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You know, there’s something glorious about having a playground to yourself.

You can twirl on the swing without anyone complaining. You can run up the slide or pour sand down it, and no one will say a thing. You can holler and sing and pretend you have a gun to shoot bad guys with, without any social pressure to be quieter or play nicer.

Whether you’re a parent or a kid, it is easy to be who you are and do what you want when you’re alone. It’s harder when people are watching.

Maybe that’s a good thing? I suppose it’s important to learn social acceptability. But maybe there’s also value in learning to be brave enough to be willing to be socially less-acceptable once in a while.

This has been the conundrum that has challenged me for my entire parenting career.

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Is it just me, or is there an unrealistic expectation of excitement out there? Like, life should constantly provide me with EXPERIENCES that challenge and motivate and entertain and occupy me. Especially, maybe, among the children, but increasingly among the rest of us. I wonder if it’s because we are losing our ability to navigate boredom well?

Every kid needs to learn how to be successfully bored. Seriously, boredom is an important skill that must be resurrected.

It’s important to understand that “I’m so bored” is actually code for I am feeling an emptiness that I want you to fill for me. Or, I don’t want to do the work of figuring out how to spend my time so I would like you to allow me to watch television or play with my electronics.

Honestly, I’ve tried to not let my kids get away with the whole I’m so bored thing. The very whine of those words makes my skin shiver in almost exactly the same way it does when I hear people filing their fingernails. I adamantly (usually, almost always, when I’m not too tired) refuse to rescue my children from their boredom. In fact, they rarely say it anymore because they know my response will be…

Good. You’ll be motivated to find something to do. Or,

Good. You’ll have time to think about stuff. Or,

Good. I have some things I could use some help with.

Honestly, boredom has led to some of the most imaginative of days around here. Boredom has initiated all kinds of learning, from how to play a musical instrument to how to build a musical instrument to researching all the things there are to know about the musical styles of said instrument.

Boredom has led to entrepreneurial adventures, book-reading or internet-searching adventures, vacation-planning adventures, and all manner of construction adventures. Boredom has been the beginning of so much that would have been lost had the easy distraction-road of entertainment been taken.

(You guys know that sometimes, because we’re an imperfect little family just doing our best, the easy distraction-road of entertainment has indeed been taken from time to time, right? <smile and nod>)

But mainly, being bored is simply not indulged in these parts, because bored kids who never develop the ability to transition from boredom to self-motivation become bored, unsatisfied adults. I mean, I don’t have any scientific studies or anything, but that’s what I think.

Boredom might just be the most important and undervalued source of motivation for personal development and creativity there is. Don’t deny your kids! Let them be bored and then stand back and watch how they grow.

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Multiply this number by these numbers, then move over a column, blah, blah, blah, and then you should have the right answer.

It’s twenty minutes and I can tell he’s heard more blah than teaching and I am frustrated and so is he.

I don’t get it.

I can’t do it.

I hate this.

But what he is really saying is I hate that I suck at this and I wish I could get it because I feel stupid that I don’t.

Evil math. The bane of our homeschooling existence.

As many times as I tell him he’s so super smart at so many things and he’s not defined by his math skills (or spelling, for that matter) and he has so many unique and non-scholastic type gifts, well, there’s still THIS struggle, day after day.

The thing is, I think it’s kind of good for him to have a burden. It’s good to learn that some things are just hard and take a lot of work and require perseverance. And it’s important to learn to accept that when it comes to ability, some people are better than others. Doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying.

A burden isn’t all bad. I just don’t want him to be crushed by it, you know?

He thumps down the stairs, every ounce of his seventy-five pounds working the steps, and pirouettes into the kitchen. Pirouettes. Really, like a grubby boy-ballerina, followed by a sock-footed slide over to the fridge. Open the door and stand there, bopping and snapping fingers, reach in, find apple, hip-check the door closed.

No audience that he knows of. Not a performance. Just joy, pure and simple.

Away he goes, back up the stairs to listen to iPod stories in his room. The other boys are in their spaces. The reading boy, reading. The guitar-playing boy, playing. It’s an afternoon like a million afternoons, and I feel like I could stay here, perfectly happy, forever.

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Joy. Pure and simple.

He’s put John Denver on repeat to ease the algebra, and I’m thinking it’s been a long time. I’ve missed you, John. All the songs about trees and mountains and eagles flying and mothers laughing. The beautiful guitar and that dad and his fiddle and the feather bed. And Annie. And saying goodbye. Time passes; math is done. Outside, then, for space and movement and air.

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The other boy is upstairs, cuddling under the covers of his bed, writing and reading and calling for a snack. And could I sharpen his pencil for him, please? And does he really have to do six pages? And could he read one chapter instead of two today? And what’s for lunch? Did Colton go outside? Can I be done?

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And the oldest, away building music at school. He’s putting the strings on his guitar today. That’s the plan, anyway. And bringing the baby home this weekend. Seven weeks to birth this one, from rough board to the smooth, curved masterpiece, and he’s named it, already. I can’t wait to hear it sing.

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This is what I am noticing, today. Boys, boys, boys. The conversation of my home.

Colton's doodle of a Metis boy

Colton’s doodle of a Metis boy

You can find my words over at How to Homeschool High School today. A little letter to Anne about art and muskrats. Love to see you there if you don’t mind popping over for a quick visit!

Have a great weekend! I’m off to the spa with some friends to talk about writing and such. Yay, me!

I’m blogging today at How to Homeschool High School, where we are talking about family communication and art. I’d love for you to join in there.

Here’s a taste of the conversation:

In families, especially families that spend as much time together as do homeschooling families, communication is extra easy, and extra hard. We do a lot of it, but we don’t always do it well. And there’s the extra pressure, sometimes, to do it exceptionally well because, you know, we’re homeschooling families and it’s supposed to be one of our strengths. And we think people are watching…

Be blessed, friends, as you go about your day!