April 21, 2010

How to Deal with Children Who Are Bored

I am a Mom to a gifted student. As such, I have had to deal with the "I'm bored" whine many a' time. However, my student generally doesn't even tell me when he is bored. He will simply show me. It happens quite suddenly, with one day being a good sort of day, and then the next seeing virtually no progress at all. One day will quickly turned into a dozen, if I do not step in to help him out.

Boredom is generally described as "an emotional state experienced during periods lacking activity or when individuals are uninterested in the opportunities surrounding them." (Wikipedia) C. D. Fisher [describes boredom] in terms of its central psychological processes: “an unpleasant, transient affective state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest in and difficulty concentrating on the current activity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boredom

The two main issues with boredom are lack of interest and lack of activity. At times, one or the other will be the primary motivator for the "I am bored" cry. Usually, it is both at work together: not enough to do, and content that lacks sufficient challenge to engage the mind. The key for parents, whether home schooled or not, is to make sure that their children are engaged in their studies and have plenty "to do" each day. This is the best way to counteract boredom.

I know that I get bored when I do not have enough to do each day. I love resting, as does the next person, but I also know that I tend to like a lot to do. In fact, I function best when my plate is very full. Some people would find the amount of work I prefer to do, too much. I like having a long "to do" list and then the time set aside to work steadily at checking each item off.

The important thing for parents is to determine how much is "enough" for each child. Some children need consistent levels of activity (the same each day), while others prefer more flexibility (some easier days mixed with more challenging days). The goal should be to level load the schedule, to find that happy balance where the child is fully engaged and completely occupied with their studies.

Charlotte Mason suggested this type of schedule in her Original Home Schooling Series. She advocated masterly activity (as opposed to masterly inactivity -http://www.amblesideonline.org/CM/M303.html), a term that suggests that even in free time, children need to be engaged in work they can master (structured learning). Though she greatly encouraged free play for young children, students (ages 6 and up) were to be fully engaged in activity every day (all day long). They were to be at their studies, reading and taking notes. They were to be out walking, field guide in hand. They were to be drawing life, whether from a nature walk or a still life grouping of objects. They were to be pouring over maps and atlases and globes. They were to be fully interested in learning about life, about the world, and about the people God had created to inhabit the Earth. There were no real "down times" in a Charlotte Mason school. There would be free reading periods, handicrafts and life skills -- things she felt were necessary to keep the mind happily occupied until it was time to rest (for bed each evening).

Our children do not have this type of life nor are they able to spend it in quiet study. They are shuttled off to school where information is droned into them; returned home to piles of home work. Often then they are left to their own devices (which tend to involve computer or video gaming devices). Some do have outside activities; some will do sports or music or art. But, many children are corralled all day long in a room with ineffectual teaching methods and materials that simply fail to engage the mind in any serious study.

Children today are born with boredom looming ahead, and with our fast-paced emphasis on "things", most will never learn the power of masterly activity.

Some things I have found that work well for gifted children (and all children):
  • Consistent daily application of studies
  • A good routine
  • Sufficient books to challenge the mind and engage the will to learn
  • Interesting things to read and to do
  • Varied activity
  • Student-led discovery
  • Gentle learning methods and techniques (CM's "science of relations")
  • and a devoted habit of always observing and experiencing life, in general
In teaching my only child, I have focused on these items throughout our home school program (and even before). I have always made learning central to whatever we do. I don't force this learning on my child, but rather allow him to experience what he chooses from each opportunity. It has proven successful, though not always quantifiable. I cannot always get instant feedback, so there is some maturity that is required on the part of the parent (you have to "wait" a while). This has always been the case: I may not see results today; but in time, I will see them and be blessed by them. Waiting is key; patience is a must.

No comments: