Recently I saw an article passed around that advocated for more free playtime:
We went to school, but it wasn't the big deal it is today. School days were six hours long, but (in primary school) we had half-hour recesses in the morning and afternoon, and an hour at lunch. Teachers may or may not have watched us, from a distance, but if they did, they rarely intervened. We wrestled on the school grounds, climbed trees in the adjacent woods, played with knives and had snowball wars in winter—none of which would be allowed today at any state-run school I know of. Out of school, we had some chores and some of us had part-time jobs such as paper rounds (which gave us a sense of maturity and money of our own); but, for the most part, we were free—free to play for hours each day after school, all day on weekends, and all summer long. Homework was non-existent in primary school and minimal in secondary school. There seemed to be an implicit understanding, then, that children need lots of time and freedom to play.
All of this (with the possible exception of the time spent in recess) rings true for my childhood. The article draws a direct line between decreasing free play and increasing mental disorders (among other consequences). I had no problem connecting the dots between my 5th grader's homework load and the possibility he will have various problems when he grows up. But then I noticed something odd:
I’m lucky. I grew up in the United States in the 1950s, at the tail end of what the historian Howard Chudacoff refers to as the “golden age” of children’s free play. The need for child labour had declined greatly, decades earlier, and adults had not yet begun to take away the freedom that children had gained.
The author is actually in my parent's generation and I was raised well after the "golden age". So my own childhood, according the the argument made by the author, shouldn't be the model to strive for.
I'm not asking if children should have more free play (they probably should) or suggesting that the author's argument is wrong (I don't really know). What I'm asking about is how parents can make decisions about how to raise their children without being biased by nostalgia from their own childhood. How can we avoid the temptation to revive "the good old days" that just happen to have occurred (of all possible epochs) when we were our children's age?