Thursday, August 19, 2010

"I'm not going to do Nothing anymore. They don't let you." Christopher Robin to Pooh

I have been thinking a lot about raising children today, and have been raiding the library for books such as Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting, Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds, and Parenting, Inc.. These are just a few of the parenting books I have read this summer, but they are some of my favorites. Probably because they all speak to what I have been seeing with my friends and family members who are parents of young children today.

I naively thought before I had children that this type of hyper-parenting today was only present in families with two working parents. After all, they have limited time to be with their kids and they want to make the most of it, right?   But I was completely wrong. This culture of "I want to have the smartest, happiest, most well-rounded kid" affects us all, even the moms who stay at home in little Texas towns. 

Milne Shepard tried to kill off Winnie-the-Pooh in The House at Pooh Corner

"Yes, Christopher Robin?"
"I'm not going to do Nothing any more."
"Never again?"
"Well not so much. They don't let you."
This quote is so bittersweet to me.  I have so many friends raising kids who never allow their family to do Nothing. Every free minute is planned with homework, soccer games, piano lessons, Spanish lessons, television, shopping, etc.

This also effects the families with stay-at-home moms or dads. Look around my country neighborhood and you usually won't see any children playing outside, even those young ones at home with a parent. No children catching crayfish in the ditches, no children playing a spontaneous game of baseball, and no children sitting under a shady tree reading a good book. 

These kids are at mother's-day-out, music lessons, math tutors, playing organized sports, swim lesson, horse-riding lessons, art lessons at the museum, watching baby genius videos, and shopping at the mall. I know stay-at-home moms who are more exhausted than working moms because their life revolves around trying to entertain,  socialize, and "smartalize" (my word) their kids.  Smart children are a status symbol now. 

I also was naive in thinking that most mothers who homeschool do it because they want their kids to learn in a relaxed environment. I decided that if you taught at home you could spend some time studying frogs in the pond at your neighborhood park and learning Spanish from your native speaking neighbors and not have to worry about spending half of your day riding the bus, learning for meaningless No Child Left Behind standardized tests, and taking classes that have no use in real life.

I decided to go to an introductory meeting on a very popular homeschooling method in my area. They use the classical mode of education, and I decided they would be a great support system for us.

Everyone there was not only incredibly nice, but the parents and children appeared very intelligent. Shockingly so. In other words, I felt like a hayseed...

However, these intelligent parents who were giving up their free time to educate their children were not interested in their children doing Nothing. Oh no, these parents wanted to make sure their kids had the best education and would be very successful in their future high-powered careers. They wanted smart kids.  And smart kids don't do Nothing because they don't have time.

I realized I was in over my head right away. One parent, a mother of two little children, asked if her 3 almost 4 year old could start the program because he was very advanced. A program that is meant for 5-6 year olds. They said absolutely if she thinks he can stay still.  I have a 3 year old and the only time he sits still is when his brother tapes him to a chair.  Seriously...

Another father who wanted to start his older middle-school children in the program was most concerned about their chances of getting into Ivy League schools. Many of the parents perked up when they heard this because many of them had gone to Harvard and Yale or other "good" colleges and wanted the same thing for their kids. Luckily these parents were assured that studies had shown that many of the students who went through this program did attend the top schools and become very successful.

But it was a comment from one of the teachers in the program that really hit home with me. She told a story about how her two year old had every street name memorized around their house, and if only she had been aware back then (before she started homeschooling), she could have started teaching him math rather than "useless" street names.

Finally they had each new parent talk about the ages of their children and when they started homeschooling. Most of the parents had two kids and they started homeschooling at 2 or 3. These parents were intelligent, kind and very enthusiastic about their children.   Honest good parents who will do anything for their children.

Then it was my turn. I blushed and said "I have a 3 and 5 year old and I haven't started homeschooling yet because I think it is more important that kids play when they are little. They have plenty of time for school later on".

Oh my, the room got quiet. The parents and teachers gave each other knowing looks because it was obvious they had an underachieving parent in their midst. After all, their looks said, children are born to learn and are very bright from day one, so why would any parent waste that time doing Nothing with their child?  

Yes, my children often do Nothing. They can't tell you all of the presidents in order, speak Chinese, read Latin (or even English),  or tell you the history of the world from day one until today.  My youngest won't even say his ABC's unless I am out of earshot.  Shockingly, I don't think formal learning should start before a child is 5 or 6.

My children spend most of their days doing Nothing. But Nothing in our house can be pretty exciting. Nothing is playing in the mud, helping Dad drive the tractor, playing card games, watching the chickens chasing insects, reading books in the library, going to the hardware store with Dad, learning how to fold laundry, helping cook dinner, feeding their cats, playing with their friends, hanging out with their older relatives, building elaborate marble slides with found objects in our house and creating their own art. 

Sometimes Nothing is not so fun and might include sitting in their room quietly because they were doing Nothing and upset mom.  Like writing POOP on the bathroom wall with a Sharpie.

There are many times Duke comes to me and says "Mom, what can I do, I am bored!". A part of me wants to turn on a nature program on TV or perhaps give him some cool art kit to work on. But I suck it up and look at him and tell him that he could help me clean the toilets, they are pretty dirty. He usually decides to go find something to do with his brother, but sometimes we both get down and dirty cleaning.  Being bored in our house almost always leads to creativity and sometimes even a clean bathroom. 

You probably noticed the strange paper objects in the photo on top of this post. A few days ago Duke was bored and I told him to do an art project. I was working on lunch and didn't offer to help.  He pulled out some paper, pipe cleaners, staples, and a hole punch and made that raft on the right without consulting me once. Imp made the boat on the left side, also completely on his own. They were so proud of their creations.  And they actually usually love doing Nothing.

I have realized that being a parent can be hard work at times.  But it doesn't have to always be that way.  It doesn't matter whether you work outside of home or stay at home or homeschool or private/public school your kids, you can always find time to do Nothing with them.  Tell yourself that allowing your children to be bored can force them to learn how to be creative and entertain themselves.  Nonstop motion is stressful for you AND your kids.   We all need some Nothing time. Even when we grow up and leave Winnie-the-Pooh behind.  ;-)

I would love to hear your favorite Nothing you like to do with your kids!


  1. Thank you so much! I don't feel alone anymore. I have been feeling so very guilty this summer because my kids days have been reading, playing video games, watching TV, and occasionally playing with each other. We don't have neighborhood kids for them to play with since we moved this summer and I work from home so it is up to them to find something to do. "I'm bored" was met with me giving them a chore to do (they are 11 and 8). But I still feel guilty that I haven't found them something to do everyday.

    And during the school year, they have school and school work, football and soccer in the fall, and nothing. I feel guilty that I can't homeschool them - but it doesn't work for us for many reasons and I would probably feel guilty for 'not doing it right'.

    I think you are so right, kids are too scheduled and there is no time for them to be kids these days and while some days I feel guilty I'm not an overachieving parent pushing for overachieving kids some days I don't and I am so glad to hear someone else say the same thing!! THANK YOU!

    I hope you have a good experience with the group you found (maybe it's just the awkwardness of first time meeting) or find another group that works better for you. Congrats on being able to teach your kids yourself!

  2. We do Nothing all the time at my house! And that's my standard answer for "I'm bored!" too :). I have the toilet cleaner and brush all ready to go, LOL! My 10 year old dd thought it was hilarious the first couple of times, and then figured out I meant it!

    I love your ideas about learning. They coincide almost perfectly with mine. Sadly, none of my friends/homeschooling acquaintances think the same. We don't get to play much with others because they are all busy. Every minute of the day busy.

    Oh, well. I guess I'll go back to doing Nothing. Which right now includes holding my baby while he sleeps :).

  3. Becca, you are not alone! Stop feeling guilty, you are being a great mom.

    And AJ, I want to do some of your Nothing. Holding a sleeping baby is a perfect example of Nothing.

    And I agree, it is hard to find good mom friends because everyone is always so blasted busy these days.

  4. I would love to homeschool my kids (I work in public education) but I can't...we need the income. Here is an interesting article you might find enjoyable.

    I rarely let my kids have "screen" time, but encourage them to do anything else. We built a playhouse from scratch this summer (which cost an unintended small fortune...I was saving up for a new LENS!) and they were right beside us doing "nothing." But that nothingness gave them ideas. My oldest (8yo) wanted to build something so I gave her a small hammer, nails and scrap wood. She built the most unstable, uneven bird house you have ever seen, but learned a whole lot from it!

    My kids afternoons are NOT filled with activities that I have to drive them to.

    I like nothingness...

  5. Your post was a breath of fresh air. I can't home-school either, my kids are 11,5,and 3. All summer, Mom, what are we going to do, it's so boring! Play on the trampoline, run through the sprinkler, play on the tree swing. They spent more time outside (when it wasn't 120 out) then most kids we know. The Xbox conveniently broke, while I was too busy to get it fixed. It's still broken, even today. More parents need to let their kids run and play, invent games, etc. I've got a great collection of pinecones my 5 year old collected, artwork on the fridge from my 3 year old that she is so proud of, and new tricks that the dog learned this summer from our 11 year old. Our Nothing is creativity, invention, and being together. It's so great. Thank you for drawing attention to Nothing. It's hard to find nowadays!

  6. It's so nice to see my family's lifestyle written out! We do Nothing, everyday. And love it.

    I homeschool two out of my three kids - though I strongly believe the two year old is learning more than I realize just by osmosis - because I believe that they learn more, better, and still have time to live and enjoy life because of it.

    Life is good here at my house! Because we do Nothing.

    As an aside, I have found a wonderful community of moms/families here that have the same life philosophy. I truly wish this wasn't such a oddity.

  7. Your kids will learn more important skills that they can use in everyday life from doing Nothing than they will from any math book or baby genius video. Common sense and problem solving can't be taught in a book or by a tutor, but by playing!!!!! Kudos to you for realizing this, now I am going to go play with my kids :)

  8. What an AWESOME post. I so agree that kids need time to PLAY... even though it looks like they are doing 'nothing', they are learning and developing constantly. So many times, chool robs them of individuality and creativity.

    I loved this.

  9. A blog friend of mine posted this on her Facebook wall. Ahhhh! A kindred spirit! I've been reading Mary Pride's book For the Children's Sake and Home Grown Kids (a bit over the top for me, but they really like the idea of starting school later, rather than early). Earlier this year my sister was showing me her 3 year old's art project. I laughed, saying, "Oh, that's cute, someone tried to write Jacob's name as if he was writing it" (sloppy kid writing). She was taken back, "Oh no, he wrote it himself!" .... My 4 1/2 year old can only write 2 of the 6 letters in her name. At first I felt bad, but then I realized, I'm letting her learn! It just isn't conventional school as we see it. I'm so sick of people sending my daughter "presents" in the form of FLASHCARDS and learning coloring books (learn your letters, your numbers, your shapes). I just want her to color! And paint! And jump on the trampoline (that EGADS has no safety fence!)! And dress and undress her doll 800x in the next hour! I have no plans to start conventional sit-down school until at least 6. Well done Mom!

  10. Rita, thank goodness for people like you, kind, intelligent, and raising amazing kids. The world needs more of you.

    In one of my previous jobs as a Nanny for a family of "no minute left undone" the kids were exhausted, over wrought, and just plain wanting some down time. But they couldn't have it as every minute was scheduled.

    I fondly remember my childhood of doing much Nothing. It nurtured my creativity, spurred my willingness to learn, and shaped me to be who I am today. I don't regret it one bit.

    Keep doing what you do, your children will never regret the times they got to imagine, and create. It will serve them well whether they are the CEO's of Fortune 500 companies, or the Headmaster of a private school.

    And thank you for sharing all your knowledge of PS, your textures, and your tutorials. They too come out of a mind that had some time to just "be".


  11. Silly you - you have been "home" "schooling"! Lets see, the chickens- that was science, hardware store sounds like shop to me, library - reading, playing with friends - recess, and cooking was home economics. Dang it,if you aren't letting your kids do Nothing!

    My kid didn't do the math they were supposed to this summer, and I don't think either of them read a thing save the Mountain Dew Throwback can ingredients... and I homeschool my kids!!! I was just telling myself I was un-schooling for the summer ;)

    Whatever. You don't have to answer to anyone, well except maybe your state that requires testing after they are seven. That's the beauty of homeschooling. We can all march to the beat of our own school bell and it all comes out in the wash. I'd find another group that's more supportive is this one if it's too snooty!

    But writing POOP on the bathroom wall with a sharpie is cause for concern - unless of course it's a left over reward for potty training :D I let my kid put a train sticker on the tiles every time when he was potty training. So it's whatever works for you and your family.

    Let them enjoy being 3 & 5 for pete's sake, there's plenty of time for book work later!! They'll be fine and you'll do great - you're off to a good start :)


  12. I love this post, Rita. I stay at home with 2 girls, 2 and 4. You have released me from the guilt of doing "nothing" as well as the stress of always trying to find something for them to do and I am now seeing it in whole new light. Thank you! As soon as my girls wake up from naps I think we are going to try "nothing" out :)

  13. Oh, I know the look you're talking about! My kids are in school but I didn't send any of them to preschool and when the teachers hear about it I get "the look". It's good to give kids time to play and do nothing, far more important than always being busy. It is during those moments that creativity and imagination flourish and without that we would all be lost. They will have plenty of time to be scheduled when they're adults. Good for you for appreciating the importance of a real childhood!

  14. Woo hoo for nothing! What a great post Rita!
    Although I don't home school (always been my dream), and my boys attend private school, they do nothing but play outside, climb trees, draw, color, help with chores and cleaning around the house, ride bikes, take the dog for runs, play games, swing on the tire swing, build with blocks and legos, fall into the creek trying to catch things, build forts, stare at insects, and grow gardens. We don't have TV.
    Once years ago when the oldest was 7 we signed him up for summer soccer...they had one match in 3 months. When he was 9 we let him join the baseball team, but his coach was racist (our boys are adopted) and never let him play. We took him off the team and that's been it!
    They both occasionally ask for piano lessons or karate lessons, but so far we haven't agreed to it. We are 2 busy working parents and we think that "family" time is more important right now. Soon enough they will be out on their own and can enrich their minds anyway they want.

    They are also 2 of the strongest children I've ever seen (physically). When complete strangers ask me if my 5 yr. old "works out" I tell them that he climbs trees, the hardwood molding in our house, the walls and anything else he can. I also tell them he's vegetarian! LOL
    They look at me like I'm insane and I just giggle! Playtime is so short, and so is childhood. I say them them be kids as long as possible, because they will be adults for the majority of their lives.

  15. Ladies, I commend you for being those Moms who can relish the experience of doing Nothing with their chidren and realize that it is in reality one of the greatest life lessons they can give their children. Coming from the perspective of a mom who is currently raising a 6 year old after raising three other children (now 21,20 and 18), I can tell you that doing Nothing is one of the most important things you can do for your children. When my oldest three recount the greatest memories of growing up, it's not about the endless practices for baseball, football, basketball, cheerleading, etc. that I dragged them around to so they could be "well-rounded, well-adjusted" children. It's not about the piano lessons or guitar lessons that I thought would increase their sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. It's not about the way they were encouraged to get good ACT scores so they could get into good colleges and get good jobs. No, they recall the times that we did Nothing together. I never would have dreamed that they would remember something so mundane as the day we made hand-painted T-shirts with pictures of tigers on the front. Or the times we sat and watched airplanes land on the runway at the airport, coming so close to where we parked that the planes looked like they would land on our heads and sending us into shrieks of terror and elation. Or the times when they played tag and hide-and-seek with each other during some of their Nothing time, creating a bond of friendship that lasts to this day. So don't let anyone ever make you feel unworthy or unskilled as a mother when you choose to allow Nothing time for your children. The time you have with these angels is so fleeting and so precious, so spend every minute you can with them. The world gets them much too soon no matter what. I have had an extremely fortunate opportunity to get to do this all over again, and I think that this time I treasure the moments even more since I have seen how quickly they go by. And I can assure that my little girl will have plenty of Nothing to do! Thanks for the nice post Rita. I love your site and have learned oodles from you. I look forward to learning more!

  16. Not sure where I fit in to the mix, but I'm a formally trained teacher who taught 1st and 2nd graders for several years and kids NEED nothing time! It's the best way to *smartalize* your kids if that's your goal.
    Nothing time encourages creativity, problem solving and independence!
    Amen to your topic today!!!

  17. Thank you so much... this made me tear up to know that I am not the only one who feels this way!! It is hard to find people near where I live who feel the same as I do... I SO miss our house in the country because I miss the kids just running and playing outside and exploring... I was just saying to my husband yesterday that the summer was ending and we didn't even come close to doing all the things I had dreamed of doing at the beginning of the summer, but that I thought it was OK that we didn't -- we just hung out together and did Nothing. Family Nothing time is SO my favorite. And I cherish it because our 3 are growing so fast and who knows when Nothing time won't be so easy to come by anymore... Bless you, Rita! ;-)

  18. I am learning more from these comments than any book from the library. I love reading them!

    I also love that I have so many kindred spirits out there that also enjoy doing Nothing with their kids.

    It is difficult at times because there is so much pressure on us to raise "perfect" kids. But I hope that there will be an uprising where parents stop and realize that we need to let our kids be kids when they are small.

    And you absolutely don't have to homeschool your kids or stay at home with them full time. That doesn't make you a good parent. It really is just as simple as just spending some of your free time with them doing Nothing.

    Wendy is completely right, my most fond memories of my childhood are the most simple moments with my friends and family. Fishing in the back creek with my grandmother, raking leaves and jumping in them with my dad, digging in the dirt to China with my sisters.

    The best part about doing Nothing is it is completely free. You just need to set aside the time.

  19. You know, I'm afraid to homeschool cause everybody makes it sound so hardcore.

    Good post. Good sense!

  20. Wonderfully written post! These days I feel like I'm in the minority not having my kids involved in everything. My oldest goes to private school and my youngest to preschool, but that's about it. I make sure homework is done and that the work is understood, but then it's family time. Our Nothing time includes playing outside with our pets, exploring on our 7 acres, singing and dancing, etc. My kids get Nothing time everyday and have to find something to do. My Nothing times are some of my fondest memories growing up and I want that for my kids too.

  21. i love this post! i homeschool and my kids do a lot of nothing. i don't put them in activities because i think they need to learn to get along with other children. i don't drill them on addition facts when they are five because i'm too lazy. i don't even teach their abc's, i figure they'll hear the song eventually and catch on.

    we have lessons, but i give my kids plenty of free time to play. my oldest is going to be 13 and she still likes to make tents, mud pies and drag out the legos. i have 4 kids and they play together. they imagine, they paint, they spend time outside.

    sometimes i feel guilty that i might not do enough. i think they aren't as smart as other kids and then i remind myself that's not my goal.

  22. Yeah to all the Moms who do Nothing! I also agree that this builds problem solving and creativity in the mind!

    I find myself fondly remembering pinning playing cards to my bike spokes, taking my art supplies out to a field to paint the black eyed Susans, catching lightning bugs, and making blanket forts as the most wonderful of childhood of memories.

    I was so grateful my children were not into sports, so we did not have to live our life around someone else's huge schedule of non-important ways to spend everyday. My husband teaches guitar and says one of the saddest things he sees are over scheduled very tired young adults. Especially boys who must be involved in every sport to please the father.

    Let the children live and learn how to do things on their own. When they have a passion for something, you will know and can let them try it out. Then they will do the work because that is what they really want to do.

    Great post! Playing! What a concept! We all need to play more! You girls rock!

  23. Oh my gosh! What an awesome post! Rita, you are a great writer and that belonged on a homeschooling blog and a parenting blog. Well done!!!

    Hey, my kids know "Nothing" intimately! ;-)

  24. This is such an excellent post. We do lots of nothing. I have homeschooled for 8 years now and have an 8th grader. This will be her first year where she has a full load of subjects. But my 8th grader will play with her sisters, dress up, play little house, paint, craft, crochet, and make all kinds of things. She can be a mommy's helper, help with chores, and volunteer to serve. All because we do so much of Nothing. I believe creativity will get them farther than math facts. (and yes, we learn our math facts, sort of)

  25. Hey Rita,

    I've never left a comment on your blog, but I've been loving your work for years now. Sorry about that. Anyway, I'm a photography-loving mom of an eight-month-old little girl who hopes to homeschool one day. Not because I want her to get into an Ivy League school, but because I grew up with a mom who believed in the importance of doing Nothing too. We started out in public school, but our teachers were always annoyed because we missed school quite often. You see, my mom believed we learned more outside of school than inside. We eventually left permanently.

    Funny enough, my mom homeschooled my brother for kindergarten (or whatever one does with a five-year-old....watching frogs sounds good to me), and within a few days of first grade, his teacher called my mom to ask what method she had used because he was so advanced. My mom was like, "um, we read some books and went for nature walks."

    So anyway, I could talk about the importance of kids doing Nothing for days. The creativity and self-motivation it encourages will serve them well into the future. And, in case anyone cares, we did get to the classics eventually, and had wonderful evenings of debate around the dinner table. And all three of us kids got into very good schools (one a military academy), so you don't have to worry about that either.

    Have fun!
    - Beth

  26. Beautifully said! Enjoy those children--they will have years of too much to do, but the "nothing" they do now is what will make them interesting, happy, lovable people.

  27. I enjoy reading your site.Your site was extremely interesting.I think you are so right, kids are too scheduled and there is no time for them to be kids

  28. I agree with Wendy. Enjoy the nothing days because they go by so fast. My two children are 16 and 14. Our schedules are bound by homework, football games and volleyball games. And, when my teenagers are not busy with school activities, they are hanging out with friends. I long for the nothing days again. They are the best memories your children will have.

  29. We use the classical approach to homeschooling too but are more likely to spend the morning doing nothing than having "class". I homeschool 7, #8 is only 2. I don't start "school" until 6 or 7, with the exception of the 5 year old twins I have now. They were crying because they didn't have a book to write in, so I got them one. We don't do hardly any extra curricular activities, don't have the time or the money. Boredom at our house has led to my oldest making stop action films with his legos and camera, my second to be an amazing artist, my middles to make lego creations and then do technical drawings for instruction on how to built them. I didn't suggest any of that.

    It will be work to choose differently, but I'm also happier than many moms I know.

    BTW, we do have a couple of public school friends (my oldest's best, and my second's best) and their mom's have found a way to let the kids "do nothing" too. It can work no matter where they go to school.

  30. What a great post! As a mother of a 19 month old I totally agree with you! I want to make memories for my little guy at home just hanging out doing nothing!

  31. May I say that my kids were pretty good at Nothing when they were young! (They were also pretty good at cleaning toilets and other such inside and outside chores.) I was a stay at home mom and we did not have formal education until kindergarten but we did have informal education - we talked about food in the grocery store, geography when driving, numbers and letters on signs, etc. They are now 28 and 25. They scored close to the top on their ACT and SAT tests and got lots of offers of acceptance and scholarships from a variety of universities, have now graduated and are making lives for themselves (they can also cook, clean and mend their own clothes). They seem to be happy and healthy and have great memories of their childhoods!

  32. Oh my goodness...what a GREAT post! And, you're not alone out there. My kids do Nothing all. day. long. Every now and then we'll have a playdate here or there, but honestly, I love it when I go to their rooms or outside and see a new tent all set up, or the dress-up clothes all out or games being played. All I did as a kid was Nothing, and I want the same for my kids :)

  33. Children are only young ONCE. I feel like we should let children be children. I know as an adult sometimes this big world is just too much. And small children can be easily overwhelmed, wht add to the pressure. When I was a child there was no race to do all of these activites. You were a kid. And I feel liek being able to just be outside & experience life & explore is all the education my 4 & 2 year olds need. My 4 year old will start preschool soon, but he will be 5 in January. So he will be starting school next year. I wish we could home school, but it is not possible with our current set up. But I do think any Mom who home schools is AMAZING!

  34. Thank you for this great post. I did Nothing growing up, and my husband and I are determined that our (hopefully coming) kids will have lots of opportunities to do Nothing!

  35. Homeschooling should be about the child discovering what excites them. Pushing curriculum and pushing them too hard will kill their passion. So good for you for doing nothing, we do the same thing. I think it's great because your child will seek out the things that he loves. Thanks for this post.

  36. What a great post. Learning is so much more than a classroom, and the most important stuff really does take place when there is Nothing to do.

    I read a couple of books that helped me better understand what makes boys tick: "Bringing Up Boys" by James Dobson and "Wild At Heart" by James Eldredge. I definitely use what I learned reading them with my two teenage boys.

    Both of them are very different in how they learn and what they like to do. One is in resource classes with an IEP and the other was taking college courses as a Sophomore last year. Both of them, however, always have a lot to do when there is Nothing to do. I think that creativity and problem-solving are more important than anything else they will ever learn in school.

    Even more important than this? Making sure that both of them know that my hubby and I are their greatest champions and that we will always support them and have their backs, no matter what.

    You're doing a wonderful job with your boys, and they are blessed to have you as their Mom.


  37. Applause...applause! This was a wonderful post. I am a working, older daughters are much older than your children ~ 19 and 16. I'm happy to say when they were little, their "nothing" was playing with the kids in the neighborhood. I was thrilled that my daughters were able to run and play outside with friends....just like I did so many years ago. Even though I worked, as soon as we arrived home after work and school (and on the weekends), the other children would be ringing our bell ~ wanting them to come out and play. I can remember looking out my door and watching as they ran from one house to another....laughter filling the air. I often wondered if I should have structured more activities like some of the other parents..but I can honestly say I don't regret letting them have their childhood.

  38. What a great post. My 4 kids are all grown or college age now (youngest just left for college). Our favorite Nothing has always been sitting around reading books. Everyone just seems to gravitate to a book any time they want some downtime or just about any rime for that matter. As they grew up we had "stuff" around all the time - a big art area in our garage filled with found and recycled items that they could use whenever and do whatever - always seemed to have other kids there too! Lots of bikes, rollerblades, balls etc.
    I think the one thing they missed out on that I had was the ability (safety) of being able to just go "outside" in the neighborhood and play with whoever was around til dinner time every day. (I grew up on a military base in base housing so super safe). The world is different today but kids still need to be able to just play and make up their own games and rules. You learn how to negotiate, be creative and just enjoy other people doing that. There are way to many uncreative adults out there and our school systems don't encourage creativity at all - a shame. OK I'm done rambling. As ypou can tell I am passionate about this too!

  39. THANK YOU for this post--it was so encouraging to me. my boys are only 1 and 3 right now, but soon i'll need to make a decision about homeschooling--if i will go for it, and then what method to use. i feel SO strongly that many children are over programmed and just need some down time to be kids. get dirty. learn by doing in the backyard!

    right now, our "nothing" is tasting the different tomatoes and peppers growing our garden and the various wild berries growing along our creek. they are at such great ages as far as mimicking and learning what mama does all day long. they "help" with cleaning, cooking, other daily-rhythm type stuff.

    i love our way of doing things, but i must admit sometimes i feel the pressure to get my kids out and about, to not miss out, to learn something formally...but really, they are FINE and THRIVING. i need to slow my brain and my worry down and read some of those books you mentioned to affirm my convictions!!!

    thanks so much!

  40. Rita,
    Although my child is grown, I remember the organized play, sports, and other activities that were almost mandatory because of peer pressure. I think that what you are doing is the best. Children are happier doing "nothing" at least for a time during the day.
    I think it is partially fear that drives parents to schedule activities where people are around to watch over them. All you have to do is turn on the tv to see that children have been abducted or worse. In my neighborhood the houses are far apart and there are not many children. There is no way I would have let my daughter go ride her bike by herself like I used to do in the "50s and 60's.
    It is a sad world...things were more black and white, like our tv, then.


  41. What a GREAT post. Amen to everything you said!! Now get back to doing Nothing. :)

  42. I totally agree! I have 4 boys - ages 19, 16, 4 and 2. I have learned with the first 2 that children need time to be children! Oh how I wished I had held my son from school one more year - I have learned and son #3 will not be attending the 4 year old kindergarten until he is 5, and then we may just decide to home school. Oh my the looks I get! Oh well! What's wrong with children being children. They have all their lives to be over achievers!

  43. I know you aren't LDS, but we get the opportunity every 6 mos. to hear our beloved leaders speak to us and give us counsel. I think you will really like the first half of this talk given last year. It's right along with what you are saying here. It's to mothers...mothers of young children.

  44. Amen girlfriend.... amen. Well said!

  45. I'm with you, Rita! We're just getting ready for another homeschool year and Nothing is a big part of my curriculum. I go through bouts of guilt because we do a lot more Nothing than most kids. But in my heart I know we're doing great things in our house and that my guilt is just the result of pressure and from comparing myself with others, which is just plain wrong.

    And, not to brag or anything... ok, a little... my kids are pretty smart. "Advanced," even. But I believe that's mostly because I give them time to THINK. And we talk a lot about stuff, read books together and pretend things all day long. Pretending to invent new machines, building with Legos, learning to empty the dishwasher... these are all more important in the early years than being able to count by 7s. All in good time.

  46. As a public school teacher, I definitely see the effects of parents who never work with their children at a young age. With that being said, I have a 3 year old who will also not perform on cue. It's so hard to get him to "prove" to others that he really is on target with his learning. But you're completely right in what you're saying...why do we have to prove anything? We know he's learning AND he's being a kid. That is what's important! Thank you for reminding me!

    Also, I have been stalking your blog for sometime now, and finally got the guts to download an action or two (or more...)...and I have to say a BIG THANK YOU! These are amazing. Thanks for sharing! :)

  47. Thank you! We are in a situation with two cousins of the same age as our son and the family pressure can be overwhelming. It is so good to remember to be at peace with your own instincts.

  48. We thrive on doing "nothing"!! It's amazing what can be accomplished when you are doing nothing! haha

    I have homeschooled my son for 4 years. We just took our first formal standardized achievement test. I have always used a relaxed approach in homeschooling and taken the time to study what HE is interested in...not whay I WANT him to be interested in. Well, I was so giddy to see that he ranked in the 97% on the test.

    So there ya have can learn alot while doing "nothing"!

  49. Whoohoo! So good to hear other moms who agree with this too! My husband is a Methodist minister and I work full time, so doing Nothing is my top priority. I don't want to miss any little moment if I don't have to! Love chasing my girls around with my camera as they do Nothing...those are always the best pictures anyway! As a matter of fact we are doing lots of Nothing today, going to the library and riding bikes! Thanks for posting this!

  50. This is the BEST post I've read all week. Really. I couldn't have said it better. NOTHING is actually the beginning of EVERYTHING. Thank-you for posting this.

  51. I love this article and Pooh is my Hero! I homeschool my girls (12 and 6) oldest is dyslexic youngest a leukemia survivor. I love Do nothing days....and I get how you felt in the HS meeting. I get that mainly from my friends that don't homeschool though, such as what about getting into college, socialization, and don't they have to take the TAKS etc.

    They have one activity lucky for me they both picked Tae kwon Do. My oldest does go to Dyslexic Therapy but that is a have to, not because I want her to get into Yale (would be nice to get into a good school)but I would like her to feel confident in her studies. So we are at home most of the time, they have imagination, can play by themselves and make up the most wonderful games. I also get the I'm Bored but its amazing that all you have to do is get the chore list out and they quickly find something to do.

    So I say keep doing what your doing if it feels right, you won't please everyone and I've been following your blog for quite awhile now personally I think your doing great!

  52. Thank you. Thank you. Thank You. Oh and, Amen Sister!

  53. Mothers of kids who are allowed to do nothing unite!

    I'm a SAHM of a 19 month old. We spend our days doing nothing and we're proud of it! I think it's much more fun to do nothing and slip lessons in when the opportunity arises rather than constantly trying to force my daughter to learn. She knows her shapes, some color and even some letters so I can't be doing too bad by her.

    Thanks for this post, loved it!

  54. Love your post! We live in the country so my 3 boys only have each other a lot of the time to play with. We have literally done NOTHING all summer but in the process have learned what every imaginable bug in southern TN 9 yr old catches everything and yearns to keep it alive so we have to "research" what they eat and feed it to them. Thankfully, I have convinced him that one day in the glass jar is enough and then we need to let them find their "family". We also have watched the meteor showers and had many conversations about the huge universe! Boy, that brings up some interesting topics! I love that my boys aren't on the go all the time. They are learning about what's important to them- bugs and planets!

  55. I refuse to do preschool. I want my kids to just be kids while they are young! My oldest started 1st grade this year. He never did preschool. And guess what-he's just fine!!! He reads and writes and does math exactly like a first grader should!

    My younger two, still at home, will also NOT go to preschool.

    And I have in fact been considering home school for the very opposite reason. We don't get out of school here until 4:00! After homework and dinner and bathes and chores that leaves ZERO time to just be a kid! And I thought that maybe if I home schooled we could get through the work faster so he can have more time playing!

  56. What a great post! I haven't done too badly, I think, at doing Nothing with my older son, but you and your boys' boats have inspired me to encourage him to do Nothing on his own more often.

    Would you be interested in submitting this to the Classical Homeschooling Carnival?

  57. It's so nice to hear a common sense kind of mom like me out there! I too have started homeschooling my kindergartner this year. And one of my favorite things about it is I have the time to focus on what's interesting HIM. Plus we can skip right past the stuff he knows and only focus on what he NEEDS. Consequently, we only spend about an hour at "school" a day. But I know he's learning all day doing Nothing.

  58. Just today, I discovered your blog because my 15 year old daughter and I were doing "nothing" as we explored her growing passion for photography. This passion can't be graded or quantified, but it has brought her into relationships with adult professionals in this field. She is working with them and has earned their respect for her as a young colleague. She has picked up PSE on her own, pursued photography assignments on her own, and worked to pay for every bit of her D90 and other equipment on her own. This part of her education can't be measured on a standardized test, but it is shaping who she is, and will serve her all her life.

    My daughter is also patiently teaching me photography. I am legally blind, but can see enough to at least try. Our relationship has always been good, but right now, our season together is better than I could ever imagine!

    We have been homeschooling our three kids for ten years and I have gone from hyper classical overachiever, which led to stressed out and meandering slacker. Thankfully, we are now settled in the "nothing" environment you so wonderfully write about in this post. My kids read everything and write expressively, and they grasp the most important math concept - if you can't afford it, don't buy it. Most importantly, they know they are loved by God and their parents.

  59. We have regular "pajama days". It's amazing what fun you can have wearing PJs. The fact that we aren't dressed to go out, really helps us stay in and enjoy our day puttering around the house. After all, going out would be too much work!

  60. Oh YEAH! One of the few things I remember from a child development course I took in college is that "play is children's work". SO important that they just have time to play. I figure I only have one life to live and I do NOT want it to be running all over the place all the time. I have nine children (ages 6 mos-15) and I work REALLY hard to keep our schedule as uncluttered as possible so we have TIME to enjoy things like cool fall days, reading books, drinking hot chocolate, etc. Thank you also for all the photography help you've put out. I have recently picked it up as a hobby and your blog has been SO helpful!

  61. This post continues to inspire me. I linked to it in my latest post, also about doing Nothing.

  62. I loved reading this and so inspiring. My eldest is 3 and has special needs and his had 16 major surgeries including open heart. Sure he could sign his ABCs, colours and 123s in American Sign Language (he's partly deaf) before he was 2, but gordammit, my 2 year point blank refuses to learn sign and will shine in his own time. I had so much downtime, nearly a year in total with my 3 year old (we've just out of the ER and home now) so we always had time to just sit and books are his thing. The pressure I agree is intense at times so rather than open myself up to the pushy mums clubs, my youngest now attends my 3yr old's old special ed programme.. sweetly at the role model (that he won't eat his lunch whilst they do is immaterial). ;-)