Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Just Playing Around

Jane and her family were here over the weekend.  I've always enjoyed watching our creative and bright kids play and explore, but as they get older it's getting to be even more enjoyable and precious.  For several years they have been creating, practicing and then performing (for the adults after dinner) an original play.  The plays used to consist of a lot of giggling on the part of the kids, almost no plot, and confusion on the part of the parents.  Recently, however, they have achieved a much higher level of sophistication and entertainment. 

Last night's feature was well thought out, involved all five kids, had a clear plot (with conflict and resolution) and even contained mood music.  There was a king, a robber (who had several costume changes), a baby, a mother, and a sound effects manager.  All of the kids had truly amusing facial expressions and voice delivery.  It was delightful.  I'm so thankful for friends who parent their children in a similar creativity encouraging environment. 

The majority of my students don't know how to imagine.  It is a skill they havn't ever been encouraged to develop.  Several forms of electronic entertainment are on in their homes at almost all times.  They don't know how to pretend, and they find anything that isn't fast past electronic entertainment to be "boring." 

It may sometimes seem that creative, collaborative play is just that, play.  But truly, shaping our children's lives so that electronic forms of entertainment are limited is giving them valuable life skills in the areas of inferencing, problem solving and interpersonal collaboration. 

Don't get me wrong.  I'm certainly not totally anti-T.V. or computer.  The kids watch a little bit of PBS kids (at the moment it's Wild Kratts) if they're ready for school early in the morning; and we usually allow them an hour or two of T.V. time over the weekend.  They're allowed to get on the computer for about 30 minutes during the week to play educational games or to do research (but only if the weather is too hot, too cold, or too wet to play outside). 

Children in the U. S.  watch an average of three to four hours of T.V. a day.  A DAY!  That's astounding.  My kids typically don't even watch that much in a whole week.  No wonder most of my students aren't reading or doing their homework when they go home.  No wonder they complain and cry when they have to run the mile for P.E. at school.  They're too busy on the couch!

I simply can't fathom why you would want to lose so much quality time with your children.   I  look forward to summer for the same reason I look forward to the weekend and to 3:15 each day.  It's time I get to spend with my children.  I can't imagine giving up that time so that they could sit in front of a mind sucking black box for four hours a day. 

What would happen to the independent reading time they have after school? How about piano lessons, soccer practice, Karate class?  Gone, gone, gone.   What would happen to our nightly cuddle and story time?  What would happen to family dinners and game nights?  They would disappear. 

Children who are parented by electronics also have a poor work ethic.  Most of my students have no responsibilities at home.  And, if they do, the responsibilities include simple tasks like cleaning their rooms.  My kids (ages 7 and 9) fold all the laundry, put away most of the clothes, clean up their own clutter, take care of the floors (vacuum and sweeping), take out the trash, compost and recycling, help with the chickens, and even occasionally dust and mop.  This is not a violation of child labor.  This is real life, real responsibility and real expectations.  When my kids go out into the world they'll actually know how to take care of themselves. 

So thanks to all of you who have the courage and the energy to parent your children with creativity.  If you're still tied to the plug, turn off the tube, unplay the Playstation, read a book, play a game of soccer together, cook together, work outside together, play together, read together.  You, and your children, will be healthier, happier, smarter and more creative.

Now, if you'll excuse me, the Woodsman is waiting for the computer.  I've been on here long enough.  Time to collect the eggs, feed the chickens and sit on the deck to watch the sun go down.

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