When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.
Monday, June 1, 2015
Free Time: When Kids Take the Wheel
I spend a lot of hours driving my two boys places these days. When they were younger and participating in one or two little extra-curricular activities that only involved a short time commitment each week, I prided myself on the healthy balance of our life, and I vowed I would never allow our family to get caught up in the chaotic schedules I saw so many other families around us living out. It was very important to me in those days that Noah and Will had a chance to just be kids, ones who had free time to daydream and play and be silly and create things of their own invention. I wanted them to know how to relax, and how to find their own fun when no one was carefully structuring it for them.
As the boys grew older, however, they found organized activities that truly excited them, and they were happy to devote much more of their time and energy to these interesting and worthwhile pursuits. One by one, the timeslots on our family's weekly calendar started filling up, and my role now is often that of taxi driver as I ferry kids from one school to another, from the pool to the dance studio to the robotics lab, from city to city to participate in various meets, competitions, and programs.
It's hard to feel resentful of this life, even though it seems so much more hectic than the one I originally (probably naively) envisioned when Noah and Will were small. I'm so happy to see the boys discovering new things about themselves and striving to reach personal goals in their chosen endeavors. I share their excitement over their hard-earned accomplishments and am proud of the wonderful, well-rounded people they've become. I've also realized over time that their particular wiring requires a certain level of regular busyness to keep their brains happy. For my ever-energetic Will, especially, long stretches of time where he doesn't have specific activities planned lead to him feeling anxious and unsettled -- his mind and body often crave challenges and novelty, and sometimes he needs help finding that.
My idea of "healthy balance", then, has shifted necessarily over the years. However, one thing has not changed as our day-to-day life has grown busier: I still place great value on the gift of free time. While we may not have as much of it as we once did, I make a conscious effort, always, to safeguard precious blocks of it for every member of our family. We decided this year to keep one weeknight free of activities for everyone, to allow for family down time we can use as we wish. On the weekends that we happen to have nothing booked, we relish the opportunity to explore whatever interests us in the moment, either individually or together. The boys' primary activities will wind down for the summer by the end of June, and we haven't rushed to fill our July and August weeks with new ones to take their place. We're happy to see where we end up by leaving room for spontaneity.
What I love most about the boys having ample free time is watching them drive themselves places, fascinating places that only their individual minds know how to get to. When given the space to roam, their rich imaginations create new games, solve problems, conduct experiments, build useful inventions, figure out how things work, tell captivating made-up stories and hilarious jokes. Everything becomes a potential learning experience that requires no lesson plans or preconceived outcomes.
I will always be grateful for the vibrant community we live in; the diverse collection of organized activities offered here is allowing my boys to learn and grow in incredibly positive ways. I know these experiences hold a lot of meaning for Noah and Will. I also know, judging by the looks of wonder and joy on their faces when they're lost in their own worlds, that the boys very much appreciate the equally rich experiences they discover in their free time. I hope that when the day comes for my guys to schedule their own lives, they'll carefully guard some down time for themselves, so that their lively imaginations will always find the space to run wild and free.
This post is part of Hoagies' Gifted Education Page's Blog Hop for June. The blog hop shares various writers' perspectives on a different topic related to giftedness each month. If you are looking for information to help you support a gifted learner in your life, Hoagies' Facebook Page regularly provides helpful resources, interesting news, and discussions on all aspects of giftedness.