Even Older Kids Need Play and Outdoor Time
I've been homeschooling my kids for 5 years now and one thing I've learned is that play still goes a long way toward helping them do well in their studies. When they are getting antsy, can't focus, and are in general being difficult, I have found that it's usually their body's way of manifesting the need for a play break.
This may sound counter intuitive. Indeed, many schools take recess from kids who are having difficulty focusing and sitting still. This is the exact opposite of what should happen to such kids. Do I believe that kids should learn to complete work and tasks? Yes. But I also believe that movement, play and being outdoors MUST be incorporated into the school day.
Think of it like this. How many of you enjoy attending meetings? How long can you sit through a meeting and maintain 100% focus? How long before you start shifting in your seat, playing with a pen, opening a book, and otherwise employing methods to keep yourself alert (or at least to appear as though you are alert)? As the meeting drags on, how long does it take for your eyes to glaze over and you begin fighting the urge to fall asleep?
Now image you are in that meeting for 6-7 hours per day, every day. Image if you were denied an opportunity to take the bathroom and leg-stretching break that everyone got to take, simply because you were caught nodding during the meeting or because you temporarily lost focus. Instead of getting the break, you were forced to endure additional meeting time. Then, after your colleagues return from their break, fresh and ready to attend more meetings, you have to continue through the meeting, while being expected to be as alert and fresh as your colleagues.
Finally, image that after enduring this eternal meeting, day after day, you were then expected to go home and work for an additional 1-3 hours.
This, unfortunately, is the life for many kids attending school. When thinking about homeschooling, many parents feel like they should recreate a school environment at home by having them sit for long hours in order to "get everything done."
My advice is this. Whatever your homeschooling method, be sure to allow free play and outdoor time to your kids every day, regardless of age. The need for play and time in nature has been shown to reduce attention deficits, to calm hyperactivity and increase focus.
Watch this video on more of the benefits of play and time in nature.