Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How much Free Time is Enough?

One of the reasons I was drawn to homeschooling was the hope of more free time for the time for exploring their own interests, being creative, and building relationships. There's been a recent backlash against over-scheduling- so many activities, sports, classes and events that kids are involved in that there is no downtime, no time to just wander around, no time for boredom. There's been articles about why letting kids get bored is a good thing, because it teaches them to rely on themselves rather than having others provide entertainment for them. I certainly agree with all these points, so I purposely don't fill our day with enough schoolwork and activities to last the whole day. When they finish, they can have plenty of free time (if they work efficiently, which they don't always do.)

On the other hand, there's much talk about how too much free time leaves kids (maybe more for teens) with "too much time on their hands" and landing them in trouble as they seek out "fun" to fill the time, whether it's alcohol, drugs, vandalism, etc. Without meaningful work for the kids to do, they  float around without purpose and just enjoy "killing time". For younger kids, the temptation is probably toward more and more video games, rather than "trouble", and personally, I think over-indulgence in video games can be just as harmful, but that's a whole other rant.

Anyway, when Monkey complains he "doesn't have enough free time", it infuriates me because he already has way more free time than probably most kids his age, considering they have to be in school for 7-8 hours a day plus homework, and activities.  How much free time does he want?!?! How much does he really need?!?! What does he want with even more free time?!! If it's just to play more video games, then I don't want I add more free time and I start thinking I want to cut back on free time.

So, I'm pondering, how much is ideal? I don't know...I think having some structure and plans is beneficial, playing all day just leads to idleness. Maybe some kids could fill all that time with something constructive, but mine will only do so for a while before succumbing to the call of video games. (Not all video games are bad, but I just don't like when they rely on them for their entertainment, rather than the numerous other choices they have). So is 2 hours enough? 4 hours? Is that too much? They can easily spend hours reading when they are hooked on a book. They might use their free time to play outside, build Legos, make a game, program something in Scratch, act out storylines with stuffed animals or action figures, etc. I love that they have time for this stuff, but then when it comes to having something to do(chores, going someplace, schoolwork), they get all upset that they "don't have enough free time"! Yes, there are times (many times) when they want to do or play something worthwhile and we just don't have the time, so I do feel bad about that. Despite my attempts to slow down and not over-schedule, we still have many days that are packed full. So... I keep trying to find that right balance of freedom and responsibility.