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Children’s lives are usually micro managed. Particularly if they are learning in school.

For home educated children, this is less so. Most of them have some input into the decision making, planning and execution of their education. Home schooled youngsters also have considerably more unplanned time where they can initiate and take charge of their own activities, independently. And it is this opportunity that develops life skills so important for future independence; skills such as initiative, invention, creativity, independent research skills, ideas, problem solving, decision making and management.

For school children the holidays provide an opportunity to develop some of those skills often neglected by not having that independent time.

However, it can take time for them to get into that independent way of thinking, especially if it’s something they’re not used to doing, or if they’re more accustomed to being ‘entertained’ by gaming or similar digital activities rather than being proactive in providing their own stimulation in other forms.

This is not to say that gaming or digital entertainment is not valid as an activity. It is an important part of culture, thoroughly enjoyed. But many have observed that it has perhaps become disproportionate in a balance of activities that promote a range of skills, mental and physical, necessary to the all-round development of a healthy, educated adult.

Parents often feel obliged to provide constant stimulation to keep their youngster from boredom. But boredom is often the precursor to action and, although youngsters may need help and encouragement towards finding and engaging with enjoyable things to do which require a little more effort than that provided by a screen, it’s sometimes useful to be bored!

Parents should also beware the advertising pressure or parental one-up-man-ship suggesting that their kids must experience the latest ride at a theme park or they’re missing out. In contrast, it’s just as beneficial to encourage a culture in the family that values all activities however low-key. The story that the kids enjoyed the ice cream more than the theme park, or the box more than the toy which came in it, is very common and has an important message. But we are often seduced by commercial hype into thinking otherwise.

All experiences educate and build skills, most particularly new experiences and many of them cost considerably less than extortionate entrance fees found at some places. Outdoor spaces like parks, playgrounds, skate parks, Parquor facilities, riversides, reservoirs, nature reserves, woods, lakesides, provide different kinds of environments which encourage the youngsters to create their own activities, great for skills building.

It’s important too, that time at home is not only spent glued to a screen. Apart from research to provide starting points for active things to do, pursuits that involve creating, making, building, cooking and baking, mending, decorating, re-organising, etc., all build valuable skills.

Activities that actively engage the youngsters, rather than entertain them, and activities that they have initiated or discovered themselves, are those which help promote the skills young people need for independence of mind and spirit. And time like holidays, when their lives are less managed or controlled by others, provides an excellent opportunity for this to happen.

 

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