Just Playing

There have been times during my journey as a homeschooling parent that I have felt  guilt settling in around my lack of providing fabulous learning activities and programs for my children.  When I realize that a week (or two) have gone by since  we cracked open the workbooks, or that our subjects of study are vague and seem to always end up with an elaborate imaginary story in which I silently drift off to the chores or the garden, unnoticed, I begin to question my own abilities and competence in directing my childrens education.  Finding the balance between structure and free time is a personal journey for every homeschooling family, and from what I have heard, it is not an easy balance to find.     In those times when the guilt shifts further in to my awareness, I am so grateful to have such support from our homeschooling facilitator, who sends out emails like the one below.

When it looks like children are “just playing” … here’s what they’re actually doing:

developing mobility of thought
practicing cooperation
following a mental plan
problem solving
developing a positive self-concept
developing number concepts
developing more elaborate language
developing a sense of story and enhancing story comprehension
developing eye-hand coordination
organizing and conceptualizing their world
learning how to take turns
developing gross motor skills
learning to “decentre” their point of view
testing their balance system
developing classification skills
making generalizations about the properties of various objects

Play must be valued as an important medium for learning. Indeed, play is a child’s learning work. Play experiences enable children to develop their own skills and accumulate their own knowledge.

Imagination and creativity are instinctual gifts that get overlooked in our society in favour of factual information and conformity.  The ability to have a limitless imagination is to also have the ability to dream into being the endless possibilities of the world, of our world.  Problem solving is creativity in action- for if what we already have and know does not work, then looking for something that is new and which we know nothing about requires the opening of the imagination.  Children live so closely in their imagination and for such a short time that it seems sacrilege to end this part of childhood even earlier than it will naturally, and with the possibility that as adults they could lose touch with the full potential of their creativity.  There is really so much going on in the natural process of just playing- when the children have healthy influences, available guidance and support, and an environment full of nature and earth connection- that we can hardly know what we tread on or what we allow to flourish.  Trusting in this process takes faith and the courage to let go of limited expectations.  When was the last time that you just played?

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. GreenHearted
    May 08, 2011 @ 04:32:11

    I wish I could give credit for the list of what kids are learning when they play, but it was an old photocopy of a cartoon I found in an old school on a different island. Alas.

    Thought it would be fun to also share this with your readers:

    Four guys on the monkey bars on a sunny Tuesday afternoon….
    What are they learning?
    Social skills
    -negotiation
    -compromise
    -cooperation
    -getting along with others
    -following rules
    Physical skills
    -confidence
    -agility
    -strength
    -balance (your daughter pointed that one out to me, as the boys were all perched up on top of the bars)
    Creativity
    -storytelling
    -game making

    Cool, eh? Meanwhile, the three girls were having fun exploring the creek behind the rink, roleplaying Little House, and playing on the swings (noting the physics of being in the same rhythm and then out again).

    I’ve always felt quite comfortable with the notion that play is a child’s learning work. As you point out, Wendi, they’ve got the rest of their lives to be adults … why make them grow up faster than they naturally want to?

    Julie

    p.s. The last time I played was on the swings with the girls last Tuesday! So many memories came flooding back!

    Reply

  2. cybermagnetik
    May 22, 2011 @ 19:30:42

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    Reply

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