Missing Opportunities and Free Time

It’s easy as a homeschooling parent (well, any kind of parent, really), to get the kids involved in way too much. Soccer, gymnastics, girl and boy scouts, 4-H, volunteering, field trips, community involvement, plays and musicals, book clubs, music lessons…the list goes on and on.

There is so much to do, what if we miss out on an opportunity?

It’s hard to image our own parents, or their parents, and how they grew up. How did they know what to do with their lives without exposure to fifteen different kinds of classes and clubs? How did they get along without all those outlets for creativity and ability?

I’m reading a book right now called Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher (author of Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls). In it she says,

“I inhabited the kind of roomy childhood that almost no children today do. In the early 1950’s, in Beaver City, Nebraska, children were blessed with an abundance of time and space. I had some responsibilities, but mostly I was free—free to read all day in our clubhouse, which was the attic above an old car shed; free to ride my bike ou to Beaver Creek; free to climb trees, or just lie in the grass and watch coulds; free to peruse comics and charge vanilla phosphates at the drugstore.”

“I did not have dance or drama lessons, and I was not on the soccer team. But I was stimulated by my Beaver City universe, with its cast of characters as diverse and tragic as any play by Shakespeare. Since the parents didn’t chaufer me anywhere, I met the world unmediated by them. I formed my own relationships and my own opinions. I learned to depend on myself for entertainment and stimulation in a way that television-raised children cannot understand. And I learned conversational skills from a generations who knew how to talk.”

Mary Pipher grew up to be a successful and prolific writer. She is smart, controversial and confident.

What are our kids missing by being involved in so many things? If they don’t do all these classes and programs and whatnot, they might be missing out on that opportunity, but what are they missing out on by going?

No matter what we do, we’re giving up something. Our culture is one of the most time-crunched cultures in the world. We wish we had more time, we wish we could get more done, we wish we could be free of all the have-tos. Perhaps, we don’t have enough time because we’re doing too much?

And, is it surprising that we are the way we are when our culture’s children are growing up taking advantage of all there is to do? What if our kids grew up with as much free time as Mary Pipher did? Did her parents worry that she did “nothing educational” all day? Did they worry that she was wasting her time?

We worry too much about what our kids aren’t doing. We give them too much to do. They need space, and lots of it. Space to do – nothing. Well, what seems like nothing to us. But to them, it’s everything.

Free time is when they can discover themselves and discover the world in their own way.

How much free time do your kids get? How about mom?

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6 Responses to “Missing Opportunities and Free Time”

  1. Kris Bordessa Says:

    Very true. Our busyness seems to kind of wax and wane. We just came off a very frantic busy time culminating in me pulling the plug on non-crucial events. Opportunities, yes – and I hate to pass them up. But it’s also important to me that we can just have down time to do as we’ve been doing in the past week: play scrabble, play uno, play frisbee, play boggle, play music, and read. There is much value in being able to decide how to fill the time when one is “bored”.

  2. Anna Says:

    It is so hard to just be. There are so many things that we want to do! I fear that I will end up creating the very busy work that we are trying to avoid in traditional school. It may not be worksheets or flash cards, but busy work nonetheless. More fulfilling, sure. However, it still keeps the kids from having a chance to just explore.

  3. southerngirlmusings Says:

    Mine are still young (3 & 4) and as of now they do storytime (1x a week), swimming class (1x a week) and choir (1x a week). Dd would like to do dance, but I think we are going to wait and see as I do see friends running helter and skelter and we are trying to figure out what will work for our family. My dh didn’t grow up with a lot of schedules as he grew up in the country so there was always something to do and I grew up with dance, summer camp, then cheerleading, modeling, and school sports. When I often think back some of the best times was my free time that I spent pretending to be Harriet the Spy and keeping a notebook on the neighbors. 🙂

  4. Joanne Says:

    Important post–free time to just be is really important. This isn’t directly related, but it’s another important idea regarding what’s going on with kids these days: the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.

  5. tobeme Says:

    Tammy,
    I agree, children need down time, to think, to play, to grow!
    Must is lost in being busy all of the time. Many children are missing out on the best parts of being a child.


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