Sunday, June 05, 2011

On Boredom.....

I think maybe what people are saying when they complain of boredom is that they don't realize that they and they alone are responsible for their self-entertainment. They are waiting, perhaps, for someone else to come along and tell them what they should do next. They are sunk in ennui, without truly realiing that this is a feeling-state, and internal, and they are the only ones who can take the inititiative to move beyond it to discover what would fire up their passions, get their juices flowing, and allow them to feed off the marrow of life....

There is very little boredom here. In general, if either of the kids claims they are bored, I know that it means they are fatigued (as they are today, because we were camping with fellow unschoolers in Massachusetts last weekend, had a trip to the ocean, came home late Monday; they had a trip to the grocery store with Jim on Tuesday; co-op playground play at Clifton Commons for a good chunk of Thursday; and spent many hours of yesterday at Marla Briggs' unschooling BBQ - with the Unschool Bus! - where they swang on an indoor swing, trampolined, and swam the hours away till nearly midnight).

They aren't, today, bored so much as they are worn out and needing downtime to recover and process. We've already watched and discussed D-day newsreels, one Allied and part of a German one (D-day anniversary is tomorrow; good to know); Lise and I have weeded and looked at the remains of a baby rabbit Margot the Manx left as a gift on the front lawn; discussed everyone's needs for privacy; how fast the Earth rotates at the equator; made plans to go to next week's Waterford Harbor Farmer's Market, and I have personally done some cleaning up (tidying car from yesterday, living room and playroom, starting and folding laundry, readying kitchen to start cleaning, unpacking most of yesterday's stuff, stripping our bed).

Lise is in her room, watching Bolt, playing with Coffee (her baby doll), stuffed animals, and model horses. Jeremiah is just coming out of his room, where he was watching FlipNotes on his Dsi. He's planning to start a FlipNote club, and has plots for FlipNote stories for his invented Pokemon, Gemtra, and a storyline he's named True Soul. Before he starts the club, he's going to research around the Hatena website to see if there is anything else like it.

Jeremiah is not quite 10 years old, and Annalise will be 7 in a bit more than a month. Watching them is inspiring! It's so clear to me that they are so seldom bored, and so capable of creating rich and varied lives based hugely on activities of their own choosing, precisely because they have never developed the habit of waiting around for someone else to tell them what to do next.

They own their own lives, these two children who have never been to school, who decide for themselves what, when, and where they will eat, how, where, and when they will sleep, who don't need permission to visit the bathroom, remove clothing, or begin a new project.

And so their lives flow in a very natural way - periods of intense activity followed by days of rest, where, on the surface of things, it may look like they are lazily playing games or watching TV all day. But, as Doctor Freedman said on M*A*S*H, "But beneath. Ah, Sigmund - beneath.....". There is so much going on within the depths of these children. I find it in their art, in their play, in the conversations they have between themselves, with me, with Jim, and with others of all ages.

They own their lives. They know what they like and what they do not. They know that their own personal need to spend hours on physical activity, games, daydreaming, nature exploration, art, or anything else will be respected. They know that they can stay up all night, or get up early and work odd jobs to earn a few extra dollars.

They have goals that are their own, and they are willing to go to great lengths to accomplish them. They are familiar with getting stuck, and needing to pull back, do something else, and regroup. They have the freedom to decide, at any point along the journey, that the goal is no longer worth the effort of attaining it.

They own their lives, and are very seldom bored. When they are, they know that they can change it by going within themselves and deciding what would please them, in this moment.

I think there are many, many, adults who could learn something from observing how these children go about the business of conducting their lives. For certain, it isn't a lesson most of us learned (or could learn) in school.

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