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Whatever you do, make sure not to have fun!

My kids attend a public school homeschool program. Though homeschoolers have a variety of choices (including homeschooling independently or joining a public charter program), I have been very happy with our hybrid choice. I don’t have anything against public schools as a concept. I think they used to be a fundamental part of the community and a place where people from different parts of the community came together.

These days, though, things are changing. Do you know that many public schools have “closed” campuses? No public meetings, no parents or kids who attend other schools. In fact, some campuses are even closed to the parents of the kids who do attend that school. Things have gotten a little crazy out there.

The craziness that has had our homeschool program buzzing this school year is the new set of playground rules issued from on high. Our program, in which kids attend a few hours a week for classes, enrichment, and community events, shares the playground with traditional public schools. So we share a playground with schools that, shall we say, have a rather different view of childhood than homeschoolers generally have.

Think back to your playground years, and remember what you found most fun. Keep that image in your mind, because chances are it’s gone now.

Did you like playing tag? No running on the playground now. Yes, that’s right, No Running.

Did you like (as I did) climbing up the slide the wrong way? Forget about it. Antisocial behavior that may cause bodily harm.

Did you like mixing with other kids you didn’t see in your regular classroom? Verboten. Our kids have scheduled times on the playground.

Did your school’s playground function as a community playground during the summer and weekends? Very likely it doesn’t anymore. Ours has chain link fence around it.

I will grant that all of the outlawed activities can sometimes cause problems. Sometimes there are conflicts. Sometimes there are even broken bones. But in my view, the playground was a place where real learning took place. Outside of the regimented classroom, kids could really learn how to negotiate the world. They had to deal with bigger kids. They had to deal with the annoying kid who thought it was funny to go up the slide backwards. Yes, it is a bit of a hassle for adults to have to deal with kids having problems, but isn’t that what we signed up for?

I think it all comes down to our culture wanting to assert complete control. And I understand the impetus. Many of us (myself included) grew up with the problems that stemmed from unmonitored playgrounds and rough play. We grew up, had kids, and wanted to make sure that the bad things that happened to us never happened to our kids.

But I think we’ve gone a little too far. According to NPR, the research says we have gone too farAs the New York Times profiled recently, some parents are starting to rebel by simply letting their kids play.

I’m seeing this sort of parental rebellion happening more and more. Though the overprotective parents still have their kids dancing to Wii, the rest of us are fomenting revolution. We’ll sheepishly admit to each other that we’re the only parents on the block who let our kids go outside when we are inside. We have climbing structures without regulation padding underneath. We let our children climb trees! We have them make dolls rather than buying the latest commercial tie-in toy.

It’s refreshing. It may, of course, result in some skinned knees, arguments, and maybe a broken bone. But the kids are learning and they’re happy.

Life: It’s not without its hazards!

Posted in Culture, Homeschooling, Parenting.

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