Unschooling, it’s so boring…

Boredom pic

Boredom in three parts

Part One

Kids let you know when something is boring them. This morning, I was showing my 8 year old son, Jahli, those beautiful cut out paintings by Matisse.  I thought he would like them.  He likes art (for now).

I started talking to him about Matisse and he was on my lap and he went floppy and starting making growling noises. At that point I knew I was boring him.

You know when you are boring your children if:

They have that ‘I am really bored look’ on their faces.

They start yawning, a lot.

They go excessively floppy.

They are spinning around the room.

They are changing the subject.

They are pulling at your nose and saying ‘waka waka waka’ when they are pretty much old enough to make themselves a cup of tea.

They have walked out of the room.

When you see these signs, learning is not happening, something else is. Boredom.

I curtailed my Matisse chat and he actually went on to make a Matisse-like cut out monster. Which he decided to do on his own, only once I had left the room.

I then asked him what he wanted to do. He wanted to fry an ice cube in oil. We fried the ice cube in oil. He then wanted to fry a pancake in the ice cube water. He did. He was riveted. I have to really teach myself to say ‘yes’ when every part of my conditioned self is screaming ‘Nooooo!’ I mean who fries ice cubes?


Part Two

I think that boredom is so important in the everyday-ness (if that is a word) of things. Days can be boring, if you choose them to be. Learning to cope with boredom is a huge life skill in itself. When the kids float around saying ‘I am bored’,  I do my best not to fill up that bored space which they have chosen to inhabit. Because I think that they need to have that skill for themselves, the skill of being by themselves, on their own and knowing that it is o.k or actually that being alone and having absolutely nothing to do can be a great and wonderful thing. Or to let them learn that they can choose to do something about it and go and connect with someone or something.


Part Three

If I feel boredom approaching, as I spend another week with the kids without much adult interaction and find that there is only so much children’s chatter I can surround myself with. I choose to make a plan, I choose to do what I am trying to teach them. Firstly to accept boredom happens, or else to do something about the fact that I am feeling bored with looking after the kids and unschooling. I plan to go out and do something, I make a boundary around my own projects, I connect with people, I go for a walk. Not every day with children is incredibly riveting, There are days where I feel frustrated and irritable. But I try my best to practice what I preach about boredom in order to be better for myself, my family and ultimately the kids. I am still a work in progress on this one though…


About the Author

Lehla is an illustrator and an author of books, she has written for The Guardian. She trained as an actress at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She wrote The South African Illustrated Cookbook, The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women and she illustrated a kid's book by M.J. Amani called 'Excuse Me, I'm Trying to Read' and also 'I am Me, You, Us and We' by Caroline Trowbridge. Above all she is a mother to three fast growing kids, she juggles her time between them and working on new books and projects. She has recently co authored with Anthony 'Jump', Fall, Fly - from schooling, to homeschooling, to unschooling' Her art work can be seen at http://lehlaeldridge.wix.com/lehla-

6 Enlightened Replies

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  1. hattiem88 says:

    This is a great post! Very relatable. Boredom is something people need to deal with themselves. Also jahli frying ice cubes, I’m kinda interested how that turned out.

  2. It was an experience frying ice cubes…Thanks Hat x

  3. cafemielgirl says:

    “When you see these signs, learning is not happening, something else is. Boredom.
    I curtailed my Matisse chat and he actually went on to make a Matisse-like cut out monster. Which he decided to do on his own, only once I had left the room.”
    This is another reason unschooling is brilliant! in the public school classroom – the instructor/teacher/facilitator cannot leave the room… and you just feel that some students WOULD work at something great if only given the space/time/freedom to do it. unfortunately the wiggling and lollying about of say ten or fewer children is much different from the fussing and moaning of 29 11 year olds all at once.
    – i taught in a grade 5 classroom for 1 year. the end. will not return to public education.

  4. Thanks for your comments, yes 29 11 year olds is a different story!

  5. Someone once said to me – ‘There’s no such thing as bored, only boring people’. I have bored my children with this quote whenever they have complained of being bored 😀
    I’ve also driven them slightly nuts by exclaiming how lucky they are to be bored! To have nothing to do means you can do anything at all! Oh to have nothing to do! Wouldn’t that be fabulous? xxx

  6. My Dad used to say that to me all the time!