Being a passionate (ex) teacher of the early years, eight is a new area for me. Seven just seemed to be an extension of six, but eight seems to be something very new. What does an eight year old boy like to do? What do they play with? Of course I CAN answer this question – friends, computer/video games, physical activity and lego. But what do you do if most children are in daycare in the afternoons, but your child is not? What do you do if you don’t own a computer/video game, and are not intending to buy one? What if the weather outside is bad and (again) all your friends are in daycare? And what if you want a change from lego?
This is something that I have been thinking about recently, and obviously something that Leon too has been pondering upon! The other evening he said to me, “It seems we have so little toys now” – ‘What?’ I thought to myself, are my children really spoilt and unappreciative?! “But you have masses of toys!” I replied. “But it seems they used to be so fun, and now they’re so little” he said. And then it dawned on me! The majority of our toys, games and puzzles are really for the early years crowd, and he suddenly feels he is too old for many of them!
Leon has rarely been one to utter the words “I’m bored” or “I don’t know what to do”. I know that to a certain extent, being in school for six hours a day, and having your activities planned out for you, being constantly told what you are going to do next, etc, must surely take away a certain lust to make your own decisions, use your imagination and learn how to use your time wisely. And so I realised that, for practically the first time, Leon really needed help in finding things to do!
So, we pulled out the 1000 piece puzzle which had always been too difficult to complete, the meccano which hasn’t been touched for a year, and the board game ‘Blokus’ which Leon previously always insisted on making his own rules up for, in order to play. We decided together that he needed to have more responsibility for things, such as jobs around the house, and that I needed to trust him to do such things as cooking, and going to the shop on his own.
The next day he woke up with a new lust for life! He completed his lego model and cleaned up afterwards. He set the table for breakfast. He made biscuits, taking full responsibility for the recipe, telling Maya what to do, and the clearing up afterwards. He sat down to an art project and put 100% into it. He went outside and raked the leaves without being asked. He built and completed a meccano project. And then started on the 1000 piece puzzle.
But I can’t help wondering whether he would have needed this guidance had he still been learning at home? I have read that most children educated at home have a greater ability to take responsibility for their own learning. Comments please!