How many of us are always complaining about how busy our lives are? Of how hectic our schedules are? How burnt out we are? Regardless of where your stress lands, for many people the stress is alive and well right now (I don’t want to get sick/ get others sick, I can’t afford to lose work, my sister’s wedding cruise is canceled, I need social interaction to stay sane, etc). Most of us have seen the “quarantine schedules” with suggestions to keep your children engaged while brick and mortar school is closed floating around the internet this past week. Followed not far behind by the memes involving a schedule that shows constant snacking, screen time and whining. It’s both comical and fascinating how something so simple illustrates how different people see things. But, I don’t think these opposites are as opposite as they seem.
While my kids are no longer homeschooled, unschooling taught me just how much learning naturally happens when you think you’re doing nothing at all. We never followed a curriculum. We never had forced academics or schedules. We played, we did chores, we hung out with friends, we explored nature, we watched TV; we lived. And my kids were able to transition into school without being behind. There is so much learning that happens when you’re just living life. Important learning too.
Unpopular opinion here (mine always is hah): screen time is not the enemy. Have you ever just let your child have a free range of screens? Left the guilt and expectations and time limits at the door and just let your kids dive into electronics? You should try it. I remember the first time I read someone suggest this and thinking they were insane. But I warmed up to the idea, and while it doesn’t always work with real-life and busy daily schedules, it’s really quite glorious when you can give them that freedom. More times then I can count I’ve let my kids have a free for all with electronics. And while there have absolutely been days where it’s all they have done, more often than not, they get bored of the electronics and wind up ditching the tablet and playing something different or going outside independently. And on the days where they do nothing but hang out with Roblox and Mario, that’s okay too. It may not be reading a book, but they are still reading. And, of equal importance, they are practicing reading in a way that they genuinely enjoy and don’t feel burdened by. They are using problem-solving skills and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
When you’re not on the screens learning is taking place too. When the kids are digging in the dirt, or building fairy houses with the rocks and leaves and twigs that were intended to decorate the lawn, they are learning. Obviously, they are feeding their imagination (which is important!) but they are learning about gardening, about seeds, pollination, birds, insects. Sure there are books on these topics, and things that can be taught in a classroom, but all those books were written from people studying nature. So skip the middle man and let them “do nothing” outside. Additionally much learning, and meditation is done through art. So give them a bunch of art supplies and no instruction and let them go to town. Have them help in the kitchen. Have them help with big chores. They don’t have to do worksheets or timed reading to learn (though some kids love worksheets and that’s totally cool too!). My oldest loves sudoku. All of my kids love puzzles.
Kids, just like all humans, are impressively resilient. Talk to them about whats going on in the world, and in your head and heart. If you’re scared, let them know why you are, kids know when we’re not being truthful. Trust is fundamental in all relationships. Answer their questions, be their safe space. And while you’re at it, take comfort that you’re teaching your children real lessons about public health, geography, economics, and human relationships. Things will return to feeling normal (whatever that means for each of us) in time. And the kids will be okay. Take comfort in the massive amount of learning that’s taking place, even when you can’t see any of it. I’m willing to bet that you will learn a lot if you start trusting, too.