It was a wonderful Monday morning. While the rest of the world was hustling and bustling to school and work we were lounging in our pajamas, eating our breakfast slowly.
I had woken up to the kids playing with their figurines. Setting them up, acting out scenes, etc.. I was greatly enjoying watching them play, but I knew there was work to be done so I got out my phone and had a look at the dreaded to-do list.
Thats when I did it. And oh, I regretted it as soon as I did it.
I casually handed the kids their school work for the day WHILE they were playing and I told them, “when you’re ready, here are your assignments for the day, no rush.”
What was I thinking?!
Well, I was thinking that my to-do list was more important than their to-do list.
That me checking off the little box labelled “daily lessons” was more important than them enjoying their childhood. Sure I said, “when you’re ready…no rush” but the mere act of handing them the work negated anything I could have possibly said. Actions speak louder than words and my actions told them that my checking this little box off my to-do list was more important than whatever else they could possibly be doing.
What happened next?
Well, the feeling in the air changed. Their faces went glum.
Our home went from being a safe haven from the rest of the world, to being part of that hustle and bustle we dread so much.
LittleMan took his school work to his room and put it down on the bed, then he sat on the floor next to it, turned on an audio book, and played with his LEGO bricks.
SunnyGirl left her school work next to the figurines she’d been playing with, went to her room to curl up next to the hamster cage with a book and read to her pet.
They eventually did their school work, but it took longer because they had to recover from being ripped out of their moment. And they took less pride in the work that they did.
What would have happened had I waited?
I know from experience that waiting until the kids come to me and announce they are a ready for their lessons (or at least waiting until they aren’t deep in the middle of their play session) always ends better for everyone. When they are allowed to pursue their own interests and go at their own pace, they produce better work. Doesn’t everyone do better when they feel respected, safe, and fulfilled? I know I do!
Beyond that though, they are happy to do their school work when they feel that its in their best interest.
Treating their lessons like just another chore to check off the list minimizes the importance of both their school work and their time. But when I wait until they are ready, when they aren’t in the middle of something else, and I let them know that these lessons serve a purpose in their lives and are given to them to help them grow into the people they want to become. That’s when they truly shine.
So I say to you, adults who have been entrusted with the education of children, let them play.
When it won’t make much of a difference to you and your schedule, whether they do the work now or an hour from now, let them have that hour and let them play.
When they are emotionally invested in a storyline of their own creation and are engaged in the work of playing, let them play. When they have a thing to tinker with or a problem to solve or just something going on that they care about, let them play.