Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kids Need Quiet Time Too

Lately I've been reading a lot of cultural criticism type books that are focused on children and adolescents, and one theme that consistently comes up is the fact that between school, playdates, after-school activities, organized sports, TV, video games, and so on, kids these days don't have very much unstructured free time. And all the authors agree that a constant diet of structured activity and entertainment has a detrimental effect on kids. I've read a lot over the years about how this sort of over-scheduling has a negative effect on the development of imagination, and on a child's ability to entertain themselves, or even on their physical health. However, nearly all these more recent books are bringing up what seems to me the scariest negative effect of over-scheduling: the inability of these children to develop an authentic self.

Children who have no time to think or imagine or to contemplate their experiences have no idea who they are at the core. They don't know what they think, because they have no time to listen to their thoughts. They don't have time to recreate their experiences and find meaning in them through play and contemplation. Some authors even go so far as to say that as these self-less children grow up, they are unable to meet even the smallest of challenges, because they have no inner core to rely upon. And so, these authors (many of whom are adolescent therapists) state that these children turn to alcohol or drugs or other self-destructive behaviors in their attempts to deal with challenges and disappointments.

Homeschooling directly challenges this cultural trend. Not that I've done a formal study on this, but from the homeschoolers I know, and from the things that I have read about homeschooling (which are many), it appears that giving our children TIME is one of the main motivating factors behind our decisions to homeschool. Time for our children to play, to think, to create, to imagine, and to develop according to their own internal clocks. Time to create their inner selves.

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