit of a break now and then. And our oldest, who was a preschooler at the time, had a few shows that she enjoyed watching. The problem was it just always seemed that I would get busy with something and would get distracted. The half hour would stretch to an hour, or an hour and ten minutes, which then meant the kids were in the middle of a show and couldn't they please just finish this last show? And so it went, until we realized it would have to be all or nothing. We choose nothing. I learned a lot from that decision, not the least of which is that kids have an amazing ability to amuse themselves so that mommy can get a few things done or sit down for a minute or two to take a breather.
The second decision Tim and I made that has encouraged our children's creative juices to flow so freely is to home school. When we made the decision to educate our children at home there were many pros, and a few cons we considered. One of the "cons", in my mind, was that the kids would have an awful lot of free time to fill. There would be no homework, and school would likely be done in less than the normal institutional school day of 6-7 hours. I wondered what I would do with them to fill all those empty hours. As it turned out, I have not done much. Maybe it is because of my earlier discovery that children do not need the TV, or me to entertain them or maybe it is that there are so many house chores that keep me busy in the afternoons but I have allowed them to fill their own free time. I have basically given them the freedom to play however they'd like, within the rules, after we've finished with our schoolwork. I think all that time to just be a kid has given them the opportunity to be very original, very inspired, and very imaginative in the ways they fill their hours.
I never know what they may come up with next but I am fairly certain it will surprise me, and I am very certain it will be an idea I could never have come up with on my own...

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