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Practical Homeschooling® :

Never Bored Again

By Sam Blumenfeld
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #49, 2002.

Slackers or just bored?
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Sam Blumenfeld

Do you have a child who really sees no point in doing anything, who simply can't get started, and would be satisfied to play video games all day if you permitted him to do so? Do such kids exist in homeschooling families? From what I've been told, they do. I've been asked to provide some suggestions in dealing with such a child.

When I was growing up in the 1930s and '40s, I was never bored. I loved reading and filled my free time with Bible stories and adventure novels for young boys. I loved to draw pictures, roller skate, listen to the radio, and write poetry. There was always something to do. Even though I had friends, I never needed them to entertain me. I walked to museums on my own because of my interest in history. I had an insatiable appetite for knowledge. So, the idea of a young boy in America disinterested and bored, succumbing to the monotonous inanity of video games is something hard for me to understand.

If he is a child in a large family, his parents may not be able to give him the amount of attention he wants. And since he is not a self-starter, he will not do anything unless guided by his parents who may be too busy with their other eight children.

So how do you get such a child to appreciate the fact that he is alive in a world full of marvelous things to become interested in?

My first question is: can the boy read? If he can read, then why doesn't he find some good books to read? Get him in the habit of browsing a library and looking for something interesting to read. If you have a good home library, so much the better. Give him books you have read, and discuss them with him.

My second recommendation is to get the child to learn to play a musical instrument. Piano, violin, trumpet, drums, any instrument that will engage the child's interest. Mastering a musical instrument takes time, effort, much practice but can provide much enjoyment. It is a very useful way to use time because the knowledge and skills acquired will provide a lifetime of pleasure and may even lead to a profession in music. Also, being able to play an instrument will bolster the youngster's self-confidence.

Knowledge games can also challenge a slacker child. I often play Geography Quiz with a friend's teenage daughter, and she enjoys the challenge. History Quiz ought to stimulate an interest in the subject. Or, how about philosophical discussions? Ask the slacker what is the purpose of life. You might get a surprising answer and a lifelong interest in philosophy.

Hobbies are a good way to get a child interested in something other than mesmerizing video games. Collecting stamps may not be exciting enough for some kids these days. So how about collecting autographs of famous people, or baseball cards, or old coins (even a slacker is interested in money!). Then there are crafts. Your local mall may have one of those arts and crafts superstores. Drawing, painting, sculpturing, calligraphy, flower arranging, basket weaving, sewing. You name it, they've got it. Or how about photography? Get the youngster a good camera or a camcorder. Encourage him to make a movie of your family. Or get him interested in making tape recordings of his grandparents who may have all sorts of stories to tell about the family's history. Or get him interested in writing the family history. For that matter, if he loves computers so much, teach him how to program, not just to be a consumer of programs.

It is said that the slacker child is simply a product of today's pervasive cynical culture. He is totally passive, waiting for someone to kick him in the rear. He lacks a zest for life. Well then, have him take up cooking and baking. Learning to cook can be an enormously interesting endeavor. He'll then take an interest in what you buy at the supermarket or at the farm store. Have him learn about different cuisines: French, Italian, Chinese, American.

In general, the slacker is bored because he himself is boring. He can't hold an interesting conversation, has no in-depth knowledge beyond that pertaining to his games and videos, and is content to fritter away the gift of time God has given him. He can only become interesting if he himself becomes interested in something. But if he is interested in nothing, then the video game is a perfect way for him to forget how boring he is.

Of course, every child needs the attention and guidance of his parents. The summer provides opportunities for camping trips, tours of historical sights, and visits to friends and relatives in distant places. Travel can open up all sorts of interests. Be imaginative with your would-be slacker. If you want to wean him away from the video games, you'd better provide a more compelling substitute.

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