When we started lockdown homeschooling, the blank page of a day gave me great anxiety. I’ve since learned it’s okay to leave pockets of time during the day as unstructured time for five-year-old T to be bored.
Research has shown that boredom supports a child’s healthy development, as it helps them build creativity, resilience, and independence.
I think back to my own childhood. My parents couldn’t afford expensive summer camps, so I got stuck at home while they worked and they warned me not to let others know they left their nine-year-old at home alone.
I have fond memories of those summers of boredom. I spent hours biking around the neighbourhood lost in a fantasy world. It was also when I discovered a love for creative writing and churned out many fan and original fiction.
T is a lucky child in that he has so many resources to help him fill his day. He has TV, online games and a wealth of toys.
I think back with amusement to the first week of homeschool schedule I created in March. Every minute was programmed. Activities were chunked into 15 minute segments. I remember after the first day I had to rethink my approach because I knew I was headed towards a burnout and meltdown.
Keeping up the learning this summer is important to us because I am worried about the summer brain drain. But we are using a looser schedule.
So long as we get 15 minutes each of reading, math and handwriting skills as well as ample outdoor exercise and swimming time in there, then we let T program the rest of the time.
We also try to make sure he doesn’t sit in front of the tablet playing games and watching videos too much, because I do want to limit the screentime for the sake of his emotional regulation and the effect on his eyes.
I take a deep breath when I see him wandering around the house, looking desperately bored and sad, because I know that eventually he will pick up one of his toys and start running around the house. Or he will go visit his fur siblings to torment them.
Some of my favourite parenting moments are the simplest ones. When I am working, cleaning or cooking – or when the hubby is gardening outside – and I notice T to the side, mumbling to himself and his imaginary friends. I eavesdrop on the conversations and his make believe world.
I know that it is during these moments that he is building his imagination, self sufficiency, ability to cope with being bored, and in the long run, his learning.
As T gets older, his schedule will be more programmed with extra curricular activities, like swimming lessons. I think these are equally important for a child to help them build skills and discipline – so long as it’s balanced with plenty of down time too.
But for now, I’m going to hang on to this moment of time, because I know it is fleeting, as boring as these wonderful moments may be.