“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood” – Fred Rogers
I used to believe that I had to teach the girls, and I felt an immense amount of guilt when I “left” them to play, or didn’t feel like we’d done enough structured activities. But after finding our daily rhythm, stepping back, and taking life at a much slower pace; I realise just how ignorant I was before. Play is learning! In fact now I believe that the girls learn more, and gain a greater understanding of the world around them just through playing together.
It has really taken the stress out of homeschooling for us and made our lives so much more enjoyable. I still try to carve out specific time to focus on maths and literacy at least 3 times a week (although this usually involves a game or manipulative materials so some may say this is still ‘playing’). But the rest of our time is spent playing and exploring the world around us.
Some of the girls best learning experiences have come from ideas that developed during play. Our recent project The Borrowers is proof of this. All I have to do as the adult is to provide the stimulating environments, real life experiences and plenty of lovely open ended materials to aid in their play.
It is hard not to worry or compare when children the same age as the girls, who attend school, can write reams and reams of pages and read much more. But what is the point in all of that ‘work’ when it leaves children (and adults) tired and stressed – there is plenty of time for them to be tired and stressed when they reach adulthood! What is this huge rush to have our children know everything by age 7? In my experience it leaves everyone feeling pressured, they eventually forget most of it, and it definitely doesn’t benefit the children.
I trust myself, and them, that when they are 16 they won’t be illiterate. They will be accomplished in all of the core subjects. Exactly the same as the majority of children who attended school. But I am hoping that by giving my children this magical childhood full of experience, travel, wonder and joy, that they will have a little more sparkle within them, a special zest for life that I am rediscovering everyday that I get to share their learning journeys with them.