Why Children Thrive On No Plan Days

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The other afternoon we went pond dipping…

Armed with bright yellow nets almost as big as them, a discovery book and rectangular trays, we whiled away the hours at our local nature reserve. The children were fascinated with the pond life they found, excitedly sharing their finds with friends. Magnifying glasses were handed steadily from hand to hand, like a pass the parcel prize, socks got soggy, sleeves got wet, yet we really didn’t mind.

It’s funny to think that this corner of paradise is placed where it is. Hidden behind a bustling town, with crowds rushing from a to b, the faintest sound of sirens and horns. Yet all we could see were tall tumbling reeds yellow and green and all we could hear, was the whistle of the wind on the gentle breeze.

I marvelled at my children, intensely caught up in what they were doing. I watched their shoulders hunch and rise, their noses scrunch and their eyes stay focused and wide. They were utterly engrossed in the moment and having so much fun, that what we thought would be a half hour activity, turned into two or three. But the timings really didn’t matter because we had no-where else to be.

I wondered how the children would have felt, if I had packed our schedule full of things. If there was something else to get to, would they have come away happily, or would they be frustrated that I had interfered with their day? I’m not sure but needless to say, I learnt a long time ago to leave empty space in our days, room to breathe and discover the world around them, to search for frogs and spend hours at play.

I marvelled at how I felt in that moment, when only a few days before I had felt guilty that we weren’t doing enough. That we didn’t have a jam packed diary, like so many of our friends. Comparison of course is common, but I find homeschool comparison a whole new level of wanting to do and be enough - our children’s lives are in our hands after all.

Yet as I listened to the shrieks of “more shrimp!” And looked at their faces with furrowed brows, I knew that we were exactly where we needed to be. Because my children thrive in the empty pockets of our days, of packing up our adventure bag and going wherever our feet carry us that day. When a quick stomp through the forest ends in den building with the birds, when a walk to the sea means twirling down the lane and when whole mornings of nothingness, stretch out until noon.

It just fits, this simplified schedule of ours. And on the outside it may not look like much, it may look too simplistic, too vague, too unhurried. Yet I know without doubt, that it is enough and so much more. I can see it in the twinkle of their eyes as new discoveries are made, as old places are revisited at a snails pace and as we go about our days. It is the knowledge that their time is their own, that nature is their home and the contentment of being able to while away the hours, to live, to learn, to thrive.

Whether your child is three or fifteen, whether your child learns in a school or at home, whether your child is eager or not, with a new season comes the pressure to hurry. To do instead of to be. And we can find ourselves grabbing our children’s hand and willing them to keep up, to be as busy as others seem. But we mustn’t forget that time to explore, time to be bored and time to wonder, is just as important as checking off lists, as is time to dream.

So wiggle your calendar and block out some time each week, for all of you, simply to be.




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