School Vacation Week Advice: Do Nothing!
I was struck by this good advice presented by Dr. Peggy Drexler in a column about what to do with your children when they are home for school vacation: Do nothing, and thereby give children the time and space so they can figure out what they want to do themselves and learn how to develop a sense of self. I think this is sound advice that unschoolers have promoted for decades, but it is always good to see affirmation for one's actions from creditable outside sources.
It is a shame this article only ran on Friday, Feb. 23, the last day of school vacation. A lot of families would have benefited from reading and thinking about this before they booked their children's enrichment, tutoring, and play dates for the vacation week. Of course, it's hard not to feel the irony that something homeschoolers have been citing as a positive for years—that homeschooled children, every day, can have time and space to think and explore the world in their own ways—while schools continually degrade this aspect of personal growth by insisting every minute of a child's day must be structured around rigorous coursework, and psychologists, such as Dr. Drexler, seek to ameliorate this sense-of-self deficit during school vacation weeks.
Here is an interesting story from the article:
But self-sufficiency isn't something most kids are born with. They need to be taught how to be with themselves—what that means and what it looks like—deliberately and repeatedly. School vacations can be a great opportunity for parents to do this; to encourage their children how to create their own fun, come up with their own activities, and even learn to appreciate being bored.
This can be difficult for some parents, especially those who view vacation as valuable extra time to spend with kids who are in school much of the week. Jamie, who'd taken the time off from work, had imagined a week that was a mix of family fun and personal time to catch up on reading, try new recipes, and get ahead with the laundry. Instead, she found herself playing cards and racing cars, when she wasn't leading outings or driving the boys all around town. They liked playing with each other, but only if Jamie was there, too. "I thought when I had two kids they'd entertain one another," Jamie said. "But they still seem to want, or need, me to set up the situation, if not also take part."
In one sense, Jamie was flattered that her boys wanted to spend so much time with her. She figured at six and nine she wouldn't have too many more years of this, which is one reason she continued to indulge them. But kids who can't come up with their own fun, or refuse to play without Mom or Dad by their side, risk becoming overly dependent. They have difficulty forming a clear sense of self. They may grow to become adolescents or adults who need other people around constantly, or get anxious when situations aren't stimulating. They don't know how to behave if it's not in pursuit of attention.