Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Homeschool Files : The Importance of Play

While my previous posts have focused on some of our children's projects and some of the principles of our home education, this week I want to talk about play. We spend a lot of time playing here. Playing with toys and without, alone or with friends. And for me, all this playing is just as important part of home education as listening to our children read or helping them learn their times tables. 

Children use play to make sense of the world around them; to understand the past and help prepare themselves for what might happen in the future. They play to put on and test adult roles - think of dressing up as a doctor, pirate or princess. They also play to try out building and construction with train sets, building blocks and lego. 

When they play with a friend or in a group, they are trying out different relationships and ways of interacting and problem solving. Further, in this play they are constructing and consolidating their relationships with people. Creating false situations of danger can draw them together and fake confrontations can help them to deal with any tensions they may feel. Then there's playing games which is also invaluable but something very different. The stricter rules, imposed by an outside source involve accepting a social contract and being able to abide by it. The rules of board games require us to use our brains to understand them and develop strategies to succeed at them. 

All this playing is invaluable and not just for younger children. It is my hunch that the longer our children can enjoy playing, as freely as possible, the better. Of course, ideally we should play too especially when our children ask it from us. Why? because it's important to them, because play is such an important part of their development and because if we don't they will quickly decide play is unimportant and move on to something else. 

I know, I know but when they're playing we can finally get something done. Honestly, that is often how it happens around here. Despite how much I believe in the importance of play, I don't always find it easy to get involved and I say way more often than I'm proud of words like "not now sweetie I'm busy". However, like many things in this parenting gig, although my awareness of the importance of play might not make me perfect, it does make me stop and think and join in sometimes. It's not 100% perfection all the time, but it is something sometimes which has to be better than nothing. 

The long and short of it is that a lot of playing goes on around here and we like it like that. Sometimes we have doubts and think they should be spending more time on something else, something more important. Then we remember that our aim in all this is not to make encyclopedias but well rounded individuals and that's normally enough for us to back off. And in the end, when we stop and really think about it we realise all the things they've learnt and are learning through play and wonder, is a whole day spent playing chess in front of the fire really so bad? Or even a week of fort building? They have their whole lives to learn whatever they want to learn, in all likelihood the days they have left to enjoy playing as much as they do now are probably numbered. The only thing left to say seems to be - play on!

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