Have you ever wondered what life is like for your child? What do they hear and do every day? Do they experience silence? How is life different from when you were growing up?
Our children have everything at their fingertips. They don’t need to wonder if there are poisonous snakes in Canada, they can just “Google” it and find out. They don’t need to read a magazine, the world is brought to into their lives with all the nature shows. Our children are kept busy from sunup till they fall asleep, with no silence, and a large part of this time can be on screens if we are not proactive about setting an environment of discovery and curiosity.
I remember how as a child the summer vacation loomed in front of me like endless days of doing nothing. Days were occupied with wandering, hiking, swimming, exploring, playing endless games of monopoly, making villages in the dirt with my sisters, and doing chores for my mother. I don’t think I was ever bored, but nobody planned my days for me. Life was filled with experiential learning, exploration, and of course an endless supply of good books. If I ever so much as complained about being bored, I would be put to work in the garden pulling weeds. (I learned quickly to say nothing.)
After a few remaining busy weeks of school, your child will embark on their summer vacation. What a great time for families to bond together. Try going camping without any devices, and see how fun it is to stare into the fire for hours, telling stories. Or unplugging at home for a week as a family without planning anything to replace the screens, and see what happens. Is this even possible now?
I started reading a book called “The end of Absence: Reclaiming what we’ve lost in a world of constant connection” by Michael Harris. Harris writes that our generation is the only one that will have experienced life before the Internet. He argues in his book that the greatest loss is of silence, wonder and solitude.
Simon and Garfunkle sang about this several decades ago in their famous song “The Sounds of Silence”. Here are some phrases from the song:
“Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk to you again……in restless streams I walked alone. narrow streets of cobblestone…people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening…people writing songs that voices never shared…no one dared disturb the sound of silence…”
We need to embrace the good of our technological generation, enjoy the devices we have, and at the same time guard the sounds of silence. Treasure the time you tuck your child into bed, and listen to the frogs croaking outside. Stand guard when your child feels frazzled and overwhelmed by all the activity, and pull the plug on an activity replacing it with a nature walk. Watch a spider spin his amazing intricate web! Laugh and run through the freshly cut grass in the spring rain. Let the words not be loud and cluttered in your child’s life, but “fall like silent raindrops.”
This is especially true for our children with learning challenges, who experience sensory overload every day in the classroom. As Michael Harris says in his summary, “Every technology will alienate you from some part of your life. That is it’s job. Your job is to notice. First notice the difference. And then every time, choose.” This includes noticing for your children, as they don’t have the discretion yet to choose! This means as educators and as parents, in the classroom and at home, we must make room for silence, wonder, and solitude.
Need ideas for what to do this summer with your kids? Check out these previous blog posts for ideas!