"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

They're Just LAZY

Lazy: (adjective) averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion; indolent.

In the past couple of days, I have heard no less than half a dozen people use the word "lazy" in regards to their children, usually in the context of:

Oh my kids could never homeschool, they're too lazy. Or, unschooling wouldn't work for us, because my kids are too lazy. Or, I tried giving my kids more freedom, but they are just. too. lazy.

When I was in school, I was one of those students who did the absolute bare minimum I needed to do in order to maintain my honor roll GPA. I rarely did homework, crammed for tests the night before (or not at all) and essentially coasted through four years of high school. When I got home from school, I took a nap nearly daily. When I was done with my nap, I sat. When I was done sitting, I got a snack and I sat some more. Was I lazy? No, what I was was tired. I was mentally and physically spent from eight hours of tedious boredom, of being forced to sit through classes that did not interest me nor match my learning style.

A friend of mine, a very kind hearted and intelligent soul, had a terrible time in school. He was always failing one class or another, believed himself to be stupid, and had parents who continually chided him for being LAZY. "I know you could do better in school, if only you weren't so lazy." He wasn't stupid, and he wasn't lazy. He simply wasn't in the right learning environment for his needs. Today, this friend works 50+ hours in an upper-management position, and takes exquisitely good care of his house, his wife and his three young children. Does that sound like someone who is lazy?

Calling a child - any child - who is in traditional school lazy is categorically unfair. Maybe the child is bored. Maybe the child is unchallenged. Maybe the child is interested in something else. Maybe the child learns best in a different fashion than the "norm." Maybe the child is simply a round peg trying to fit into a square hole, and maybe the child is flat-out exhausted from any or all of the above.

As for children who are unschooled? Equally unfair, for a multitude of reasons. When given the freedom to live and learn, all of us... children and adults alike... will vacillate between periods of work, and periods of play. Times for physical activity, and times for quiet reflection. Moments of labor, and moments of rest. These activities may lead from one to another in the course of a day, or a week, or a month, as a person's needs and seasons change.

Not fitting into someone else's current idea of "productive" is not laziness.

We can't open people up and see what's going on inside of them. Those quiet moments, those "lazy" moments, may very well be huge times of growth and learning for the individual going through them... whether that person is watching TV, playing a computer game, reading a book, or sitting in a chair and staring at a wall. When my children are choosing to engage in a period of "downtime," no matter how long it may last, I don't deem them lazy any more than I deem myself lazy if I spend an hour catching up on Facebook, or watch The Biggest Loser instead of cleaning the kitchen counters, or get so involved with other projects that I let the laundry sit in the dryer (or sometimes the washer) for three days straight.

I don't doubt for a second that when a person is truly given the freedom to choose that 1) a period of what may look like laziness is in fact a normal, and healthy!, part of the learning experience, and 2) that it will be followed by an equally normal and healthy period of what society deems as productive work... whether it's physical labor, problem solving, reading, writing, researching, or creating.

Unschoolers work hard and play hard. They recognize that learning and living are not two separate things, and that there is knowledge to be gained from all situations (even the ones that may look to an outsider like they are doing "nothing.") And at the end of the day, being able to embrace that realization is very much the opposite of laziness.

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