Outrage of The Week: Recess Gets Programmed

Hi Readers! Here’s what’s up at a grammar school outside of Chicago where the kids have apparently been getting it all wrong during recess. A local source writes:

 This tyntfirnsf
past weekend I went over to visit a friend of mine who is a first grade teacher. When I walked in, she was watching a video demonstrating different outdoor games to teach children, like 4-square, tag, etc. I asked why she was watching and she said, “We are figuring out which games are appropriate to teach the kids at recess.”

 When I followed up I learned that during the past year, there were too many fights and “wandering” children during recess, so the school has decided that recess should be structured with the children being given the choice of playing any of three or four pre-taught games.

So now, at the beginning of the 20-minute recess, there will be 3-4 activities set up. Kids will be required to pick one and stick with it. Says our source, “They are toying around with rotating the kids through the activities or giving them the chance to switch halfway through recess, but 20 minutes just isn’t that long!”

 It sure isn’t. And neither is childhood, which is why this is just wrong.

If children need to learn the basics of some classic games, by all means: Teach them! That’s a great idea! But then – it is time to back off.

The whole idea of free play is FREE PLAY. That means the freedom to run around. To make up games. To CHANGE the game. One of the happiest days of my son’s life was when he came back from the park where he and his friends invented “7-square.” It was like they’d invented cold fusion — a brilliant idea the world had been dying for.

 Kids have structured time the rest of the day. From what I’ve seen, a lot of it will probably be spent preparing for standardized tests. Recess shouldn’t be the same as the rest of the day. It should be…what’s that word again?

 Oh yeah! A recess. – Lenore

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80 Responses to Outrage of The Week: Recess Gets Programmed

  1. Clare August 21, 2009 at 8:33 pm #

    At our elementary school some of the older kids (if they sign up for it) have the task of teaching playground games to the younger kids and they do set up stations for kids who want to play. But it’s a choice! Nobody has to do it. Free time is so rare and should not be taken away.

  2. morninglightmama August 21, 2009 at 8:47 pm #

    Good God. I can just see that coming to my son’s school… and it would be just another ridiculous movement designed to look as if it’s in the “best interest of the children” when it simply strips away another aspect of childhood.

    Instead of tackling the actual issues– fights, disengaged children, and I’m might be going out on a limb in this prediction- an overcrowded group of children in an inadequate playground environment, with possibly too few adults to supervise and work with children on developing and demonstrating positive social skills, the pat answer from schools today seems to be more regimen. If they’re not doing the same thing as everyone else, the “problem” kids are easier to pick out to punish. Everybody get in line!

  3. MITBeta @ Don't Feed the Alligators August 21, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    Isn’t this usually called “gym”?

  4. Mary Joan Koch August 21, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    I happily recall my recess during the 50s. Our Catholic School could only provide a large mixed dirt and concrete area. We had a wonderful time jumping rope, playing bouncing ball and clapping games, playing group games like Red Rover. I bet I could still jump double dutch.

  5. Anna B August 21, 2009 at 9:37 pm #

    I think I sprained something rolling my eyes.

  6. Peter Burkholder August 21, 2009 at 9:47 pm #

    Apropos of nothing at all – The Onion has a hilarious send up of the overblown fears we have today:

    “Study: 74% Of Children Tenting Out In Yard Don’t Make It Through The Night”


  7. Nicole August 21, 2009 at 9:51 pm #

    Gosh – how soul crushing! At the elementary school I worked, the children were always making up games, from Kindergarten to 5th grade. Some of them played the “typical” games like basketball or 4-square but mostly they let themselves be creative and did what they wanted. They made rules and then enforced those rules (harshly, ha!) – all with just the far away but watchful eye of an adult who was just close enough to help if someone really got hurt.

    As an adult, it was so wonderful to watch them play freely. As we get older, we lose that freedom to just create our own fun. It would be shame to take it away from kids – this is really the thing they are best at!!

  8. Tana August 21, 2009 at 9:52 pm #

    As if school weren’t already structured and boring enough! I know, let’s take the one good time of day that’s already too short and suck all the fun out of it! I’m also curious- who thought, “I could make money with a video teaching teachers to teach kids to play tag.” I thought kids were born knowing how to play tag. Not that it’s relevant, because tag won’t be on the appropriate list. It requires running, and someone might get hurt.

  9. Andrea August 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm #

    This is always a good place to check in when I feel my unstructured homeschooling children may be missing out on something. Reality check, we are doing just fine! Thanks for the reminder to keep my kids young, free, unstructured and curious.

  10. Marion August 21, 2009 at 10:04 pm #

    Oh. My. God! The stupid! It burns!

    Isn’t running around, fighting, eternal enemity and making up part of ‘play’, the rehearsal for ‘life’?
    What exactly is so bad about ‘running around’ and ‘fighting’ during recess (okay, if it gets out of hand, step in)

    Dear lord, trying to ‘structure’ recess is is even stupider than the ‘teachers’ that banned the playing with legos


    Dan Hemmens wrote a wonderful rebuttal of that here: http://www.ferretbrain.com/articles/article-474

  11. Blake August 21, 2009 at 10:11 pm #

    Okay… I was bullied during my public school days, too, but that’s no reason to take away recess. That’s reason to punish the bullies.

    If this action infects the rest of the US school district, we may have seen the day that 90% of children stop listing “recess” as their favorite subjects.

  12. Valerie August 21, 2009 at 10:21 pm #

    Oh those poor teachers. The last thing they need is more structured time where they have to be enforcing rules, guiding children into proper behavior, and disciplining those that aren’t fitting well into the imposed structure. And those poor kids! More time of enforced rules, proper behavior, and close supervision.

  13. MFA Grad August 21, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    I believe such asinine policies as regimented recess (now isn’t that a contradiction in terms!) can be summed up quite simply:

    “All work and no play make Jack dull boy.
    All work and no play make Jack dull boy.
    All work and no play make Jack dull boy.
    All work and no play make Jack dull boy.
    All work and no play make Jack dull boy.
    All work and no play make Jack dull boy.”

  14. CLT August 21, 2009 at 11:09 pm #


  15. sylvia_rachel August 21, 2009 at 11:20 pm #


    Now, I think this whole adults-teaching-kids-playground-games thing started from a good place: someone looked around, realized that kids in the aggregate seemed to have forgotten how to play foursquare and Red Rover and British Bulldog and hopscotch and so forth, and wanted to give them that heritage back. So far, so good: those games are fun, and they’re a great jumping-off point for kids’ own invented games.

    But they lost me with regimenting recess. ON WHAT PLANET would this be a good idea?!!? As you say: give ’em the tools — great! — but then BACK OFF.

    Actually this reminds me of a discussion I had with some other parents at my kid’s Sunday school. I was raving (to the sympathetic mothers of a similarly aged child) about the awesomeness of the before- and after-school program my kid attends, whose “structure” for the 6-8 age group is, basically, (1) corral kids, (2) feed kids snack, (3) decant kids onto school playground. Mothers of kid’s friend agree that this sounds great, and note how much their kid has not been enjoying school lately because he’s in Grade 3, wherein kids must write provincially mandated math and literacy tests that go on for ages and are really boring.

    Along comes mum of an older kid (maybe Grade 6), who is so disturbed by my description that she thinks I should consider reporting the daycare, since they are clearly not doing what they should be doing to “facilitate” the kids’ social interaction, make sure no one is excluded, organize activities, help the socially awkward kids, etc. Then I had to backpedal and admit that, yeah, the teachers do do some of that (like, if a particular kid is being a real little so-and-so to other kids, the other kids are encouraged not to put up with it — which I actually think is great, having been severely bullied for many years as a child, at a time when the absolute LAST thing a bullied kid would EVER do was tell any adult what was happening).

    But then I found myself trying to defend the program’s choice to give the kids some unstructured play time, which seemed so. frakking. ridiculous. to me — by 3:30 in the afternoon these kids have already been in school since 8:40 in the morning, and spent most of that time (apart from PE three times a week, and 20 minutes each for morning and afternoon recesses, and maybe half an hour outside after eating lunch) in some variation of sitting in a classroom doing schoolwork; and this parent thinks their after-school playtime needs to be more structured and “facilitated” too? Seriously, between the karate lessons and the Highland dancing and the hockey and the swimming and the ballet and the music classes and the etc., etc., etc., I bet this is the only unstructured time some of those kids get all week.

    Anyway, I suspect the mum of whom I speak is not the only parent who feels this way, and if enough such people got onto the Parents’ Advisory Council at a particular school, I can totally see this “structured recess” thing catching on 😛

  16. Kirk August 22, 2009 at 12:06 am #

    Of course you don’t want fights, but there IS something to be learned from it, especially when an adult breaks it up quickly, and makes them talk it out.

  17. archdiva August 22, 2009 at 12:27 am #

    Hmmm…structured, programmed time for physical activity? Sounds like Physical Education class to me, not recess. *sigh*

  18. Jasie VanGesen August 22, 2009 at 12:35 am #

    This saddens me.. on so many levels. Over-structuring was a huge part of why we pulled our then 7-year old out of public school to unschool him at home. And we were in a pretty laid-back school district that had smaller class sizes and less structure than many districts I’d heard stories about.

    Kids only get to be kids once. Can we please just LET THEM? 🙁

  19. silvermine August 22, 2009 at 12:50 am #

    I’m betting they’ve forgotten all the games because they never play with kids any other age. How are the games going to be passed on?

    How sad that people think structured recess is a good idea. What happens to the kids who don’t know how to behave during free time when they finally are on their own, with no one to plan for them?

  20. thordora August 22, 2009 at 12:53 am #

    And I thought it was bad when mine told me last winter they weren’t allowed to jump off the half foot snowbanks in the yard or play outside when it’s barely raining.


  21. tomjcosta August 22, 2009 at 12:53 am #

    My oldest son played organized hockey from age 5. He told me that the best time he ever had playing hockey was a pickup game with NO coaches when he was 17!!

  22. Annie @ PhD in Parenting August 22, 2009 at 1:15 am #

    A while back I read and posted about a study that concluded that “children were most likely to get injured when they were at play or involved in informal sports activities.”

    I was outraged…and posted about it here:


  23. KarenElissa August 22, 2009 at 1:18 am #

    Problem: Kids don’t know how to self regulate their actions and are getting into trouble.

    Solution: Give them less time to learn to self regulate since they won’t need this skill later in life anyway.

    Yup, makes lots of sense. How are kids ever going to learn to make good decisions for themselves if all they ever have to do in life is do whatever the teacher, parent, coach tells them to do? No wonder we have so many adults who can’t manage their time without someone telling them exactly what, when, and how to do. And I don’t see it getting any better.

  24. Mandi @ Organizing Your Way August 22, 2009 at 1:21 am #

    Wow, to me this is so much worse than overprotective parenting (although maybe a byproduct of the same issue). I really don’t have anything new to add, but I find this appalling.

  25. Michael August 22, 2009 at 1:40 am #

    At least the kids GET recess. My wife’s school isn’t allowed recess at all. They get 10 minutes of “socialization” Which my wife is reading as “get outside and play.” But the word recess is NOT allowed. And their is a 10 minute limit!

  26. Dr. Dre August 22, 2009 at 1:43 am #

    Some of my fondest memories are those many hours my brothers and I spent inventing new games. Sure, occasionally we got hurt but there was never even a broken bone and besides, that’s how we learned our limits.

  27. lonedattyof3 August 22, 2009 at 2:04 am #

    My public elementary school (a university lab school) in the the late 1950’s only allowed two games during recess, kickball, dodgeball, or red rover for the boys and hop scotch or jump rope for the girls. I was an outcast because I always wanted to play with the girls, who were actually nice to me, rather than the boys, who were mean! It turns out tht, even in organized activities, the bullies manage to find ways to hurt others. I would get ‘beaned’, tripped, punched, and jeered when I played with the other boys. Forget it! Thankfully, I had figured out the bully-victim dynamic on my own by seventh grade, and did OK in a completely different secondary school.

  28. KarenW August 22, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    I was one of those “wandering” kids during recess when I was in grade school. I was sort of a loner and would have been miserable being forced to play four square (MORE GYM?? Please kill me now!!!) What is so damn wrong with wandering, or daydreaming, or reading a book? Like lonedattyof3, I wasn’t very popular and this structured recess would have given me yet another opportunity to suck at a sport and be laughed at.

  29. Rose Ramirez August 22, 2009 at 4:06 am #

    I am not surprised with changes in recess. This way they can eventually consider it PE, and no free play time at all. lawsuits are also responsible for this. Teachers should better understand the children they teach. My experience with schools and teachers is that they would like to have children already educated when they get there, for parents to properly teach them at home and take full responsibility for their education. If a child has too much energy give them pills and children have to earn their recess time. If i had to do it over i would home school my son. I do not have high regard for our schools nor our teachers. Many chose this field because the degree is an easy one. Very few are actually there because they believe children are important.

  30. CLT August 22, 2009 at 4:21 am #

    Annie- died laughing at the comic at the top of your post.

    Rose Ramirez- I think a lot of teachers are still dedicated to making a difference with children, but suffer from the same problem that faces so many new parents these days- they’ve never spent time around children. By the time they make it to the classroom, they’ve been in education classes so long listening to psychobabble and CYA, they forget to look around and see what’s actually working and makes sense.

  31. Laurie Fields August 22, 2009 at 4:31 am #

    Good grief! If they tried that at my daughter’s school I think there’d be a riot on their hands. Fortunately they allow the kids to be kids. My daughter told me about some of the games she and her BFInfinity play: Star Wars meets Rescue the Princess meets Unicorn/Pegasus. It’s very confusing, and I’m glad she’s up running around.
    Let those kids alone!

  32. Tobias August 22, 2009 at 4:34 am #

    What if a kid doesn’t *want* to play a game? My partner has never been an active person, in elementary school he was often punished for “sneaking” a book out onto the playground. Will students at this school face the same thing? It sounds like they would, but it also seems rather counterproductive to tell a child to stop reading.

  33. Micki August 22, 2009 at 5:05 am #

    at least they are getting recess! Our school district doesn’t “allow” recess! That’s right, my kindergarten child who goes all day and gets a nap after lunch, does NOT get to have recess.

  34. Wren August 22, 2009 at 6:31 am #

    Karen W., I’m right there with you! I was a recess wanderer too, and I loved it. I don’t know what I would have done if I had been forced to participate in structured games. To this day I dislike structured activities!

    And Rose and CLT, I’m sorry you’ve had such bad experiences that you have so little respect for teachers.

    I teach preschool, and I sometimes think of how much I am risking to do my job. If a less than sane parent (and there are plenty of them) wants to accuse me of mentally, physically, or sexually abusing their child, even with no evidence, they sure can. And if I’m proven innocent in a court of law, I’ll still lose my home, financial security, and freedom. Even if the accusations don’t go that far I still have a lot to lose, and may never be able to teach again because of a tarnished reputation. I teach because I love to do it and because I understand what kids need and how they learn. It’s a risk I take every day in a paranoid, fearful, litigious society because I want to make a difference in the lives of children.

    Also understand that teachers don’t always get to determine how they teach, and they never determine what they teach. Each state has certain educational standards that must be met, and each school district has it’s own policies about how the curriculum is taught. While I was teaching elementary school I very much wanted to do my own thing and teach through using centers, projects, thematic units, and hands-on activities, but at certain grade levels I just wasn’t allowed. The prevailing thought among the administration was that worksheets and rote memorization would lead to better standardized test scores. Teachers are people too, who unfortunately sometimes need to make the tough decision between following their hearts and keeping their paychecks. I was lucky enough to be able to take a pay cut to do what I enjoy, but not everyone is in that position.

  35. Stephanie Olin August 22, 2009 at 7:20 am #

    I cannot believe the state of education right now. The testing the teachers have to ‘train’ the children for, and the high standards the students have to achieve. The “No child left behind” system is a hardship to teachers who have to deal with students that simply cannot function in a normal classroom and to the self-esteem of the students who cannot keep up with the class. What is happening to the educational system? The American child is an endangered species. I have a degree in Education, but I refuse to use it to program a child!

  36. VanaK August 22, 2009 at 8:22 am #

    LOL… I mean crying about the nazification won’t do… Anger will give you a heart attack.


  37. Avery August 22, 2009 at 8:50 am #

    Am I wrong or is that what P.E. is for? Also, ever since playgrounds became so “safe” they definitely have become less fun. I don’t blame those kids for being bored at recess.

  38. tracey August 22, 2009 at 9:23 am #

    And the chance to just sit down and chat with a friend? Or to wander without adults pestering them all the time?? When will they get those opportunities?

    That sucks. Poor kids.

  39. Michelle Smith August 22, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    I will never forget the day my son came home to tell me that he had FINALLY learned to swing all by himself at recess. The look of pride on his face was priceless!

  40. Michelle August 22, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    Why would we expect any different from day-prison (aka – school). Maybe it’s time the free-rangers start freeing their kids from there too.

  41. Michele August 22, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    Ahhh, recess. Recess to children is the adult equivalent to our unwinding at the end of our day with a totti, wine, or whatever your “drug” of choice might be–tv, a good book, long hot bath, mindless internet surfing etc. What is happening to our educators in this country?! Are the colleges that these folks attending now have “new, progressive, forward thinking” courses titled, “How to ruin childhood 101” or “Keeping Children stifled all day really is good for their health” Honestly, how are the most basic necessities of childhood disappearing?

    I remember being on recess in the 1st or 2nd grade (70’s) and someone wrangled me from behind with a jump rope and I fell and busted my 2 front teeth out, roots and all. Then, in 3rd grade I was doing a “penny drop” from the bars and broke my arm. Nowadays, the schools would quickly remove jump ropes from the playgrounds forever and ban children from climbing on the bars. Hasn’t dodge ball virtually been eliminated from school now? Does anyone have swings at their child’s school anymore? I haven’t seen those in years:(

    Stop the insanity!!!

  42. Randy August 22, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    @CLT: “they’ve been in education classes so long listening to psychobabble and CYA, they forget to look around and see what’s actually working and makes sense.”

    Aww, don’t be too hard on the teachers, or even the school psych people for that matter. A school psychologist that hears about a chronic fight problem with elementary schoolers isn’t going to immediately jump on the “let’s find something to do with their hands so we can cover up the problem” bandwagon. God, how a kid chooses to use their “free time” is a great indicator of how they’re doing… that other 6 hours can help determine how they react to a structured learning environment, but that precious 20 minutes (blah, only 20 :() tells you a lot more about them personally, especially if that behavior changes drastically.

    Take the kids that have a problem with fighting and put in a referral. Do an FBA on them individually and find out what’s contributing to their aggressive behavior. If it’s serious, why not actually nip it in the bud before they’re 16 years old and as big as I am? :/

    But it’s probably not that serious. Some administrator probably got tired of a few isolated incidents of fighting, saw a few kids taking a break from class (oh no!), and made a bad decision with the best intentions. Happens pretty much every day even at good schools.

  43. Dave August 22, 2009 at 10:21 am #

    Recess is where you worked things oiut with others without adult interference. It was on the play ground you made up games and learned conflict resolution.
    It was also a time when teachers couild get a break from the kids.

  44. Sierra August 22, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    This is part of why my kids don’t go to public schools, and if I can help it, never will.

  45. Janna August 22, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    There was a great piece on NPR recently about a sports program where young adults go into violent schools and lead games and teach the kids to resolve conflicts with Ro Sham Bo. Lest your readers roll their eyes too much, the piece talked about inner-city schools, where the kids really haven’t learned how to play playground games from older kids, and any kids that may have wanted free time get terrorized by bullies.

    Let’s give these teachers a break for doing their best in a messed up system, no one is swayed by people who treat them like idiots.

  46. Uly August 22, 2009 at 6:23 pm #

    To clarify for those of us who use a different term, Ro Sham Bo is Rock, Paper, Scissors (or Scissors, Paper, Stone in the UK… right?)

  47. schmutzie August 23, 2009 at 12:24 am #

    Structured recess would have caused me so much stress as a child. Organized, team events were the least fun parts of my childhood. I can’t imagine how unreasonably unhappy losing what free time I had would have made me. I feel so sorry for those kids.

  48. kherbert August 23, 2009 at 2:59 am #

    I’m a teacher – want to stop fights and the majority of serious playground injuries (from completely out of bounds behavior). Tell the teachers to stop standing around talking. At my school the teachers have stations were we stand to watch the kids. We might also talk to the kids, and sometimes even play a game with the kids. We are on RECESS DUTY.

    We get to talk to each other on our LUNCH BREAKS.

  49. kherbert August 23, 2009 at 8:20 am #

    Oh – my current principal was upset about recess when he came on as then assistant principal – so he DOUBLED the time we have for recess.

    Oh – he also eliminated the TAKS formated drill and kill lessons we were forced under 1st principal to do. Now everything is about creativity, fun, building background, using Tech to connect hands on hands on hands on – and know the kids know the kids know the kids.

    Do you know what happened to the almighty TAKS scores – 90% or above passed on every test, every subgroup except Science (5th grade) we feel like it is a language problem we are solving this year.

    Pretty good for a school with a high mobility rate (One class last year only had 4 students that stayed from August – June, the others moved to stay ahead of the landlord mostly) If that didn’t give it away we are also very, very low socio/eco. Kids beg us to not have holidays – because then they don’t eat. That of course is reported to our social worker who helps the parents get food.

    This year the kids are going to grow their own food. We got a 10,000 grant from BP to build a greenhouse in our butterfly garden. The butterfly garden is in the center of our school – and is wonderfully cared for by the kids.

    If you have an administrator with vision – you can actually have a school that is about learning not teaching. Where kids can thrive.

  50. Uly August 23, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    Kherbert, where do you LIVE? I think I might want to move there!

  51. kherbert August 23, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    I teach in Lamar CISD. We serve Richmond/Rosenburg area of Fort Bend County. This is southwest of Houston, farm land is rapidly becoming bedroom communities.

  52. Sunny1 August 23, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    I agree with silvermine! The problem is kids can only play in “playdates” with other kids the same age so they dont learn the “recess/backyard games” passed on from generation to generation.
    My mother was horrified one day when my son was out in my new neighborhood with other kids and they were Boooorrrred. She told them to play red light. They had no clue what it was! She taught them, left, and they had a blast.
    To stress the point, when 2 of my little ones were 2 and 4 and i took them to the library for the read a book and craft session, (we call it library school) I had to sign them up for different sessions! God forbid the 2 yr old be in the same reading class with the big bad 4 yr olds!

  53. Bob Davis August 23, 2009 at 3:05 pm #

    Both my wife and I were and are readers, not athletes. I totally sympathize with children who just want some time to be by themselves and not be forced into games in which they have no interest or talent. One of the things I remember from grade school was “Three Flies Up”: an offshot of softball in which players have to catch three fly balls in order to bat. I could no more catch a fly ball than fly like a bat, so this game was a total loss for me.

  54. justanotherjen August 24, 2009 at 3:09 am #

    I can’t even comprehend the reasoning behind this. I would hate to be a kid at this school. And that comes from someone with hit or miss recess experience. I don’t remember having recess until 3rd grade. I’m sure we had something but don’t remember it. In 3rd grade I was going to a school in Grand Rapids, MI. It was a couple blocks from John Ball Park and after lunch (my first experience with eating in a cafeteria no less) we dropped our lunch boxes at the side door and made our way down the street to the park where we got 30 minutes to goof off (but had to stay off the swings). The older kids were crossing guards at every corner and 2 or 3 teachers stood watch over the park to keep kids in line but otherwise we were left to ourselves.

    I was amazed because I didn’t remember ever having anything like that at my Chicago school. No one walked us to and from the park, we went when we were ready. It was great.

    Then half way through the school year we moved back to Chicago. At that school recess was at the teacher’s discretion and she/he had to supervise it. There were no parks or playgrounds, just an asphalt parking lot full of rocks, broken glass, cigarette butts and who knows what else. We rarely went out but when we did we mostly played tag or jump rope (that someone would bring from home).

    In 4th grade we had the worst teacher ever. She had no reason being an elementary school teacher. The other kids would get on her nerve so she would cancel recess for us all which just wound the kids up even more. I spent an entire year writing my spelling words 50-100 times every night (that’s 20 words). I hated school. We had to sit in absolute silence all day even during lunch (and any free time we could have was spent writing spelling words all because she caught 1 kid talking). It was insane…more like prison then 4th grade.

    After that recess was pretty non-existent. We got 20 minutes for lunch and could talk with our friends after we were done eating. That was considered recess.

    I notice through my history that the less free time I had during the school day the more stressed and fidgety I was and I was a well behaved student. But it’s hard to concentrate when you are wound up with no release. I actually preferred to walk home the 6 or so blocks when I was in 7th/8th grade because it was the first time all day I got to move around and just let my mind wander.

    I’m happy my kids are having a little bit better experiences. My oldest went to a public school for K-1st and they had a huge playground (a separate one for the kindergarteners, too). They got like 30 minutes of recess and went out as long as it was above 30F.

    Now they go to a Catholic school (like I did all my years in school) and last summer our school built a small playground for the kids. It’s not much but it’s something. It’s partly filled with sand so when it rains they can’t play in there. As long as it isn’t freezing or raining they go out for recess and run around the parking lot. If they can’t go out they still get free time in their class room. They can’t run around but they can read, talk to each other, draw, etc. The 1st grade teacher even let them bring small toys in. Sometimes they would go to the church basement (where the gym is) and run around there for 20 minutes. Kindergarten is the best, though. Their room is filled with toys and stations and they get 20 minutes at the end of the day for “free play” and can do whatever they want. My 6yo doesn’t want to go to 1st grade this year, lol. I don’t blame her.

  55. John the Cynic August 24, 2009 at 5:03 am #

    This doesn’t surprise me one bit. It’s just our society’s way of conditioning us, at the earliest age, to conform to the standards of authority figures.

    Of course, I’ve broken this barrier and I’m always on recess or as you put it, free play!

  56. hope101 August 24, 2009 at 12:32 pm #

    This is sad. What’s even worse is that many schools are cutting recess altogether because they’d rather not deal with the discipline issues that arise during this time. They erode the minutes spend on teaching curriculum.

    Hello? School is not just about achieving scores on standardized tests. It’s about educating future citizens. They are more likely to suffer if they don’t know how to fight/play/deal with others than if they know the number of subsets of the number 56.

  57. franklynchusa August 24, 2009 at 8:13 pm #

    Our educational system is totally broken.

    We need to discard the entire system and start over from scratch.

  58. sonya August 25, 2009 at 2:08 am #

    I’m glad that although my kids’ public school recess is a bit on the short side, they are left to create their own games, which get very involved and go on for weeks. Similarly for the afterschool program, from which my daughter returns absolutely filthy! My daughter only complains about days when they are only allowed to play on the blacktop (i.e. not grass or sandy playground areas) because there is snow or it’s too wet.

  59. sylvia_rachel August 25, 2009 at 2:22 am #

    @sonya, Similarly for the afterschool program, from which my daughter returns absolutely filthy!

    Hear, hear! Honestly, I don’t know who these kids are whose clothes are still clean and un-threadbare enough after being outgrown that they can be sold on to thrift stores (though it’s great that they exist, so that I can buy them for my kid) ;).

    Not that my kid’s school, and the after-school program, don’t have some rules I think are stupid. The day-camp kids can’t go on the playscape if they’re wearing sandals, and we have to buy “water shoes” for outdoor water play (which, you know, $6 at Superstore, but it just seems to unnecessary…); the kids are not allowed to climb the trees on the school playground; and don’t even get me started on the whole peanut-and-nut-free-school-board thing 😛

    But I figure any activity from which she emerges (a) grinning and (b) filthy is probably good for her overall well-being 😉

  60. Sarah August 25, 2009 at 11:54 am #

    If you throw your child away by putting them into an educational institution, you’ve got to expect that things like this will happen. I can’t believe how many blog posts & twitter updates I see daily about what is wrong with the school system and how unschooling or homeschooling are the answers. Do things your way because it is best for your child and please stop pointing out what is wrong with the alternative choice. Some people have children like they are buying a car and put them into a school and that is their choice. You don’t need to contrast your choice with their choice in order to validate why you believe in free-range children.

  61. Sarah August 25, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

    P.S. You also have to consider that most schools put things like this into action because of parental complaints. Also, children these days are extremely aggresive and tend to play video game-themed “bad guy” games instead of the traditional red light, green light. Not to mention the girls who form cliques at age five telling other girls their dresses aren’t pretty or that they aren’t invited to a birthday party. Children these days are not the same as when we were young.

  62. kherbert August 25, 2009 at 6:30 pm #

    Today’s kids are not worse than when I was a kid – if anything they are better. Juvenile crime has gone DOWN not up since the 70s and 80s.

    I was threatened with rape in graphic detail from K – 5 by a student my age. It stopped after summer visit with my Mom’s family. My uncles figured it out, because of a series of things that happened – including me exploding when a cousin protectively pulled me out of the way of a misguided baseball.

    Eliminate the sociopaths – kids today might play resident evil instead of power rangers. Honestly they are less likely to break a leg or totally screw up their knees playing resident evil – not so many flying side kicks.

    As long as a grade level is the proper age – behavior isn’t that much of an issue. We have two 2nd year teachers in 4th grade. They were blown away yesterday about how sweet their kids were.

    Yea they are 9. Because of a bunch of transfers from other schools – last year’s 4th graders included a bunch of 11 – 13 yo. It was a nightmare and 5th grade will be a nightmare this year – they are supposed to be in JH and HS not elementary.

    When this happens we have to work so hard to protect the kids who are supposed to be in the grade level from behaviors more developmentally appropriate for JH and HS. Add in the kids that were retained are behind academically and angry. Some have supportive parents, but most well they are almost feral. No guidance – hell their “parents” don’t even notice if they come home at night.

  63. Jason August 26, 2009 at 2:42 am #

    So, my 2 kids just transferred into our area public school a couple weeks ago and their biggest complaint? Recess stinks! Unlike their former private school, where they got a full 30 minutes for recess, at their new school, they are not allowed to play tag, run, etc….according to the principal, it’s just ‘too dangerous…when kids play tag, they push…and when they push, they fall….’

    When I asked what my 9 year old son what they WERE allowed to do during their 10 minute recess, he said he just usually swings (when he’s not in line waiting for a swing to open up) or walks along the railroad ties, trying not to fall into the mulch.

  64. Uly August 26, 2009 at 2:46 am #

    If you throw your child away by putting them into an educational institution, you’ve got to expect that things like this will happen.

    Right, Sarah, because everybody can afford to have one parent home all day, every day teaching their kids. Uh-huh.

  65. silvermine August 26, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    Different age ranges aren’t a problem. Individuals may be, but my 6 year old plays with 5 year olds, 8 year olds, 10 year olds, and sometimes even 12-15 year olds. In “the old days’ they did that too. 😉

    Well-behaved children will know what is inappropiate to do around littler kids. It’s not that hard. Big brothers and sisters do it all the time.

  66. silvermine August 26, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    Uly — many homeschoolers find a way. I work part-time at nights. Some people just find ways to cut back on expenses. Other people work full time and homeschool on evenings or weekends.

    Generally, if something is important enough, people find a way to make it happen.

  67. Uly August 26, 2009 at 10:45 am #

    Uly — many homeschoolers find a way. I work part-time at nights. Some people just find ways to cut back on expenses. Other people work full time and homeschool on evenings or weekends.

    And just as many don’t. Not because, as you implied, they don’t love their kids or don’t care about them as much as YOU do, but because they are literally down to the wire as it is and can’t find another expense to cut down on, or because they doubt their abilities to teach their children at home, or because they believe (and whatever you believe is of no consequence) that the schools are doing an adequate job with their children’s education, or because they want some sleep now and again and can’t do that if they’re working split shifts.

    You’re making homeschoolers look bad when you go around and post – off-topic! – that people who take a different path are “throwing their children away”. You’re also just plain being rude and mean. It’s not cool.

  68. silvermine August 26, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    I said nothing about “throwing away” — look up and you’re see that’s a different poster. 😉

    Also, I specifically said if it’s important enough. Not as in, you don’t think your kids are important, but if homeschooling is important (because of whatever — like the local schools are not doing an adequate job) people find a way. Everyone has a different set of desires and priorities, and that’s okay. If you don’t want to homeschool, then don’t. It really doesn’t effect me. I generally figure people know what’s best for themselves.

    All I’m saying is that money does not appear to be an issue. I honestly know very few people who stopped homeschooling because of money issues. A lot of people who are poor *do* homeschool, and the results are phenomenal. There is basically no gap between the performance of poor and rich homeschoolers. (Or homeschoolers by race, etc..)

    So much in the world can be learned at a very low cost. (For example, I use phonics and spelling books that are 100 years old, and are available free on the internet. Library science and history books fill our house. 🙂 You can obtain a free math program online called MEP that is written and provided by the government of Britain. And so forth.)

    I was just answering your comment about having a parent at home all day everyday. Not even all homeschoolers do that. 😉

  69. Uly August 26, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    I said nothing about “throwing away” — look up and you’re see that’s a different poster. 😉

    Oh, you’re right, I’m sorry! Though I stand by my comment that she’s making all of you look bad when she says things like that.

    All the rest of my comment was under the assumption that she was you, so you know, the thing about it being important or not…? That was operating with the idea that you (I mean she) figured NOTHING was more important, and EVERYbody should think so.

    I was just answering your comment about having a parent at home all day everyday. Not even all homeschoolers do that. 😉

    You know, I know not all homeschoolers do that, but I figured that was more an older kid thing, like the high schooler or middle schooler who could be trusted to do some self-educating. For whatever reason, when people talk about homeschooling in the abstract, I always picture people with little kids at home, who either are too young to be home alone for extended periods, or are too young to expect them to do any structured learning (yes, yes, unschooling) in the meantime.

  70. Sarah August 28, 2009 at 8:57 pm #

    In my comment I had stated that more children are opting to play physically aggressive games instead of a game such as red light, green light. I said that “children these days are not the same as when we were young.” I never said they were worse, that was your perception.

    I am an individual person who is entitled to my opinion and I do not speak for the mass of unschoolers–so how can I “make all of [them] look bad”? I take pride in the fact that I do not label or box myself up to fit into a mold in which to be judged. To follow someone else’s method or philosophies on education would be just as retrogressive as putting a child in a school system.

    That being said, I am a strong supporter of parents taking responsibility for their children and allowing them to learn outside of an institution, not necessarily labeling that as “unschooling”.

    In my previous comment, I said that I felt a lot of parents were throwing their children away and that their decision to have a child was similar to their decision to buy a car. Make an agreement now – pay later. If you do not have knowledge to offer your child, why would you have a child? If you can not support your child financially and nurture them in every way, why would you choose to bring them into this world? It’s not fair to your child to send them to an institution for 8 hours of their day and force them into such an unnatural learning environment, just because you need to pay the bills. What is more important? The child’s well-being and happiness or your financially-comfortable lifestyle? Expenses can be cut and if that means living on a minimal budget so that you can take care of what really matters, then so be it. If the child were to choose where they wanted to spend their days, I’m positive they would rather be at home with their parent(s) in a loving environment where learning occurs naturally.

    Which brings me to the reason why I even commented in the first place. If a person chooses to have a child and let a system raise and educate them in order to provide financial support for them, that is their choice. I was simply stating that I was tired of hearing unschoolers shouting out what is wrong with the way all these other people choose to parent their children as if to validate their reason for unschooling.

    If you make the choice to unschool your child, that is great! But no need to taint it by constantly pointing out how NOT like the traditional institution-based system you are. Just be. 🙂

  71. Jen Wagner September 3, 2009 at 3:40 am #

    I have just learned today that my children are not allowed to play tag at school. This makes me livid. Just one more active thing they are not allowed to do.

  72. Tom Burke September 7, 2009 at 5:29 am #

    It was Oak Park wasn’t it?

  73. MITBeta @ Don't Feed the Alligators September 8, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    In this morning’s Boston Globe:

    Revamped recess puts the focus on the physical


  74. Pattie September 10, 2009 at 12:19 am #

    My kids new school has Structured recess the only one in our district. They have groups of kids they must play with and it does not change all year. that to me does not help but hinders their social development regardless of the acctivities.
    Pattie in Missouri

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