Children need free time to find their passions

Posted by: Bostonian

Children need free time to find their passions - 11/29/20 12:03 PM

To Help Kids Find Their Passion, Give Them Free Time
Kids need more space to explore weird pastimes and obsessions.
by Lenore Skenazy
Reason
December 2020

...

A 2004 University of Michigan study calculated that between school and homework, kids were spending 7.5 hours more a week on academics than kids were 20 years earlier—and that's not counting the explosion of extracurriculars in the last couple of decades. COVID-19 has given them back a lot of free time and we've seen some encouraging leaps in independence, though the pandemic has also limited their freedom of movement and chances to interact with other kids in unstructured ways. But the general direction of childhood for the past two generations has been toward more and more time spent in organized activities.

Without free time, children don't have a chance to explore and expand. This isn't just bad for the kids. It's bad for the country, which loses out on the development of entrepreneurship and talent that makes all our lives better.

"The child is father to the man," poet William Wordsworth wrote in 1802.

It's a weird observation, but it's also true. We're kids before we're adults, which means our childhood selves have had a lot longer to influence us than our more recent incarnations. Our childhoods are the oldest, deepest parts of us. That's why it's so important to keep that time from becoming indistinguishable from adulthood.

It's obviously fine for kids to have some social obligations. But they also need the freedom to goof around and get something started, whether it's a project, a ballgame, or business. That's how they come into their own.

...
Posted by: Wren

Re: Children need free time to find their passions - 11/30/20 04:55 AM

If you watch the documentary on Cas Holman, it makes you think about the kinds of activities children are doing. Many of us grew up going into woods and fields and making "toys and tools" from what we found. We had to use imagination and creativity more. Holman makes her structures around the same concept since kids cannot go wandering around anymore. I think free time has changed and therefore impacts imagination. Hours on video games or just connecting on social media instead of being out and about. During covid, DD met one of her friends that lives in the hood, once a week to run along the boardwalk, and along the lake. Just to get out in nature. Just to chat like teenage girls do. I think the impact of a year of non socializing, and particularly with young children, not interacting and playing is going to have long term implications on society.
Posted by: Eagle Mum

Re: Children need free time to find their passions - 12/19/20 04:47 PM

Yes, I have found this to be true from experience. With my eldest, I listened to everyone else’s advice to stimulate a gifted child from an early age. She started violin, ballet & swimming lessons at age 3, athletics at age 5 and was the youngest member of her school chess team. She also had guitar & singing lessons. She excelled in everything although it was challenging for me to juggle these activities with my work so I was dismayed that by age 11, she pretty much lost interest in everything (though she continues to excel in academia).

I was so disheartened by her abandoning all her extracurricular activities after years of investment that I didn’t really bother doing anything for my younger two. The only activity I organised for my son (who is six years younger) was martial arts and that was mainly in the hope that he would develop some self discipline as his behaviour as a toddler had been very difficult to manage. He did however have full access to the internet. I was very surprised that despite not having the same formal lessons & coaching, he started to excel at the same things and surpass her achievements. He taught himself how to play & compose music (has won Eisteddfod prizes), play chess, speedcube and he researched and developed excellent techniques for swimming, running (different techniques for sprint & cross country) and field events. He is still quite passionate about most of his interests despite focusing now on academia as he is entering senior high school. I strongly suspect that the difference is ownership.

ETA: My youngest loves dancing. She doesn’t take exams but her aptitude & love for the activity is sufficiently evident that she usually ends up front row. Her dance teacher provides her transportation.
Posted by: Wren

Re: Children need free time to find their passions - 12/20/20 07:34 AM

I think exposure is key. The one great thing about using tech is that if you are in Iowa, you can explore marine science, you don't have to live near the ocean. But going out and investigating snakes and insects, is a valuable childhood experience, hands on to nature. I was telling my daughter about girl and boy scouts in the olden days. My brother building a dog house at age 9. Using tools, learning basic stuff. Of course, I learned how to make hospital corners making a bed -- interesting skill but still useful. All those little things. It may not mean much, but when programming for AI, you need to know the little things. All the things that can cross the path of possibilities. Like how to measure and cut wood, put together pieces, like what parts go first in a task. Too much is done already for kids now.
Posted by: Eagle Mum

Re: Children need free time to find their passions - 12/20/20 01:47 PM

Some passions can be pursued quite singularly including chess, speedcubing, knitting, certain sports etc. I really admire those who possess carpentry and other constructive ‘hands on’ skills, but I think it is mostly about each individual just having the free time to pursue their interest(s).

On this point, our selective school system which lacks catchment boundaries and the billion dollar coaching industry consume a lot of time in commuting and after hours classes. I read the media comments made by the student who topped HSC Maths Extn 1, praising the after school and weekend classes he took at a coaching college (he took classes for all of his HSC subjects describing himself as ‘a passionate student’). DS15 certainly did not want to spend his time at these places so we were all pleased with the 49/50 that he achieved in the same exam without sacrificing any of his free time (as an effective & low cost way of supporting gifted students, our local public high school has always allowed DS to compact curriculum material and work several grades ahead during scheduled class time based on his enrolment year).
Posted by: Wren

Re: Children need free time to find their passions - 12/21/20 04:44 AM

Chess, speedcubing, knitting, are all singular, indoor. I think the big thing lacking today is outdoors, exploring. That photographer, book is Humans in New York, then Humans, was an investment banker in Chicago. Lost his job and found out he was a great photographer. Just being out and about. My late DH and I have always stressed being out. DD says most of the kids in her class (of 120) don't go out, when they were all online in the spring. And half the class is still only online. One parent said, in our zoom parent meeting, that socialization was great, because in his kids' group of 15 kids, they were online with each other for hours every day, even going into the wee hours of the morning. How is that a good idea? A lot of those same kids do the after school and weekend olympiad school, similar to what you described. And similar to that group, one boy in 12th grade, just got in Harvard ED, being on the Olympiad physics and math teams. But what do you know of life? Most of the kids think they will do pre med. Because they don't know what else. I think being out doors since birth, is why DD is interested in deep, deep ocean robotics and marine science. Being on the ocean every summer. Exploring pools around the rocks for crabs etc. She would never know she was interested if she hadn't explored. And how many kids are applying to college with that interest? Those kinds of things help when they are choosing a diverse student body. Baking, sewing, climbing trees, putting an IKEA desk together. Most kids do none of these things.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Children need free time to find their passions - 03/19/21 09:10 AM

I agree that children need free time to find their passions.

Even in reading, I believe that for optimal development, children MUST be free to pick their own books.
Being free to make their own book selections allows children to:
- Exercise autonomy,
- Practice decision-making,
- Discuss & critique the book: what did they like about the book? Not like?
- Discover more about themselves, what do they like, what do they want to learn; they can begin to find their passions.

Unfortunately, it seems that having children write "book reports" has fallen by the wayside.
Are book reports still common in your area...?