Boys In School: Antsy, Desperate — And Deprived of Recess

This wonderful Huffington adrbnddaaf
Post essay by Holly Robinson
describes her 6th grade son’s misery in school. It sounds so much like my  fifth grade son’s misery, it made me realize that maybe his “school = lethal injection minus the yummy last meal”  attitude  just may be generic.  Having been a girl all my life, I didn’t realize boys could be so out of synch with the whole classroom  thing. I thought everyone  aspired to to  Teacher’s Pet-for-Life.

Guess not.

Anyway, the part that really gets me — in my son’s life and in Ms. Robinson’s  essay — is that when kids are so bored and miserable as to be disruptive, the punishment of choice seems to be: No recess.

Which makes about as much sense as trying to rehab a thief by taking away his day job. Now what’s he going to do?

Probably not start re-organizing his five-subject binder.  So here’s to good old-fashioned recess: more of it, not less.  

(And if we could work on more essays about history or art or  science instead of endless  “personal narratives,”  that would be lovely, too.  I swear, the New York City public schools are teaching kids to blog! But that’s for another rant.)

Yours on the cusp of summer –  Lenore


79 Responses to Boys In School: Antsy, Desperate — And Deprived of Recess

  1. bookishpenguin June 18, 2009 at 11:52 am #

    Yes, PLEASE – more academic essays! I teach college writing and am overloaded with students who only know how to express their own opinion, not objectively analyze or even accurately describe/sum-up something without it being all about themselves.

  2. Stephanie June 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    My daughter gets the “no recess” punishment for being too active in class, and I’ve always thought that was counterproductive. She’s very active, and would also probably do better with more active learning.

    It’s tough for schools, no doubt. Having everyone quiet and in their seats is much easier on teachers in many ways, but it’s not the right learning style for all students.

  3. Thad Moren June 18, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

    Yet when the teacher next door to me has kids do push-ups for misbehavior…he gets written up for corporal punishment. LOL

  4. LindaLou June 18, 2009 at 4:12 pm #

    I don’t know… I think that older kids (5th and 6th graders) should be able to refrain from disturbing the class enough to get their recess taken away. I’m very free range and don’t personally believe in punitive discipline at home, but what do you think school teachers with large classes ought to do when you child is disturbing the reast of the class? Last year my daughter’s 5th grade teacher had a large class with a high proportion of disruptive kids and it was so horrible that we ended up switching both our elementary aged kids to different schools because of it. Disruptive kids shouldn’t be able to ruin class for everyone else.

  5. ebohlman June 18, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    LindaLou: Nobody’s saying that disruptive kids shouldn’t be disciplined, just that depriving them of a chance to release energy isn’t a productive way of doing it.

  6. Wendy June 18, 2009 at 6:47 pm #

    As a teacher I am reluctant to give a punishment of no mid morning break because it punishes me as well. I am the one who has to supervise the children.
    It means I don’t get to go to the bathroom, make a drink leave, the classroom.

    Also it means that those very children that need to let off steam etc don’t get to.

    Here in UK there is a move in a lot of schools to cut breaks down to the absolute minimum because of the amount of bad behaviour of the playground but children need a break from the class and the teacher as do we from them.

    I honestly don’t know what the answer is, teaching is getting more and more difficult here because a small element of children cause so much bother.

    We have learning mentors etc wo take those children for small group work on interpersonal skills etc but the good kids in the class just see this as reward for being bad. Schools here operate a “positive behaviour system but it does seem that these children are being rewarded for behaviour that used to just be expected when I was at school.

  7. Andrea June 18, 2009 at 7:44 pm #

    Why are they being disruptive? Is the material so uninteresting that they are trying to tell the adults with every ounce of their being that they aren’t interested? If they were able to verbalize that, would anyone listen? Are the boys allowed any time to explore their interests, because their interests are often physical, technological, and “gross” to the girls (not ALL girls)! I have 2 boys. I am well acquainted with reading body language. Disruptive is an adult term meant to convey “they are not doing what *I* want them to be doing” which is really misleading. My boys, and their friends, will take in a lot of information if they are jumping on a mini-trampoline, but absolutely nothing if they are sitting in a chair. The chair becomes a distraction, as they fall out of it, turn it sideways, squirm. I don’t for one moment think it is the kids who need changing; kids are kids, and are letting everyone know (by the vast numbers of problems and disabilities they are displaying these days) that the system is broken. Period. Don’t change the kids, open yourself to see there are other ways to educate a child. I went through both public and private schools with my boys before I pulled them out, put my career on hold, and started homeschooling. We just finished year one, it was awesome! Life changing. Amazing. And they aren’t disrupting anyone anymore.

  8. Umm Yum Yum June 18, 2009 at 7:48 pm #

    My boy does get to go out but then gets reprimanded for having TOO much fun. My son does have issues with spacial awareness and so does tend to behave like a busy bee and bumping into anyone in his radar unfortunately.

  9. Tana June 18, 2009 at 8:17 pm #

    I read about one high school class where desks were replaced with podiums, and the misbehavior level plummeted. Just having the ability to lean on the podium, rock from foot to foot, etc, gave the kids a huge boost in their ability to concentrate and learn (grades went up, too). I’m not saying elementary schoolers should be forced to stand all day, but a podium with a stool of the appropriate height to give kids a choice might be a good start. Schools as they are basically set our sons up for failure. I know home schooling isn’t for everyone (kudos to you, Andrea!), and even though it is for me, I’d like to see positive changes for boys in the educational system as a whole.

  10. crossgirl June 18, 2009 at 8:18 pm #

    Oh, oh, oh! This is one of my most favorite rants! At our elementary school,where there are no sidewalks so you must ride a bus or be driven, if you get to school before the absolute start of class, you may not play with your friends. You must sit against the wall outside of the classroom and be quiet. They only have P.E. twice a week. Recess is reserved for kindergarten only. After the students finish lunch, they remain at their lunch table, quietly, until it’s time to line up and file back to the classroom in an orderly fashion. There is no playing with your friends after school. When kids get home, it’s frequently to an empty house where they must entertain themselves indoors. These kids are ready to explode! Of course gum is not allowed in school although any release of energy would be a good thing for everyone. And people wonder why so many children are medicated for being “hyper active and distracted” and why so many others are overweight. They’re doomed. On the bright side, they do get a field day once a year!

  11. Josh June 18, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    Andrea — couldn’t agree with you more. This year our oldest received many, many more “below average” marks from his teacher … almost all of them for (what she considered) inappropriate behavior. This never happened in the year previous (or in any year previous for that matter). Not surprisingly (to me, at least) he was much, MUCH more engaged last year — when his active-ness was viewed positively rather than negatively — than this. Yes teaching is hard; but I think many teachers end up making it harder for themselves (and their students) when they can’t figure out how to engage students effectively and then blame students for actions that result from being bored. School doesn’t have to be boring, as previous teachers have proved (and despite the “back when I was in school you had to sit in straight lines and keep your mouth shut; i turned out fine, so get over it!” attitude that sometimes creeps up (and i admit, it creeps up on me, too).

  12. Andromeda June 18, 2009 at 8:30 pm #

    One of the fourth grade teachers at the boys’ school where I used to teach decided, as part of her prep for the Boston Marathon, that she’d take her class out for a mile run every day. She found that she got as much academic content covered as she ever had — though they spent less time in the classroom, the boys were more focused during that time — and they liked that they could run a whole mile and watch their times improve with practice. (And this was a school where they had gym almost every day, and a short recess every day.)

  13. Kenny Felder June 18, 2009 at 8:34 pm #

    I apologize to those of you who have heard me say this before, but Waldorf Schools offer solutions to a tremendous number of these problems. They offer a classical European education in many ways–when my daughter started in the 9th grade at a public school after eight years of Waldorf, she was the only one in the class who already knew anything about the French revolution–but they also recognize the importance of a lot of physical activity, arts, and music. (Disclaimer: I don’t work at a Waldorf School or make any money if you go to one. I just send my kids to one, and love it!) I have an essay on this if you’re curious to learn more,

  14. Kenny Felder June 18, 2009 at 8:36 pm #

    Argh! If you click on the link in that comment I just posted, it won’t work, because the software is interpreting the period at the end (which I just meant to end the sentence) as part of the URL. Here it is again without a period, I’m really sorry about this:

  15. Andrea June 18, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    Kenny, I agree, Waldorf has some good qualities – delayed emphasis on reading, lots of physical activity, music and how it relates to math. The reason I didn’t go there with my boys is the negative attitude toward computers, gaming and technology. I believe our children should be allowed to find out where their interests are, rather than be told something is *bad* for them. I love to provide opportunities for more exploration, not limit them or make them feel badly about something they are really interested in.

  16. the Rebbetzin June 18, 2009 at 9:15 pm #

    Having 2 boys, I am so familiar with the “boys get screwed” theme. Here are 2 books I read that helped me be a better advocate for my sons: The Wonder of Boys, and The Minds of Boys, both by Michael Gurian. The brain research on how boys learn is fascinating (RE the comment about all the desks being replaced with podiums – where is that? I’d love to know what school that is.). Normal developmental boy behavior is often construed as misbehavior. Helping teachers understand this is really hard, because they are often overwhelmed with too-large classes and multiple discipline issues, making sure each kid gets what they need . . . the list goes on. Many teachers are also not open to parent advocacy.

    And now I know why my son (and my husband!) bang their pencils on the table and shift from foot to foot while reading 🙂 It actually helps them learn!

  17. BMS June 18, 2009 at 9:29 pm #

    I would much rather they disciplined my sons by say, making them run laps, than making them sit still. We have been blessed so far with a school that finds ways to accommodate active kids while still maintaining order. But sitting still for long periods of time is never going to by my sons’ modus operandi.

  18. ebohlman June 18, 2009 at 9:53 pm #

    Josh: the standard knee-jerk response to “school doesn’t have to be boring” is “kids can’t be entertained all the time.” The proper response to this is that the opposite of boring is engaging, not entertaining and that true engagement means working very hard and not even noticing how hard you’re working.

    One can’t help wondering if those who think learning in school should be as boring and unpleasant as possible really want to inculculate an aversion to any learning beyond what the Powers That Be require, in order to make people more docile (this isn’t necessarily the case, but one does wonder).

    A few decades ago, we realized that our education system was serving girls poorly because it was aimed at preparing them to be housewives and secretaries, and we overhauled it, making things much better for girls. But, IMHO, we neglected to notice that our system for educating boys also needed an overhaul; it was, and still for the most part is, geared to preparing them to be infantry soldiers and assembly-line workers.

  19. Anna B June 18, 2009 at 9:58 pm #

    One of my favorite books is Raising Cain:

    My husband read it and said, “W cannot go to traditional school.” One of the teachers in the book is at an all-boys school. He had tremendous success with his class, and his answer was similar to the podium solution: he never made them sit down. They had lab-style work tables, and they could stand, swing their feet and move as they please AS LONG AS they were not interfering with others.

    The whole one-size-fits-all ideas of traditional education just don’t work for me.

    Rebbetzin: I love everything by the Gurian Institute. It has helped me appreciate how gender makes my kids so unique!

  20. Jen June 18, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    As someone who’s headed to teacher’s college this fall I find articles like this fascinating and the comments very helpful. Last summer during a special week long intensive course at my university we discussed how many of the worlds’ systems are broken, from the gov’t to education and healthcare and the way we interact with and view the environment. I’m hoping that I can make positive change to the (Canadian) education system by becoming a teacher, while at the same time my husband homeschools our son.

  21. Elizabeth June 18, 2009 at 10:31 pm #

    @BMS I completely agree, have them run laps!

    Children (not just boys) need outlets for their physical energy, which is early boundless. Depriving them of recess is just going to make everything worse.

    Here are two pieces from the NY Times about recess and it’s importance that are good:

  22. jenny June 18, 2009 at 10:59 pm #

    The elementary school my two boys attend has a much better policy toward boys and recess. If the recess needs to be taken away as a punishment, they still go outside but instead of free play they walk the track around the playground. So they are moving their bodies and getting some exercise, just not free play exercise. I think it works great! (And my boys have walked that track many times…)

  23. Anna B June 18, 2009 at 11:05 pm #

    For me the greater question is this: Instead of punishment, which has been shown to be one the least effective methods for behavior modification, what is being done to help these kids develop the problem-solving skills they need to make better choices?

    Punishment is quick and easy, but it does not typically yield the desired results. I would be interested to learn how colleges instruct teachers with classroom management for “disruptive” children.

  24. Angel June 18, 2009 at 11:28 pm #

    My son is only an infant right now but from reading this it made me think back to when my older brother was in elem. school. When he would cause problems the solution was to take away his recess. Then in the afternoon he was worse. It took my mom going in for conferences with the teachers many times and stating that they were not allowed to take the recess away. He needed that time to blow off energy. If he was causing problems please send a note home and she would take care of it. After a few weeks he seemed to calm down and didn’t cause the problems in class. My mother found work for him to do whenever he brought home a note. Pulling weeds, mowing with the push mower, picking up garbage and he was grounded for the night and not allowed to go anywhere.

    Also one of the schools tried a new class out a couple of years ago with kindergarteners. It was a class consisting of only boys. There were many parents interested in this because the teacher was going to make the class a more hands on and active class. The parents against the class were concerned that the boys wouldn’t be actively interacting with girls and therefore wouldn’t know what was appropriate behavior. The boys still had recess and lunch with the girls just the learning environment itself was only the boys and the teacher. The boys seemed to excell at learning this way.

  25. wendy young June 18, 2009 at 11:40 pm #

    All I can say is HOMESCHOOL. My daughter gets recess when ever she needs it (or I need it). She also does the school work that I believe is important not some board or committee.

  26. Jen June 18, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    I would be interested to learn how colleges instruct teachers with classroom management for “disruptive” children.
    They don’t; they throw them out, plain and simple. If you dont’ want to sit and listen to your prof or have discussion with your classmates, get out. If you’re paying thousands of dollars to sit in the chair and attend classes, the least you can do is not be an ass about it. The professors and doctors who teach college and university courses deserve the basic respect of an adult’s attention during class and if the adult can’t give it, they can leave.
    Once a person hits college or university they’re not a kid anymore, they’re an adult who have the same responsibilities as the rest of us. There’s no excuse for ‘bad behaviour’ or disruptiveness during that kind of class.

  27. Angel June 18, 2009 at 11:58 pm #

    I think she meant how are the students that are going to college to be teachers instructed on how to deal with disruptive children.

  28. Darren June 19, 2009 at 12:00 am #

    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog.

  29. Rich Wilson June 19, 2009 at 12:12 am #

    How about having them use their recess to help clean the playground? For that matter, why don’t kids in detention help clean the school? The closest I’ve ever seen was cleaning gum off the bottom of desks as punishment for chewing gum in class.

  30. teacher June 19, 2009 at 12:31 am #

    As a teacher, I would LOVE to find a way to allow students to pursue those areas that they are interested in – it would make my job easier, because they would be more engaged. BUT, since I work in a public school and teach a specific subject, there are very specific State Standards that mandate in a pretty detailed manner what my kids must know by the end of the year. Fortunately, I have a lot of freedom in HOW we learn those things. The goal is always to approach things in multiple ways for different types of learners – not all boys are kinesthetic learners! That said, with 25 7th graders, including 5-6 students identified for a variety of special education services (including behavioral) sometimes, I have to decide that some methods just won’t work with a specific group of kids. I am not a big fan of very structured, sit in your seat classes, but when I have students with special needs who must be in mainstream classes and who really cannot function appropriately in a less restrictive environment, I BY LAW must accomodate that.

    Personally, as a parent of a very active 6 year old boy, I see more behavior problems that result from inconsistent enforcement of the rules – lots of reminders and little talks. I think that kids are generally pretty good at adapting to expectations and push the rules a little bit to find out where the line is – that is part of figuring things out, it’s their job!! My sons Tae Kwon Do instrctor and his kindergarten teacher would probably describe a very different kid!!!

  31. Jenne June 19, 2009 at 12:58 am #

    It’s not just boys that suffer from this: we fought all year with a teacher who wanted my roomates’ daughter put on ADD medication because the teacher couldn’t handle the daughter’s fidgeting. (Rolling a Pencil on the table was considered unacceptably disruptive.) As a result, the girl’s behavior got worse not better. We’ve finally got the problem with schoolwork *mostly* under control, though she still hates school; but I credit some of that with the drastic drop in homework that happened after the state achievement tests were done in early May. She does need to work on her ‘executive skills’, and I hope we’ll do better next year. Perhaps in the days where 4th graders had more recess, Miss-Dove-like teachers were easier for kids to handle.

  32. Andrea June 19, 2009 at 1:39 am #

    Teacher, You just identified 5 (maybe 6) of the kids in your class of 25 have “special education” needs. I am assuming a random sampling, which this is not, BUT, if 1/5 of the students in your class had some other disability, systems changes would happen. YET, when 1/5 of the student population has learning *differences* they are labelled “problems.” Hmmmm.

  33. Taking a Chance on Baby June 19, 2009 at 3:32 am #

    As a teacher, it was pretty much the ONLY punishment I could hand out.

    I wasn’t allowed to assign extra homework that wasn’t going to get done anyways

    I wasn’t allowed to keep them after school because we had no late bus and the parents weren’t willing to come get them (plus that’s a punishment for ME as well) Ditto for before school.

    I wasn’t allowed to make them clean stuff (the chemicals…even in a bottle of vineagar and water).

    I wasn’t allowed to make them alphabetize my library (which at 1000+ books WAS actually a punishment) because it would have to happen during class time, and then they’d be missing out on academics (although they did spend many a recess doing it)

    5th and 6th grade boys couldn’t care less about sticker charts or incentives that often work in younger grades

    You tell me what I’m supposed to do!

    I hated using it…it was always my last resort as I KNEW that it wasn’t going to help.

  34. Nicola June 19, 2009 at 3:36 am #

    Someone above mentioned that the kids walk the track when they’re in trouble… they did that for us in middle school.

    Keeping a kid inside just makes them more stir crazy… it’s punishing for everyone. IMHO, they *should* make the kids get out and walk the track – have a duty teacher set up for just that job – all problem kids get in a line and follow – that way they’re outside and moving, but prohibited from playing.

    I love the teacher taking her kids on the mile run. That’s what we **should** be doing with our kids – getting them out and active, rather than keeping them in a class… and with boys, (having a son myself), my goodness how nice it is to wear them out a little – they’re so much more attentive after that! 😀 Kudos!

  35. Alida June 19, 2009 at 3:44 am #

    A classic case of “It’s not working, so let’s do more of it and see if that works.” Lovely.

    1. Teacher need a lot more respect from the school districts that employ them.

    2. Children are not mini adults, they are children.

    I could go on and on, but a teacher will always retort with “what am I supposed to do?” If the child development classes I took in college were supposed to teach me how to discipline my class or even how to teach kids effectively….they failed miserably. On the upside, I can tell what stage a child is in at age seven, eight or ten.

    Here in lies the problem. There are a million great teachers out there. They are even more wonderful people who don’t know what to do with their class other than pump information into “blank slates” Not bad people, just people who were improperly trained or not trained at all. Of the million great teachers, most are stifled by a district who’s concern is to maintain their portion of federal money, stay within budget, avoid lawsuits by parents, maintain standards.

    Where are the kids in this equation?

    Oh yeah, they are sitting quietly by the wall!

  36. alexicographer June 19, 2009 at 3:48 am #

    I’m a mom to a 2 y.o. boy reading this and thinking ahead to his school years. We’re lucky to live near a good (not perfect, but good) elementary school. I figure it should be possible for me (or his dad) to get up and get him a good hour of exercise before school, if need be (and need may well be), but I recognize this wouldn’t be practical for many parents.

    I often wonder if the pressure put on parents (usually moms) to be a SAHP does a disservice by promoting focusing resources on being a SAHP before they’re in school and returning to full-time work (or more) once they’re in school rather than working reduced hours throughout their childhood (which is my family’s goal).

    I realize that many families are struggling to make ends meet, have long commutes, live in unfriendly or unsafe areas, and so forth; in short, that what I’m talking about is just a tiny piece of the puzzle (if it’s a piece at all). But it does seem like one place where a change in thinking/approach could make a difference for some families.

  37. Eleya Frields June 19, 2009 at 4:51 am #

    First off: great website, Lenore! I’m working hard to overcome my natural “helicopter parent” tendencies, and thanks to your website (among others), my children, my husband, and I are all much happier.

    On topic: I just finished “The Trouble With Boys” (misleading title, IMHO — it’s actually not pointing the finger at boys at all), by Peg Tyre. It was a fairly quick read, and a good all-around look at the problems boys and schools have with each other. My son is about to start kindergarten (my daughter is going into third grade), so I hadn’t really given much thought to the effects of the “educational process” on his scholastic career. Now my radar’s on, though — and hopefully, forewarned is forearmed.

  38. DropEdge June 19, 2009 at 5:10 am #

    When I taught high school English, my school was on block scheduling and had 80-minute classes. I loved it because we could do a little grammar, writing, and literature everyday instead of in chunks across the semester. But 80 minutes is too much “in your seat” time for anybody, be they teachers or students. The transition time between those three kinds of academic work took about five minutes each, but I never felt like we “lost” 15 minutes of class time over the course of the class period; we NEEDED those breaks to re-energize and refocus. Even then, I’d occasionally notice that I was “losing” the students and that they were getting exceptionally fidgety. At that point, we’d all stand up and do “head-and-sholders-knees-and-toes.” It sounds silly, and it was. But getting their butts out of the chairs and moving, even for less than one minute, worked wonders for the students’ behavior and attention.

  39. Jeff June 19, 2009 at 5:30 am #

    Your kids still get recess? Ours have this new PE-Squared thing instead. This means that instead of having any free play time, they have to go to assigned stations and play an assigned game or do a particular activity during what used to be recess.

    We’re oh so assured isn’t intended to replace Physical Education/Gym, but I expect that as soon as the novelty wears off that’s exactly what will happen.

  40. Dillon June 19, 2009 at 5:33 am #

    I feel that as a rule the public school system is there to mostly ensure “good behavior” as opposed to actually teaching. I say this from the experiences with my foster kids where the teachers would rather than come to school medicated, sleepy and unable to learn rather than figure out a way to engage them so there not disruptive. I’ve found that especially for boys most schools don’t know how to motivate them outside of organized sports. ok i’ll stop this will become a rant and i’ll that stuff to you Lenore.

  41. Iva June 19, 2009 at 7:14 am #

    Baby Gurl and I have been in Girl Scout day camp all week long. We have one group, called Tagalongs, who consist of the brothers.

    There is a *huge* difference between my group of 4th grade girls and the group of 4th grade boys sitting behind us!

    Just today, I told The Man Beast that when boys get together in group events, a man really needs to head up the operation because [here comes my sexist remark], women typically want to emasculate boys by making them behave like girls.

    It doesn’t work! We need to realize that boys and girls ARE different and they DO learn differently. I’m in school currently to become a teacher. I know I’m optamistic in wanting to ‘change the world’, but it’s instances like these that make me want to tuck this little nugget of information and actually *use* it in the classroom.

    I want to be one of the *good teachers* who love my students, all of my students, for who they are and embrace their differences.

    [stepping off soapbox – do I get my Miss America crown yet?]

  42. Uly June 19, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    Tana, do you mean this school?

  43. Deb June 19, 2009 at 9:22 am #

    My 1st grader got 20 minutes of recess a day. Way too little for him. We actually have it in his 504 plan (for those who don’t know, it’s the legal paperwork the school has to follow to accomodate kids with disabilities, learning disabilities, behaviors, etc) for him to get more to burn off energies – it helps his behavior (ADHD, Aspergers) ALOT. He’s also gifted, which helps the scheduling. He would usually finish his morning work 15-20 minutes before the rest of the class and the teacher would send him to the gym to join whatever class had gym at that time (I think it was 2nd graders). The gym teacher worked him in and told him when it was time to go back to class. In the afternoon, he had another 15-20 minutes to kill while the rest of the students worked on their math (papers that would take him 2-3 minutes to do). So in the afternoons, if the weather was nice, he was sent outside to run 1-2 laps around the track. If it was raining, he did jumprope in the hall outside his class.

    I almost always knew what days the weather was too cold/rainy and recess was indoors in the classroom — I got a phone call for misbehavior. 🙁 My son had a great teacher this year. After a short time, she just started sending him down to the gym for jumping jacks or jumprope or whatever with the gym teacher during indoor recess. He’s a handful and greatly mishaves if he can’t burn off his energy.

    He was in the schools’ preschool program for kids with developmental delays and/or disabilities. There was a single person trampoline (with handle to hold onto) in the room… at any time during class you’d see a boy jumping on that thing like crazy. It’s amazing what 10 minutes of movement does for some kids. Behavior does a complete 180.

  44. Leslie Wales June 19, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    I am a learning specialist working with lots of those supposed “problem” kids in high school (private). I agree completely with those begging for a broader definition of acceptable behavior of children and of learning. Recess is one way to help those active learners be more available. My public school (2 children, 4th and 5th) is considering cutting ALL specials in k-5 to cope with a disastrous budget year. Shame. For all those who learn differently, or are excited by things other than mind numbing test prep, we chance losing their commitment.

    Enough of that rant, Good news: my 5th grade son just reported today that as he and his friends faced yet another inside recess due to rain, they staged a silent sit in, against the wall, to be allowed to play outside in the downpour. To the recess aides’ credit, the boys were allowed to go out. Their peaceful resistance worked-and my son was certainly happier this afternoon! I could not be happier!

  45. Mrs Embers June 19, 2009 at 9:31 am #

    “Having been a girl all my life…”

    Love it! eminds me of when my grampa says, “Now, back when I was a little girl…” He’s a bit weird, my grampa. Funny, though. 🙂

    I’m dreading my boys being stuck in school without enough time to run around.

  46. jecmama June 19, 2009 at 10:38 am #

    I love this blog! It addresses so many of the issues that I have had to deal with since becoming a mother. My son is extremely active and does have impulse control issues, but considering that he was diagnosed as moderately autistic when he was three and now has no diagnosis after years of intensive behavioral therapy and lots of specialists, he is doing miraculously well. That being said, when he would have behavior issues during recess time the teachers would sit him on the wall and then they would complain that he wasn’t able to do his work in the afternoon. I flipped when I found out they were taking his only physical outlet away from him. I suggested that they have him run laps instead of sitting out so he was getting his outlet but it wasn’t fun. They told me it is against the district policy to make the kids run. I was appalled. We removed him from public school the next year because they were trying to label him as a behavior problem and refused to address the way they were disciplining him at school. His state testing scores have risen from “Meet Standard” to “Exceeds Standard” in Reading and Math. It is one of the best educational decision I have made for him since he started school at three years old. He gets at least triple the amount of physical activity at home than he was getting in public school and he is excelling.

  47. Karen June 19, 2009 at 10:50 am #

    Hey Lenore,
    I didn’t read all the comments so forgive me if somebody else posted this link – it is to a website called The Alliance for Childhood, a group of educators including David Elkind and Howard Gardner, two of my absolute heroes, they are professors of education and passionate advocates for important stuff like recess time for children.
    The group is out with a paper this past March, Crisis in the Kindergarten, which addresses the lack of unstructured play time in Kindergartens across the nation and the big, big problems which young children are having as their schooling becomes more top-down and structured.
    Anyway, here is the link:
    Thanks for this post!

  48. Lori June 19, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    I could not agree more. This is an issue that I have tried to take up with the school my 3 children (1 boy, 2 girls) attended last year. I met with the principal once and she assured me that taking away recess was a “last resort”. Well, they must have gotten to that last resort A LOT because I’ll bet my kids missed recess at least once a week. In the weeks before testing, my 4th grade son almost never got recess.

    I try hard not to criticize teachers because they have a hard job (I know, I have a teaching degree, but can’t bring myself to actually do it. Too much work for too little pay.). But, they need to realize that in this case they are really doing themselves a disservice.

    So far, though, I have been lucky and all my children are doing well in school – straight As and no discipline problems at all. They just complain about not getting recess.

  49. Aliza G June 19, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    I teach religious school on Sunday mornings and also after school on Wednesdays. When I get my 6th graders they are so tired of being at a desk all day and have absolutely NO desire to sit stil lfor 2 more hours.
    So, during music, the cantor decided that the kids should be able to get up and move around. The kids often run around the sanctuary to the music, while they are singing. It gets their sillies out and then we can go upstairs and do some learning – which I try to make fun because I’ve been sitting at a desk all day too!

  50. Forrester McLeod June 19, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    OH LORD!!! I could go on and on and on in regards to this topic.

    I’ll be brief.

    My opinion (a very dismal depth of hell one!) of how boys and their general nature are treated in school was formed very early in my son’s life. He ended up for the most part, studying independantly through a private school for most of the twelve years. YES, HE GOT ACCEPTED TO COLLEGE!

    But when he was three, he asked me if he could go to school. I’d never even considered sending him to preschool and was surprised, but told him “Certainly!”

    And so the search began. He was a VERY creative, imaginative kid. Funny as hell and independant as all get out. Smart, smart, smart. We checked out more preschools than I could count. The kids were like zombied out sheep and were shamed into submission. I was stunned. WE’RE TALKING THREE YEARS OLD ALREADY DEFEATED!

  51. Aliza G June 19, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    (oh I wanted to get more on this topic…!)

  52. Forrester McLeod June 19, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    Ha! I was so passionate I hit the wrong key! I’ll calm down.

    I must add here that we were going to schools in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas that were considered really good schools. Okay. I’ll wrap it up. I saw lots of little monkeys jumping through hoops and doing all those meaningless things that impress so many adults. But I didn’t see many “present” kids. One of the last schools we attended was situated on acres of land with trees and nature. I’m thinking…….this is it. We got there at snack time. The children were made to line up and quietly go to the tables in an orderly fashion. Okay. I don’t have a problem with that. It will serve a function in life. No harm done. They did it……all of the kids, including my son. Then out come the cookies. I can’t remember what kind they were, but they ranked alarmingly high up there in yumminess. My son looked over at me. He donned a HUGE smile. He rubbed his hands together and stamped his feet on the floor…while maintaining his perfectly still sitting position…..and enthusiastically said, “Cookies!”

    HUSH OR YOU WON’T GET ANY. SIT STILL!!! Came crashing out of nowhere.

    Okay. “Thanks, but we’ll pass” I said, and we left.

    The schooling system has gone beserk and cut out the souls of more kids than we will ever be able to count.

    I’ll stop here. Thanks for what you’re doing! Your son will be fine and he’s crazy lucky to have a mom like you!!!

  53. DJ June 19, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    Love the book “Raising Cain”.

    My son’s kindergarten had a “thinkpath” for addressing behavior problems. Kind of like running the track but involved walking the border if their age-level playground. Burned up the energy but still punishment because they couldn’t interact with their friends.

    My hero for preschools is Bev Bos and her cooperative school in California.

  54. Sunny1 June 19, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    No recess was taken away in this story but it is somewhat telling of how schools may view “boy” behavior.
    I’ll never forget getting a call from the principal of my son’s school when he was in 4th grade. She told me on the phone she was VERY concerned because he was SO destructive and ruined his personal property, etc. She went on to say that he took scissors and slashed his sweatshirt up! Was he angry at home?
    Now, I was obviously upset with what I would find when he got home so when he showed me the “slashed” sweatshirt, which was simply two “eye holes” in the hood, which were dead on if worn backwards, I called my husband at work and told him to ignore my earlier call about our suddenly “angry and disturbed” son.
    Everything was fine, he was fine. He was just being creative for 5 minutes (God forbid!) which, sad to say, is not overly encouraged in a lot of public school settings.
    By the way, I did tell him not to do it again but he insisted it was really cool, no one else had a sweatshirt that was also a disguise!
    Boys!!!! Gotta love ’em!

  55. DW June 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

    i’m a grandmother now. but how vividly i recall the classroom. IT’S NOT JUST THE BOYS! IT’S ANYONE WHO NEEDS TO BE MORE ACTIVE THAN THEIR UNHEALTHY SEDENTERY EXPECTATIONS. And that might be MOST kids.
    Did it ever occur to anyone, that it is very bad for the human vascular system, to sit on a hard surface for hours on end? without benefit of regular exercise breaks especially?
    It must be part of the problem in developing cardiovascular bad habits and degenerative diseases.
    EVERYONE needs to oxygenate their bodies or deteriorate. you cannot do this in a sedentary lifestyle such as a classroom. Kids are supposed to be growing and developing, not wilting and becoming little underdeveloped sickly wimps. The most brilliant minds cannot function without the body being healthy, and getting lots of oxygen to that brain.
    what’s the old saying? “all work and no play, makes jack a dull boy” — Mother goose, i believe.
    kids should spend a lot more time in healthy physical activity, even the learning kind such as nature walks, or creatively and with their minds and hands, making and building things; and far less time being forced to sit in some stupid, antiquated, regimented mass- market production line thing called a classroom.
    most of us barely survive the experience intact, as i recall, by 12th grade.

  56. ebohlman June 19, 2009 at 3:05 pm #

    Leslie: Nice story about your son and his friends. Let’s all remember that at this very moment, kids his age are participating in the protests in Iran, and hope and pray for their safety.

    Sunny1: The scary thing is that the principal probably violated the mandatory-reporter laws by not calling child services on you.

  57. Daisy June 19, 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    I just saw this and thought of you: “Teachers say schools are too safe”

  58. Another Suburban Mom June 19, 2009 at 6:48 pm #

    I think that there is too little phys ed at schools. Kids are not active enough during the day, so they try to make us medicate instead of running a lap

  59. Christopher Byrne June 19, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

    My father was the head of the middle school at the small private school I attended, and we lived on campus. I vividly remember one of the older women teachers presenting herself in the front hall of our house and complaining vociferously about me and my friends as being “out of control.”

    “What are they thinking?” she demanded in paroxysms of high dudgeon.

    “They are being 11-year old boys,” was my father’s terse response.

    Denying recess is exactly what should not be done. The ability to move and have gross motor activity actually increases the ability to concentrate and be focused. Sitting at a desk is not the natural state of children at this age. So by putting them in a classroom, we are imposing an artificial behavior on our natural, biological instinct to run around and play. It can be learned–and has been for centuries–but it needs to be done in the context of understanding the entire developmental process.

    Who among us who was raised free-range and wants to encourage that for the children in our lives cannot remember that blessed moment when after a long morning of math and social studies, the doors burst open and we could run around? In the school I went to, keeping kids in from recess did happen, but not so much. A child who’s had 20 minutes of swinging, running and climbing the jungle gym has change the chemical balance in his or her body and has the capacity to sit still.

    It’s biology, not behavior, and we need to acknowledge that. There are many ways to reprimand kids within current standards and contexts. However, denying them the one thing that has been shown to rectify the behavior is nonsensical, but all too common because adults persist in applying their standards and reality to children.

  60. Mark Snyder June 19, 2009 at 11:19 pm #

    This is a great subject. In a world where parents are wrecked with fear about their children disappearing, kids are the ones who are suffering tremendously from a lack of physical activity, freedom and opportunity to play and explore. I grew up playing hide and seek with my friends in the woods, late into the summer evenings. Can you imagine letting your 8 year old out in the woods alone today?

    As an adult, my head is much clearer, I feel better, healthier and more focused on my work when I have had the chance to run 5 miles or swim 500 yds. Given that I don’t have near the energy that a child does, how much more do kids need this than we do. Can we be surprised that more than half of American children are now overweight or that diagnoses of ADHD are more common than the FLU? It pains me to see young kids who are active and healthy, sitting inside playing video games for hours on end.

    As a former educator, youth worker and current writer of literature on working with children, I have come to beleive that we have to strike a balance between making sure that kids are safe AND allowing them to be kids.

    While I don’t think that I am ready to let a young child in my care walk to school alone (much less play hide and seek in the woods) I think that it is possible for kids to be “free range and safe”. One of the best methods for doing this, is teaching kids to be in large groups. A group of 6 or 8 boys who are out staying together and are committed to staying together are very safe. Giving kids cell phones and teaching them to send a quick text if they feel uncomfortable, is another helpful method. Kids who are taught the right things to do, can be set free to enjoy their lives as kids. Rather than building more fences and tethering our kids to the safety of trans-fatty snacks and electronic gaming inside the house, we can teach them to be out there making friends, leading healthier lives and still insure that they are home for dinner – maybe a little muddy, but safe and sound.

    Mark Snyder Lexington MA

  61. A MFA Creative Writing grad June 20, 2009 at 12:51 am #

    I can understand the frustration about the seemingly overwhelming trend of essays being required of students skewing towards the dreaded personal narrative instead of research-oriented and/or reasoning & argumentation style essays. There seems to be a misconception that personal narrative writing is “easier,” as it doesn’t necessarily require the incorporation of research into the writing. I can see the appeal for both teachers & students – teachers don’t have to drag students to the library to teach basic research methods for both traditional print media and online databases, and students don’t have to put in that additional work and can just “write what they think.” However, I think that letting students just “write what they think” without teaching them how to substantiate their opinions is doing students a great disservice.

    Grade school/junior high/high school students desperately need more training in basic composition writing. I spent a semester as a TA for an undergrad Comp 101 course and was appalled to realize how many of those freshmen had little to no idea how to construct a basic essay (thesis statement, supporting arguments, conclusion), much less how to do research to support the thesis and incorporate that research into the essay. I lost track of how many times the professor had to remind them that Wikipedia was not an acceptable primary or even sole research source. Many of them were under the misconception that personal experience and/or anecdotes counted as supporting facts for the essay’s thesis! Those basic composition skills are needed for everything from writing a resume and cover letter to business reports to high-level academic writing and its essential that students learn those skills before they ever set foot in a college classroom or professional setting (not everyone needs to go to college).

    However, I don’t think that means the personal narrative or creative writing should be shoved aside, either. The ability to express one’s opinions clearly, concisely and creatively is also an important skill to possess. Self-expression should be encouraged at those young ages, not stifled. An ideal education would incorporate the use and knowledge of both composition and creative writing/personal narrative. Speaking from experience, I can say that my own creative writing – my chosen form is personal narrative – only benefited from the rigorous training I had in basic composition essay writing (and vice versa, I might add!). Believe it or not, research can play a very big part in creative writing, too! Narratives get to use additional tools from the creative writing box and aren’t necessarily required to use a strict form, but it means nothing if you don’t understand how to structure a compelling narrative in the first place. Even Gertrude Stein had to master the basic fundamentals of writing before she started experimenting.

  62. Sarah M June 20, 2009 at 2:18 am #

    I have read (I believe in Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods ( that the MORE recess children get in school, the less disruptive they are, less behavioral and learning problems there are. The fact that a child who is 5 has to spend 7 hours a day at school with barely any recess (plus 2 hours: 1 hr before school and 1 after) can’t “sit still and is a problem” should be a nobrainer.
    Sarah M

  63. ebohlman June 20, 2009 at 3:10 am #

    Mark S: Have to correct you on one point: the rate of overweight/obesity among children and adolescents is less than one-third, not more than half. See this CDC publication. There’s plenty of FUD going around on this subject, often in support of “solutions” like teaching kids to fear certain foods and increasing their physical activity, not through letting them run around, but through traditional gym-class drills.

  64. MarvinMerton June 20, 2009 at 4:18 am #

    Many of the kids I work with face having recess taken away for misbehavior, or even for failing to complete work. Obviously, making a kid with ADHD or high anxiety sit in the classroom for recess is not going to lead to more work getting done.

    One of the responses to the Robinson article discussed the likely reality that schools are not more regimented now than in the past. While that is likely true, I suspect that there is less recess time, less PE time, less music and art time. At the end of the day, there is less creative, hands-on time. All students suffer under such an education system, in my opinion.

    Another response to Robinson’s piece discussed the possible role of video games in leaving boys (and girls) with not enough time to get out and play, experiment and learn in non-school ways. I don’t think this can be underestimated. I suspect that this factor is only enhanced via text messaging and other distracting technological wonders that consume much of the free time of children. In other words, I don’t think it’s just that schools are doing something wrong (although we as a nation have chosen their priorities, and we are failing our kids, in my opinion), I think some of this probably goes to the heart of the Free Range concerns, and those concerns are much more general than what recess can provide.

  65. MarvinMerton June 20, 2009 at 4:36 am #

    Oh, and something else that came to mind while reading some of the posts… Too many educators seem far too ready to jump to diagnoses to explain behavior that is extremely normal. I find myself meeting with parents who’ve been told they should be very concerned about their child’s behavior. After a lengthy assessment, I often disagree with the educator’s who sent the parents to “get help.”

    What’s more telling, as time goes on, is that I spend so much time advocating for increased play and exercise, regardless of what the kids I serve are facing. Again, the population I see is not a general population, but the lack of activity that I see is astounding.

  66. Nico June 20, 2009 at 6:33 am #

    I’m a girl and I got in trouble plenty for twitching fidgeting and not sitting obediently in my desk. Infact, instructors would ignore the wiggly boys and come crashing down on me if I stepped out of line expected of the girls.

    i don’t think it’s normal to expect kids to conform to “sit in the desk, sit down, be silent ” thing. Heck, adults don’t care much for it either.

    Schools now sound like quasi-military institutions grooming kids for a life of cubicle employment. wiggle too much and we’ll kindly drug you into stillness, to boot.

  67. kg June 20, 2009 at 8:16 am #

    I absolutely agree that kids need more physical activity as well as more play–I don’t think anyone can really argue against that point. I think the DOE’s position is that kids can play and run around after school, but I agree that it needs to be more integrated into their days.

    I do take issue, however, with your characterization of your son’s schooling as boring and miserable. If a student like your son finds the opportunity to make a movie about the topic of his choice boring, for example, or finds making a wildly fictional choose-your-own-adventure website tedious, the problem may not be with the content or the teaching.

    And I do, in fact, teach my students to blog, which I think is empowering, motivating, and helps develop a number of important skills. I look forward to reading your rant on that.

  68. LindaLou June 20, 2009 at 8:41 am #

    I just want clarify that I live in a great school system in a progressive area. The children here are not required to sit still for inappropriate amounts of time in the the classroom and their curriculums are very hands on. I’m just asking that people consider the other side of the coin. I had to move my daughter from her elementary school to the district alternative school after a horrendous 5th grade year where about 1/3 of her classmates had discipline/disruption issues. Honestly, it really pissed me off that my child got the short shrift in every way while the “problem” kids took up all the teacher’s time and resources. Is taking away their recess the answer? Well, of course not, but I do feel the frustration right along with the teachers. I do think older kids should have the impulse control and attention span to behave in an APPROPRIATE classroom situation (the horror stories on this thread attest to the fact that there are many inappropriate ones out there.) I also have 2 boys (4.5 and almost 9) so I do fully comprehend what active boys are like.

    Also, and I know this will probably come under fire, lots of children are just plain lacking in discipline and manners and an awful lot of the time, the parents of these children seem to use “He’s so bored” as an excuse. It’s pure crap. If your kid is too brilliant to function at public school, put him in HiCap, but don’t expect everyone else to suffer. Personally, I believe the phrase “I’m bored” is another way of saying, “I’m a boring ass and the rules don’t apply to me.” In real life, I know tons of interesting, intelligent, life-long learners and I’ve never heard any of them claim to be bored all the time. I’m just sayin’. Peace.

  69. morninglightmama June 20, 2009 at 10:50 am #

    The ‘no recess’ punishment has been questioned by parents at PTA meetings and on our list-serv time and time again, but I’m not sure that it’s had any effect on school practice. So ridiculous. And honestly, it’s the only 15 minutes of free time that they have all day! 15 MINUTES!!! Ugh.

    This article really resonated with me, with my son just finishing 3rd grade. He’s a smart guy, he gets good grades, but the whole school environment just exhausts him, and he can’t wait to get home and tromp through the trees, rope and sticks in hand to explore and pretend and discover. So often I find myself wishing that we could win the lottery simply so that we could afford the private schooling options that would give him a learning environment that goes beyond worksheets and uniform compliance, to actual hands-on learning and experiences that will stick with him for life. *sigh*

  70. Michele June 22, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    This is a real travesty that our “educators” (those who have Masters level and PhD’s in the subject) that we entrust our children to for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, just don’t get such a fundamental, basic need. Children MUST be allowed to move and be free during the school day REGARDLESS of what elementary crime they’ve committed. How can these people be in charge of educating our children??!! I get so mad over this topic, I could spit nails. I learned this year, that whenever my children did not do their homework (horrors, I know) that I sent in a note with them telling the teacher that they must go outside for recess; that I would handle the lack of homework issue at HOME. I honestly feel that the more credentials an educator has at the end of their name, the more removed from reality they are about our children’s needs. To me, it is a red flag; not something to be in awe of.

  71. K Androos June 22, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    Lets face it: where are YOU, the parents, in this equation? Kids get 6 hours at school. 18 hours at home. School only takes up 1/4 of the day. To reiterate this point: Parents have the kids for 3/4’s of the day. I.e. most of the time. SO: Why can’t parents do their bit to chase their own kids around and discharge their energy? Our school I am starting to think has gone too far in the whole physical side of things. We have 30 min recess, 60 mins lunch PLUS 30 minutes EVERY single day of P.E. This is because kids are just too restless and the school has to dealt with it by running the kids around instead of the parents doing it. School survey showed 70% kids get driven to and from school. Kids start school at 9.00 but are tooo jumpy to do much , so the poor teacher has to run them around for 30 minutes to settle them down. So in total: Kids get about 4 hours of the educational experience. out of a 6 hour school day.

    So: to make up for the education part there is a strange reversal of roles: Kids 6 and up young get loaded up with 45-60 minutes of homework every day and the parents are supposed to sit down and help them surf the web (because, understandably they can’t go alone on the web but the homework is all web-based with links and a bazillion worksheets provided on the class webpage. Parents are supposed to sit down with a positive attitude and encourage their kid to web surf instead of read a book to find out stuff. Times this by three tired boys all under 8yo and you get the picture.
    So here we are: setting up all our kids to be surgically attached to the web during the after school socialising hours.
    (Tragically enough some parents think that there is not enough homework . These parents seem to have the time to go in and advocate for more. This is another thread I won;t start on).
    My kids walk to and from school 1 km all by themselves. Go to soccer training all by themselves. etc. Parent up the road is so horrified that she drives behind my kids when she drives her own kids to school because she is worried that they might get run over by other parents at the school drop-off point.
    The sad story is that those with appropriate qualifications (i,e, teachers) don’t get to do what they are qualified to do. They are exhausted running around ruddy rude and restless kids. Parents who have no clue have to teach their kids how to read and spell and teach grammar and punctuation out of school hours.
    Brings me back to the opening point: If you parents can;t find one or two hours in the remaining 18 hours a day to play and organise your own kids’s discharge time then maybe you shouldn;t have had kids.

    Signed: Mother of 3 restless boys who agrees that exercise is a damn fine way of calming everyone down. Just need to do some of it out of school hours. in your own time. Start by making kids walk/bike bus walk to and from school. i.e. outside of school hours. and the teacher will be forever grateful. (I am not a teacher).

  72. Michele June 22, 2009 at 9:08 pm #

    Not sure where you live but my children get on the school bus (walking is NOT an option since we live 4 miles from school) at 8:35am and they arrive off the bus at 4:15pm. They are in bed at 8:30pm during the school year since they are elementary age. So, between 4:15pm and 8:30pm, they have 4.25 hours to unwind, eat dinner, do homework, bathe, be a kid and oh yeah, converse with the family instead of plugged up into some video game or tv show for hours. Not sure where you get 18 hours out of that day. Our school has about a 14 minute lunch (although on paper they say 30 minutes—has NEVER happened) and on a really good day towards the end of the year, they get 30 minutes for recess if they were good little boys and girls and completed their homework. They only get PE 2x a week. The bottom line is: children LEARN a whole heck of a lot through their play and yes, they need to be involved in academia too, but we cannot dismiss what learning takes place during their free time with each other. As an adult, I’d have a hard time sitting through academia 5 days a week, 7 hours a day without getting relief, much less as a CHILD. Let’s not forget, they have a whole lifetime ahead of them full of WORK, STRESS and REALITY. Let’s not rob them of their childhood too. Signed, one fantastic, loving, hard working, disciplined and balanced mother.

  73. K Androos June 22, 2009 at 9:11 pm #

    p.s.above post is a long way of saying that I think parents need to be free range too, and show the kids how it is done. This means a whole shift in managing time at work and outside work.

  74. Uly June 22, 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    K, my niece wakes up at 7:30 to be at school by 8:30. The morning hour is shot – it’s full of waking up, getting dressed, and eating breakfast. Nothing is getting done there.

    She’s in school until 2:50. WE can walk home, but many of her friends are a 15 minute drive away – a bit far for kindergarten and first grade students. They take the bus. (That is, those that aren’t in aftercare until 6, where they never seem to take the kids outside.)

    She goes to bed at 8.

    So she has 5 hours (not 18) in which to get all her free time in. Which seems like a lot – and it is – but unfortunately children’s bodies don’t *work* like that. Neither do grown-up’s bodies! They need some activity interspersed through the day instead of all crammed into the end.

    We’d all be glad if she had a longer school day in order to fit in a DAILY recess separate from lunch. (Children learn better with these breaks, too.)

    Is your school going too far? Maybe. It’s worth noting that they’re definitely going overboard on homework – children shouldn’t get more than ten minutes per grade per night or it’s counterproductive (yes, this has been proven – in the US that’s what both the national PTA and the NEA advocate for!), but you need to remember that most of us have the opposite problem from you – not ENOUGH activity in the day.

  75. K Androos June 22, 2009 at 9:49 pm #

    pp.s Michele. your school is obviously different and it may not be useful for either of us to compare our own different cases. We start at 9 and end at 3pm. i.e. this is 6 hours. this clearly leaves 18 hours.
    Nowhere in my posts did I advocate that the kids sit still for the whole 6 hours straight.
    I said that going to school for only 4 hours of learning needs to be questioned. First question: why do the kids need to do 30 minutes physical jerks first thing in the morning every single day? The reasons can , in the main, be slated to parents who feel they must drive their kids 1-2-3 km down the road . Most driven kids are really very disruptive at 900 when the lessons are supposed to start. Why can;t parents sort this out before they get their kids to school? Why can;t they run their kids about so they settle down? From what I have seen is that these parents themselves don;t know how to make time for it. This is an area where I see scope for parent to change.

    The related issue is that because there is only 4 hours per day for learning, the school has shunted on the responsibility of learning basic things like reading and arthitmetic onto parents. The school-mandated web based approach to homework is also an issue for me since it means I have to monitor, consecutively, the web surfing/maths tutes of all 3 kids. I think they should be out playing with real kids and not just homework-based photoshop kids. My three kids are under 8 yo. 45-50 minutes of homework each day is insane. Other parents at the school are agitating for even more homework which I think is incredible.

    I would like to think that we agree in some ways: I want the kids to play with other kids and not be plugged into something electronic . I am just pointing out , in my lens of the world , I see considerable scope for parents to step up to the plate and run their kids around before they get to school as this have the knock-on effect that the kids could do more stuff at school, and would mean less homework time AFTER school.

  76. Sherry June 24, 2009 at 10:06 am #

    And then when they get home from school if they are lucky enough to have a play area nearby, it has some ridiculous sign like this one

    that tells them they can’t run there, or play on the equipment if it’s wet, or even be there without an adult! ugh!

  77. James January 28, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    It is so refreshing to find this site and read about all of the other parents that are experiencing the exact thing that I am. I have a 6 y/o boy in 1st grade that is very active and who I believe is your typical 6 y/o boy.

    We have been receiving calls from schools for disruptive and inappropriate behavior since kindergarten. His punishment for unacceptable behavior is no play and quiet time for reflection. Are you kidding me!? Do you really want to have any hope of working with my child after bottling up the energy that should have been expended?

    Don’t let the schools tell you otherwise. There is nothing wrong with your “disruptive” boy or girl. The system and the times we live in are making it nearly impossible for our kids to grow up as they should.

    We need solutions to allow for exploration. We need to trust our kids to figure out various social situations on their own. Don’t intervene too quickly. Let the kids fight it out. Eventually when your kid no longer has friends, they will figure out very quickly that they have to be nicer.

    Also, you need to realize that it is not just you who is receiving calls from the schools. There are many other parents at your school that are getting the same calls. This would never happen but the schools need to share with parents the other families that are getting the calls. Let the parents get together a come up with ideas together to help their kids.

  78. marksnyderlexingtonmassachusetts March 10, 2010 at 1:49 am #

    Hi Ebohlman,
    Sorry for the late reply. Thanks for correcting my information about the rate of obesity among young people. You are right, the current data puts the number around 32% for high body mass in the 85% percentile for 2008.

    One thing that is very clear is that certain cross segments of society are at far greater risk than others.

    Another concern which I am currently researching is the link between corporate profits and childhood obesity. In peek preview, there is profit to be made by selling children inexpensive food and snacks that are high in fat and refined sugers, but little profit in selling them healthy food (as things stand right now). Secondly, there is profit in having children watch TV and visit websites, none of which help their activity levels. There is massive profit in selling them video games. The only great exception is the WII of course, a reason why I believe that the WII will continue to grow and also will be knocked off by others.

    Anyway, more of this to come!

    Mark Snyder
    Lexington Massachusetts (MA)


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