An intentional lack of ‘structure’

We don’t have a ton of structured stuff going on in our lives.   And it’s not by accident.

“Kids need structure” is a phrase that is used in defense of all sorts of heinous behavior and I have come to loathe it.   Kids need only freedom to roam, think, play and pursue their interests.   Parents are the ones who usually need the structure.  It makes them feel they are in control.  Control is a big deal in our society.  Adults are supposed to have it all the time.   It’s what compulsory schooling is all about, i.e. keeping control out of the hands of kids and in the hands of the ‘authorities’.

Not surprising, is it, that I have a problem with this way of thinking?

The untrained eye might think there’s not much going on in our house some days.   In fact, some days that might be right, but who says we always have to be in the midst of some highly productive, educational and structured activity or project?   Americans are so hell bent on being productive that we have completely lost the ability to relax, do nothing and chill.   Did you know that our brains actually function better when allowed some time to daydream?   I have no link to give you here which will back me up, but think about it.   How many times have you heard someone say they have their best thoughts in the shower?  Or while walking on a treadmill, or even doing something repetitive like crochet?    And why is that?   Our brains LOVE down time.   They start shooting great ideas out like popcorn as soon as they are given the opportunity.   Try it, if you don’t believe me.  (But of course you can’t THINK about it.  That’s the point. You have to not think for it to work.)

So overscheduling?  Nope, not us.  My kids take classes they want to take.  Period.   My days of coaxing them into something they are lukewarm about are over.   Lots of money & time wasted that way.   I’ll happily pay more for classes they choose – like Art and Spanish.

And so what do we do the rest of the time?  We do a lot, actually, though, as I said, it might not seem that way to the untrained or casual observer.    Maya can often be found in her favorite chair, headphones on and laptop in front of her.  ”She just sits and watches stuff?”  someone recently asked me.    Hardly.   She is usually watching video clips and editing them together into a new project, or learning from on line Sculpey tutorials.   And yes, she spends time chatting with friends on Facebook or having video chats with friends from New Zealand or Indonesia or England or Chicago or the Phillippines.  (You see video chat – I see travel opportunities!!)

And that’s not nothing.

Ben, on the other hand, sings.  To himself.  All the time.  And plays.  With Lego, or Hero Factory guys or paper.  Whatever strikes his fancy at the moment.  The other day he opened a ‘store’ in our living room and charged 50 cents for the drawing of your choice.   Maya requested a drawing of our cat Cosmo riding a dragon and eating salt water taffy.   And she got it.

No, we don’t take a history class, or science, or ballet, or gymnastics or any of those things.   Just Art and Spanish, like I said.   We don’t spend our days wandering the galleries of the Met or the Natural History Museum or MOMA.   We stay up late and sleep late.   We have a very loose morning routine that all of us cherish and that we protect from everything but travel.   The kids are discussing the possibility of a cartoon drawing class to be taught by our neighbor who is a published author and an amazing artist.   Maya has interest in a photography class in the Spring if we can set one up for homeschoolers at our local JCC.

Life is easy, good, and happily unstructured.

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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One Response to An intentional lack of ‘structure’

  1. maria says:

    This sounds remarkably like my house with a husband who works from home, and me staying home with our babe. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard him say, ‘I could never work in an office because…’ with this same argument you laid out. Could there be value in the Spanish tradition of siesta? I’d argue, absolutely!