The beauty of boredom :)


(I love memes; have you noticed?:)

I was lucky that one of my first jobs was an afterschool program here in Boone (1982) with a very supportive boss, and a very supportive supervisor at the Board of Ed. We got there at 1:30, and set up an environment in our designated (unshared) space. We were a motley crew of motivated and flakey folks, happy to make $5.25 an hour (well above minimum wage).

Since I didn’t know much, I just tried to set up some open-ended activities to see what the children would do. We would set up a table with assorted “stuff” (paper plates, toilet paper rolls, meat trays, tape, glue, string) and a table for sewing, some board games and sit back and watch. The things that engaged the children, we did more of, the things that did not, we did not. We had the New Games book (Smaug’s Jewels was a favorite), did a lot of singing, and read aloud chapter books. No one under 6th grade had much homework to worry about. We went outside, or to the gym, every day. We borrowed cross country skis and let them ski in the back of the school. We baked, and had a bake sale to raise money for children in Nicaragua. We had conversations about what rules we should have. (I recently taught a class for adults. One of them came up during the break and asked : “What other jobs have you had?” ??? He finally let me know that he remembered me from that afterschool program. He is an adult with 2 kids. He has the same smile.)

Anyway, all of this is to say that I believe that children learn from an enriched environment but a boring life. I am an only child, and I promise you that entertaining myself was my life’s work. I was, of course, one of the “free range” era who were allowed (forced?) to wander the neighborhood in search of entertainment. In the suburbs, vacant lots and dead end streets next to creeks are heaven. I think of this as “benign neglect.” if my parents had been too interested in what I did, I may not have found it so intriguing.

Then, with other people’s children, and then my own, I watched this happen again. The most powerful learning often happens with no words, and alone. Or maybe with a friend, and a shared look.

Montessori said, and wrote, that the experience comes before the understanding. I am thinking of my children listening about the snow storms in “The Little House on the Prairie”, after digging tunnels in the snow in our yard. I did not “set up” the snow. Thank god, nature provides so much of a “prepared environment.” However, adult “help” can be a deterrent. Tread lightly, and embrace “benign neglect”, however you can!

Children have been learning through boredom since before we moved out of the trees 🙂


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