For homeschoolers, the idea that kids should have down time just being kids is pretty easy. After all, there are 14 waking hours of the kids' days and for school kids 10 of those are spend dealing with school stuff. Homeschoolers don't have that. They can do unstructured play all day long.
But I'm not sure that's the best idea because then kids are not exposed to things they wouldn't seek out on their own, in their small, home-based world.
Unstructured play would be heaven for me. If I could just read a book while they played all day I'd be so happy. But I don't think I would have learned anything about how the real world really works.
And in my house, today, I have found I have three barriers to big chunks of unstructured play:
1. Brothers fight. If you leave two boys together to do whatever they want, they will start fighting. The tension of waiting for them to fight is nearly unbearable to me.
2. My younger son hates playing alone. He is just fundamentally wired to want to be with people all the time. So unstructured play alone just kills him.
3. My older son has Asperger's and would be happy being alone all day. So unstructured alone time for him is dangerous: if I allow it all the time, he won't learn to socialize.
This means that I am constantly having to fight against my wish that we could all just do whatever we want, peacefully, all day long.
And I'm starting to think that as parents become disillusioned with the idea of putting kids in school eight hours a day, they will also become disillusioned with the idea of unstructured play—it's just another, overbearing extreme.