Busy work

What does being busy mean to you?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, Charli Mills asks readers to contemplate that question, wondering “Is it a danger or a joy to become so busy?”

She then challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a busy character. It could be a busy beaver, gnawing birch trees endlessly or an executive on the go. Go where the prompt leads.

What about a busy toddler? Toddlers are some of the busiest people I know. And they are generally quite joyous in their busyness, demonstrating the true meaning of being in the present moment.

girl smelling flowers

For me, being busy is a joy when the activities are of my choice and for my purposes. I have no need to find things to keep me busy. There is more I wish to do than I will ever have time to complete. I resent tasks that keep me busy and away from what I’d rather be doing. But even in the busyness, there still must be time for fun.

As a teacher, I was never in favour of setting children “busy work”, preferring instead to provide opportunities to progress learning. By busy work I refer to meaningless tasks with the sole purpose of keeping children quiet and busy. They may involve things such as copying a passage of text or completing a worksheet unrelated to either learning goals or needs; tasks that offer little to either interest or challenge children, and certainly no fun. Now, while there is nothing wrong with having some downtime in which to relax, daydream and imagine, keeping children busy with meaningless tasks has none of these benefits.

busy bee of the week

Having said that, I used to call my class The Busy Bees. We had a Busy Bees chant and Busy Bee awards. In fact, there are 20+ Busy Bee themed teaching resources available on readilearn. How the busy work of busy bees differs from classroom “busy work”, is that it is purposeful and productive, not busy for the sake of it, and whenever possible, lots of fun.

For my response to Charli’s challenge, I thought I’d stick with a busy toddler.

leaves incoming

Never too busy for fun

After days of endless rain, the chorus of birds and bees urged them outdoors. Mum bustled about the garden; thinning weeds, pinching off dead flowers, trimming ragged edges, tidying fallen leaves, enjoying the sunshine. Jamie, with toddler-sized wheelbarrow and infinite determination, filled the barrow, again and again, adding to the growing piles of detritus. Back and forth, back and forth, he went. Until … leaves crackling underfoot and crunching under wheels, called him to play. Jamie giggled as armfuls scooped up swooshed into the air and fluttered to earth. Mum, about to reprimand, hesitated, then joined in the fun.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

31 thoughts on “Busy work

  1. Pingback: Not Now, I’m Busy « Carrot Ranch Literary Community

  2. Hugh's Views and News

    I’d hate not to be busy, Norah. Even when I am using the vacuum cleaner, I busy myself with thinking up short stories or ideas for posts to write. The vacuum cleaner may protest when I have to leave it to write down those ideas, but ideas can get lost in the business of the day, whereas the vacuum cleaner can still come out and do its job the following day. I think I’d much rather Jamie’s way of being busy in the garden. Making busy being fun is what it’s all about.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Hugh. I’m pleased you weren’t too busy to call by and share your thoughts. I agree, I think Jamie’s got the right idea. But like yours, my mind is always pretty active too.

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  3. Sarah Brentyn

    Argh. Busy work. My little one was probably…five or six when he asked if I was giving him “busy work” instead of “real work” that he could learn from. It was kind of funny. 🙂

    Your flash is the absolute best “mom moment”. Ever. I, a few times at least, turned to reprimand one of my kids and was like, “Eh, to hell with it.” Joined in the naughtiness and fun – throwing things or pillow fights or eating a cookie before bed. Yup. Greatest memories.

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    1. Norah Post author

      How perceptive (and very cute) of your little one to know, and express, the difference between real and busy work. We can’t put much over kids. We sometimes think we can, but that’s only when we don’t let them have a voice.
      You know, Sarah, I wrote the flash thinking of you dancing in the rain, and I thought to myself, “What would Sarah do?” I’m pleased you loved it – you inspired the conclusion. I wish I’d done more of that. Thank you. 🙂

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      1. Sarah Brentyn

        Hahaha!!! What would Sarah do? 😀 I laughed out loud at that! Ah, Norah. Too funny. I’m so happy to have inspired you. ❤ I did love that flash and, yes, I have jumped in puddles, been soaked in the rain, gotten into a pillow fight with my kids, jumped on beds… Ack! I'm pretty strict so I do have to break loose every once in a blue moon (for my sanity and theirs). Plus, it's just so fun.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I knew I had you pegged! What is life for if not to have fun? I remember years ago telling my Mum that a friend said I took life too seriously. She said I didn’t take it seriously enough. Which probably explains why I’ve had to work so hard at releasing the chains to make life more fun. I still have far to go.

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  4. Charli Mills

    Toddlers are masters at being busy! But I think their busyness reflects what you say here: “For me, being busy is a joy when the activities are of my choice and for my purposes.” And you’ve caught that experience in your flash. I like that Mom joins in.

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  5. Pingback: Keep ‘Em Busy or Facilitate the Best Busy-ness #TeacherMom – HonorsGradU

  6. Patricia Tilton

    Such a sweet and busy story. I don’t believe in keeping kids busy. They need the time to explores, play and just be a kid. Because we were working parents, my daughter didn’t have the fun, imaginative and play-filled childhood I had in the 50s-60s. I have many regrets. Great post.

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    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      We don’t need regrets, Patricia, though it’s hard to let them go. We do the best with what we have and what we know. How could we do otherwise? I’m pleased you enjoyed the story. Thank you for your kind words.

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  7. Christy B

    Being busy with fun, as in the case of the toddler you wrote about so well here, is great 🙂 Being busy with endless tasks that provide yourself no feeling of joy is less than ideal. Great post, Norah, and I’ll share around my social networks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Annecdotist

    Ah, what a lovely flash – it so encapsulates the preamble about the business of children. When I came to the phrase “called him to play”, I wanted to protest that Jamie already was playing, but in his mother’s hesitation you bring out that important difference of perspective. Children love to help but their goals can change so readily. The challenge for parents and teachers is to follow the child’s lead and not insist on work without play.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for you lovely comment, Anne. Completing this flash, or writing it at all, was a struggle. It was hard work. I didn’t expect it to be but for some reason it kept me busy for more hours than I wished. I’m pleased it worked in the end. I appreciate your thoughtful interpretation.

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