Tag Archives: freedom

Course correction

Yesterday was amazing. I set new ground rules going into week three (this is an organic process). We had a morning meeting and talked about what my expectations were for each day as we head back into more structured learning, and my kids were, surprisingly, on board. Then we jumped right into learning for them and work for me.

They have probably been feeling a little lost with all this free time. I’ve been reading up on the wonderful ways that social isolation is helping kids. And an abundance of free time is something that is extolled by professionals as the path to executive functioning skills in kids.

I was never one to keep my kids inside and away from independent roaming of the neighbourhood when they had free time, nor did I structure their time at home, but my kids were pretty scheduled outside of our home life. And with all that gone, they have free time in abundance.

The first two weeks at home were spent thoroughly enjoying that free time. But because they have spent so many years scheduled, that free time had turned into a drag once the novelty wore off.

And it coincided with the school board starting to put plans in place to carry on learning in a virtual environment. So I felt the need to get my kids back on track. But…

According to Lenore Skenazy’s article in the New York Post:

As for parents worried that all this non-academic time is dooming their kids’ futures, research at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that the kids who have more free time to create and structure their own activities develop stronger executive functioning skills — that is, better planning, problem-solving and follow-through — than kids whose lives are more continuously structured by adults.

Putting that into practice in my house has meant clearly defining three expectations:

  1. Complete a minimum of one hour of learning/school work
  2. Complete chores assigned by Mom
  3. Practice skills (soccer and rehearsing for play)

No phones or screens until all three are done (with the exception of the laptop for research if part of the learning component).

I left them to it and went back to my desk. And they spent the whole morning working together on a project about lowland gorillas.

They planned it out, did the research, wrote the material, managed each other’s expectations and even recognized when they’d had enough of working together and decided to take a break.

With that sense of ownership over their learning and their morning, they helped with lunch and then moved on to the other two expectations without complaint before settling in for a couple of hours of free screen time in the afternoon.

I got a ton of work done, and not just because they were busy doing their own thing, leaving me with uninterrupted time, but because my veins weren’t coursing with stress hormones from trying to manage them and worrying about them getting into fights or hurting each other’s feelings.

So, not only is this “course correction”—as Lenore Skenazy calls it—good for kids, it’s going to be great for the adults, too. We need it as much as the kids do. We need to learn to let go, to let kids figure it out for themselves and to work through hard problems. This is a small silver lining in this terrible situation in which we find ourselves. But it’s a good one.

Childhood freedom

When I was a kid, I had freedom. There were days full of riding my bike with the other kids in the neighbourhood, evenings full of hangin’ out at the park and lots of time to figure out who I was in relation to the crowd I hung out with.

That doesn’t happen anymore IRL. That is an online thing now, where kids create personas of who they want to be seen as among their peers.

This scares me. I know it’s not new. It has been going on for a while. But now that I have two kids entering those years where I want them to have freedom to discover who they are, I wonder how they’ll do that while all of their friends are glued to their phones to create digital personas of who they want to be.

It is becoming more difficult, despite my persistence, to let my kids experience freedom and independence when the world around them is inside and staring at a screen.

My kids and I have had many talks about the benefits of technology and its downside. They are exposed to tablets and phones (though not their own), and they know how to use the technology for productive purposes (and unproductive purposes, because there is really no avoiding it). But when the sun is shining and the outdoors are calling, they are outside and away from screens. They are 11.75 and 9.5. Screens will come in due time. The longer I can put them off them, the better.

But what of their friends? How does one free-range parent in an age of fearful parenting where all their friends are encouraged to sit inside and play on screens so that they don’t worry their parents with their whereabouts?

My method is to send my kids outside anyway in the hopes that they will run into some other kid(s) who might have like-minded parents. And so far I’ve been lucky. Turns out there are parents out there who share my views on childhood freedom and my kids are having a great summer hanging out with new friends in the neighbourhood.