Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Value of Down Time

There is an aspect of teaching children that I think a lot of people forget about. Many people get so caught up in making sure children have all the facts they need stuffed in their heads, that the child doesn't have time to process it all.

One of the things that I have noticed with my children is that when they are having difficulty with a math concept, if I let them take a week or two off from math, they frequently pick up the concept without further instruction. Now, I understand that this is a hard thing to do. The tendency is to try to find other ways to teach the child the concept. After all, the problem may be that they just didn't get what you were trying to teach them. On the other hand, their brains may just not be developmentally ready for that concept. Or, they may just need time to process it and let their brain mull over it without the pressure of needing to apply the knowledge.

Another aspect of this is the actual need for time to play and explore. Many children these days spend hours in school, then turn around and spend hours doing homework, or playing sports, or doing dance, etc. As a result, the only down time they have is during the summer. And, since we don't want them to lose the knowledge that they gained over the school year, or be bored, we feel their days with activities. I truly believe that children's brains need time to assimilate knowledge. I believe that children need to be bored in order to take the things they have learned and apply them to their lives. Children need time to get outside and get to know their bodies. They need time for trial and error. They need to lie on the grass and stare at the clouds. They need to have the time to put their feet up and think about nothing. Their brains need quiet.

If you have the ability, give your child time each day, whether during the school year or summer, to explore his life on his own. Give his brain time to assimilate the things he learned that day. Give him time to really think about things instead of just adding more and more things to his plate. Eventually, things that he has not assimilated will start to leave to make room for more stuff. However, if he takes the time to think about something, really understand it, and make it his own, it will be his knowledge for life.

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