Over the past few weeks, William and Charlie have really enjoyed having some of their friends over to play - those friends who go to school and are most often not available Monday - Friday (one of the best parts about the holidays, according to William). I have been noticing more and more that play dates seem to be a bit rocky these days, and it has gotten me thinking. The unwritten rule around our home is that when friends are over, Mama takes time to get other things done - the kids are expected to entertain themselves. Most of the time, that works out great. I hear a chorus of "Lets play.......", and see a whirlwind of little bodies flying through the house. The kids go on adventures, build forts, solve mysteries, play outside, hide and seek.....and there is always playing LEGO if no other ideas appeal. I only hear from them when they are in need of a snack or a bandaid. But lately, things have not been following the usual pattern. William and Charlie's suggestions of "Let's play...." seem to be met with silence. Their friends seem to be having a harder and harder time becoming engaged, unless I am right there with them to direct the play.
Now I don't doubt that part of the problem is pure tiredness - little people all tuckered out because of the holiday busyness. But I worry that it is also a reflection of how busy their lives are in general. No matter how conscientious their parents are about allowing for 'free time', there are still only so many hours in the day. Getting ready for school, going to school, homework, dinner, bath and bed take up so many hours of the day, that when you add in even a few 'extra curricular activities' there is precious little time left. Even for us, weekends book up quickly with the errands that don't get done during the week, visiting with family and friends, and chores around the house. So where does that leave them? When do those kids really have a chance to entertain themselves? To rely on their imagination to come up with something to do? To be bored, or to just be?
I have rambled here a few times about how 'time' has proven to be one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling for our family. Time for a more relaxed schedule, time to go new places adn try new things, flexibility of time, time for planned and unplanned explorations, family and friend time, and time alone. Still, I worry that as the kids get older, their free time will fill up quickly.
So in this time of New Years resolutions, here are a few of mine:
Avoid early morning activites so that our days do not start off rushed
Combine errands so that I am not running 'to town' more often than needed
One sports-related and one non-sport team or club / week for each of the boys
Limited TV and video games
Keep our 'table time' activities to a minimum
Instead of cringing when the boys complain about being bored, rejoice - and watch the wonderful creations and play that comes out of that 'boredom'.
Time is free, but it is priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back.