Guilt and How to Come to Terms With it, Part 2: I’m Bored
Many years ago, my oldest daughter Grace, then six years old, was left in the care of my parents for a week. My parents were staying at my sister's house to temporarily care for her 6 month-old daughter while daycare was sorted out. My mom was very busy with the baby, and Grace one day said to her with a sigh, "I'm bored!" To which Mom replied, "Aren't you lucky!" Mom reports that Grace then wandered out to the back yard, sat on the little hill, stared at the sky, and sang songs.
When our homeschooled children do not spend the whole day at school, there may be times between lessons, friends, and activities when they're rattling around the house wondering what to do with themselves. It can be very tempting to feel guilty and decide that they're not getting enough stimulation, or would be better off at school. But there's value in allowing children to figure out for themselves how they should spend their extra time; even if it only amounts to daydreaming.
Although home educators have the luxury of enabling their children to pursue hobbies and special interests, learning to deal with extra time-on-hand must also be part of their education; a preparation for life apart from us. If we feel that we must always keep our homeschoolers busy, we may not be preparing them for the times when they're old enough to inspire themselves. We may also quickly grow tired of providing activity. In a family, we're unique individuals with our own distinct interests. As a homeschooling Mom, there are plenty of things that I will very happily do with my kids; which, left to myself, I would never do. But I can only play so many board games or so much baseball; after that I want to be doing the things that interest me. There are also some things at which I'm useless: for example, if I'd had to help my son build his first Lego model, I would never have bought him more for Christmas. As it is, it provides him with plenty of solitary idle construction time.
Sitting on a hill and singing, or casually putting little bricks together in a one-of-a-kind structure, are options for a bored child. My children have also been known to sit high up in a backyard tree and watch the squirrels play, or prepare a power-point story using the digital camera and the pet rabbit. Sometimes parents have to allow reasonable risk when encouraging self-directed random activity. The best way for me to cope with a very small daughter that liked to climb very tall trees was to stay at the front of the house and not watch. When I was a teenager, my friends and siblings and I would sometimes spend a summer day riding the metro system to the many places in Montreal that held some interest. If that caused our parents any anxiety, they didn't say so. They even provided the metro tickets.
It's important to resist the "I'm bored" guilt phenomenon. If a child is bored, it's tempting to suppose that you are failing in your duty as home educator, and cast around franticly for something to stimulate them; or to decide that you must become their personal entertainment centre. As homeschoolers, we should consider ourselves lucky that our children have times in their childhood when the only thing available for them to do is to think.