Organized recess? New study reveals it significantly benefits students

I’m of the belief that pretty much anything — no matter how obscure or abstract — can be organized. Dog food? Easily done. Thoughts? With a lot of practice. Worries? Most certainly.

Recess?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never considered organizing recess. In fact, it wasn’t until my friend Martha directed me to the article “Study Weighs Benefits of Organizing Recess” in Education Week (it’s free to register to see the full article) that I was even aware people wanted to organize recess. Why would someone organize recess?

It turns out, through study by researchers at Stanford University and Mathematica Policy Research, that organized recess improves transition times back to classroom learning and reduces bullying. From the article:

The study found that, on average, teachers at participating schools needed about 2.5 fewer minutes of transition time between recess and learning time — a difference that researchers termed statistically significant. Over the course of a school year, that can add up to about a day of class time.

Additionally:

Teachers at schools with the [organized recess] program found that there was significantly less bullying and exclusionary behavior during recess than teachers at schools without it, but not a reduction in more general aggressive behavior.

How does one organize recess? Schools start by hiring a “full-time recess coach,” who is usually an Americorps volunteer trained by Playworks (a California-based organization that develops organized recess programs). The full-time coach can also be a member of the school staff who has gone through the training program. Then:

The coaches map the area where students spend recess, setting boundaries for different activities, such as kickball. They help children pick teams using random measures, such as students’ birth months, to circumvent emotionally scarring episodes of being chosen based on skill or popularity. If conflicts arise, coaches teach simple ways to settle disputes and preempt some quibbles by teaching games including rock-paper-scissors.

Forty percent of the surveyed teachers said students used the rock-paper-scissors game to resolve conflicts or make decisions when they were back in class.

Organizing recess is certainly an interesting topic and one I had never considered before reading this article. It seems to make recess more like camp or gym class, which were both things I enjoyed as a kid. Mostly what I thought about as I read the article, though, was how much fun it would be to have the job of recess coordinator — you’d get paid to play at recess.

47 Comments for “Organized recess? New study reveals it significantly benefits students”

  1. posted by Adam on

    Interesting concept in general, however, part of me wonders at the following:

    “They help children pick teams using random measures, such as students’ birth months, to circumvent emotionally scarring episodes of being chosen based on skill or popularity. If conflicts arise, coaches teach simple ways to settle disputes and preempt some quibbles by teaching games including rock-paper-scissors.”

    Okay, Rock-Paper-Scissors, works for me.

    Circumventing “emotionally scarring episodes” leaves me somewhat conflicted. While I agree that trying to be inclusive will solve problems, I also wonder if this is more of the everyone is special, and everyone gets a ribbon philosophy.

    I’ll admit, I don’t have children at this point in my life, so I’m not really a qualified commenter on that, but I just worry that in not teaching kids that there are certain things that some people do better than others just leads to not being prepared to handle failure or setbacks in a constructive way as they enter adulthood.

  2. posted by Matt on

    So, we send our kids to school where they are told when (and most of the time WHERE) to sit, when to eat, when to talk, who they can talk to, where they have to be at what time, what they cannot do and what they can eat (which is usually Government approved crap). Now we are going to take the one time they are able to express themselves as kids and individuals and structure it to the point where they are mindless drones even during recess? Reason 1,984,424 why I intend to homeschool our kids.

    Government Schools = Government Mind Control

    Tell me, a kid who spends his entire childhood in a system like this that strips him or her of their personality, what kind of person will they be when they get to the real world? …a mindless drone.

    Pure ignorance…

  3. posted by Nicole W on

    This is sad & a distorted way of looking at child development. Kids who do not play without adults intervening have fewer interpersonal skills. Learning to negogiate play, and learning and practicing the skills of getting along with others, is critical to becoming fully functioning adult.

  4. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Adam — I thought something similar when I read the phrase “emotionally scarring episodes.” However, as a parent I’m learning no matter how far I go to try to protect my child from being teased or treated unfairly … it still happens anyway. Kids always find a way to be mean to each other to some degree. They’re trying to figure out the social realm, and hurting each other’s feelings are an inevitable part of that development. I think the last sentence of the quote about bullying above addresses that universality: “but not a reduction in more general aggressive behavior.” I’m not advocating hurt feelings, I’m simply saying I’m fairly convinced they’re unavoidable among children.

    @Matt — In homeschooling there is even more adult involvement in a child’s day. The reason most people choose to homeschool is so their child can have MORE attention from an adult than in a traditional classroom. One recess coach on a playground of 60 to 100 students is significantly less involved in a child’s playtime than one adult overseeing the recess of one or two children. I’m not against homeschooling — especially in the younger grades where many children may not receive the specialized attention they need in a formal school setting. I’m simply pointing out that personal, directed, singular adult guidance is almost always the point of a homeschool education.

  5. posted by Adam on

    @Nicole and @Matt

    Good points on both…

    Makes me wonder if this is really being done with the goal of improving the education of children or actually improving the children’s chances of success in life?

    Perhaps more of the former when it should be the latter?

  6. posted by Adam on

    @Erin

    My thoughts exactly. And really, they’re going to be unavoidable throughout life. Teaching kids to handle them, or giving them opportunities (and support) in learning how to handle them themselves seems more productive to me.

  7. posted by Kate on

    Organized recess sounds an awful lot like gym class to me.

  8. posted by Matt on

    @Erin

    From an education stand point I’m all in favor of structure and more adult involvement. Recess is another thing entirely. Kids need to be kids and not have an adult telling them what they have to do. As a child I didn’t care one tiny bit about sports, I hated them honestly. Any time we were MADE to play them I despised that hour. When we were set free to do as we pleased on the playground I would wonder around with a couple of friends looking at the wildlife and enjoying whatever nature had to offer my inquisitive mind. There was a small creek that ran next to our playground (which now-a-days would be filled in out of fear of a kid drowning) that we would hang around near to see the “critters” that lived there. Or we would watch lady bugs or whatever we could find. Often, me and a few friends would even play a little sports. I enjoyed that because I wasn’t being MADE to participate in them, it was out of my own free will. Nothing about this structured recess sounds good to me.

    “One recess coach on a playground of 60 to 100 students is significantly less involved in a child’s playtime than one adult overseeing the recess of one or two children.”

    Whos to say my kids will be “overseen” during recess. Most of the time recess will be in my 5 acre backyard. There is nothing out there that can kill my children. They may get hurt, they may fall out of a tree and break a leg or get stung by a hornet or a rooster may peck them to the point they bleed. You know what? That’s life. Do something less than intelligent (like poking the rooster with a stick through the cage) and he’s gonna peck you when you get too close. Cause & Effect, you pay the penalty of your actions. You learn…

  9. posted by hyllas on

    Our son’s school offers an organized recess and it’s been very helpful for the kids. It is not the Big Brother environment that people seem to be imagining. The teacher makes sure there are different kinds of equipment available and helps kids who want to play games understand the rules, and encourages kids who want to free-play to leave the kids who want to play games in their own space. When he is away the kids often get frustrated when one group wants to play basketball for points and another does not, and they don’t think to separate onto different courts. He also works with kids who get into arguments work out conflicts in constructive ways. It is absolutely possible for kids to hang out and do their own thing for the entire recess, if they want to. But with a teacher around they have more options, and there are fewer arguments and much less bullying. Learning to negotiate with other people is much easier if it’s something kids are taught like any other skill. Are there kids who will learn to negotiate with each other effectively on an unsupervised playground? Sure there are. But in my childhood, just as many learned how to re-enact The Lord of the Flies. Having seen both organized and disorganized recess I would choose organized recess every time.

  10. posted by jodi on

    @Adam, I haven’t read all the comments yet, but wanted to say I agreed with your reasoning but with the opposite result. As one if the “picked last” kids I will be the first to say “emotionally scaring” is a huge overstatement. But, emotionally limiting, absolutely. The kid who is picked last may not be very talented, and its good to recognize when to cut your losses and encourage someone better than you…but often this prematurely decides who is good at what. I was picked last in p.e. for 3 school years, only to continue to be picked last when we started playing math games in class, even though i was top if my class in math.

    Rock-paper-scissors is all good to break ties, but its not the kind of long-term problem solving skills I want my kids to grow up with either.

  11. posted by jodi on

    @Erin, with adult involvement in home schooling its quality vs. quantity. Sure, there is more 1:1 involvement when the academics are being done, but one (of many) reasons parents home school is to redeem the lost time (standing in line, transitioning into class, waiting for teachers to get the class quiet etc) so their childen have more time to be “just [unstructured] kids” who cn explore, create, imagine and drem without orgnized adult oversight. (not to be confused with without supervision for safety, obviously). So while its true home schoolers have more intense adult involvement in academics, i would say a majority of them have also got more play-time freedom to be kids.

  12. posted by Martin on

    Ugh. For god’s sake, just give them some unstructured time to play. I turned out fine, and so will they. This need for control is getting out of hand. Give them a set amount of time, and some supervision. There’s no need for anything more, and I’d argue that it might even be worse to give more.

  13. posted by Mary on

    I agree with Matt. First of all, in a home school situation, the parent decides (within legal limits that we already have) what is the important emphasis for his/her child. And the kids need some free time. Yes, it was 60 years ago, but when my homework was done, I went “out to play.” No cell phone. My parents knew the general direction in which I was headed. I knew my boundaries. I swam in the creek and didn’t drown. I walked along roads with no sidewalks, and survived. I tromped through woods and fields, and was not accosted by man or beast. Children live a sadly over-supervised, over-organized, over-electronicized life today.

  14. posted by Pamela on

    My children go to a school that has “organized recess” with a Playworks coach and they love it. They are not told what they have to play, if anything they have more freedom to choose different games because the recess coach has taught them an incredible variety of outdoor games. The coach often acts as a referee until kids learn how to solve their own arguments (usually with rock-paper-scissors).

    Conversely, I spend a good chunk of my day monitoring recess that does not have a playworks coach. Our students are not allowed to play tag or football (for safety reasons), basketball and soccer are sometimes taken away as options because the students get too competitive and don’t know how to resolve their disputes, and there are a number of kids who don’t know what to do because they just don’t know how to play (unless there’s a joystick involved). While I do what I can, much of my time is spent administering bandages and procuring ice for kids who bump their heads on monkey bars or each other.

    I was a bit sceptical too when I heard my son’s school was getting Playworks, but I did a little research and found out that it is a pretty amazing organization. Here’s a great TED talk by the founder on the value of play: http://youtu.be/STYU-iz8bUQ

  15. posted by Joel Zaslofsky - Enlightened Resource Management on

    Hi Erin,

    I’m all about organizing too but…recess? I’ll pass. Kids have far too much structure in America and recess is one time in their day when they can just be. Just exist. Play without rules (sometimes) or boundaries (within the school limits). I might be betraying my ancestral heritage here but play without structure is essential to creating well rounded people.

    It’s not about what gets their minds back in the books faster after recess is over. Actually, I’m surprised recess even exists anymore at most grade schools but I’m glad it does in all its unorganized glory.

  16. posted by Jeannette on

    Organized recess? No, thank you.

    Kids need time to just be kids on their own. Recess is but a few minutes in their overall day. Let them to their own devices.

    Children, especially younger ones, are already way too organized and “systemitized” (SP?) these days.

    I’m a highly organized person who is personally and professionally into “systems” and processes. (I organized my pantry and toiletries by category decades ago, long before it became an organizing tip. It just seemed “natural” to me–of course I was in retail merchandising at the time!) But I have found in my later work that the most creative and enjoying aspects came from getting out the system and the box.

    Organizing play? It’s more than a bit disturbing to think that organized play may become the next educational trend. Ugh.

  17. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Pamela — Thank you for the link to the TED talk. A very interesting perspective on this concept.

  18. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    Also, to everyone, I’m not sure what I think about this concept either. I think it’s certainly thought provoking. Definitely a change from when I was a kid. I greatly dislike bullying and know I suffered unnecessarily as a kid (and caused some unnecessary suffering for other kids, too). I think teaching lessons on conflict resolution, empathy, self control, and tolerance are important for kids to end bullying. That being said, I don’t know if organizing recess is the answer. I’m interested in listening to the link to the TED talk @pamela provided. I think it may be more valuable in some school environments than in others. Urban schools where kids don’t spend a lot of time outdoors in the evenings and don’t play a lot of games, this might be a really good program for them. As I said in the post, I was just introduced to this concept. It’s interesting …

  19. posted by lisa on

    Like many others here, I agree that kids need unstructured time in their days. Here in Chicago where the school day is being extended to 7 hours, a lot of parents feel that recess will become more important than ever before for kids, especially those who sit most of their day in a traditional classroom. My grade school-aged kids learn about bullying and conflict resolution within their classrooms through an active school administration and a Montessori curriculum which emphasizes peace, talking through your conflicts, and allows movement within the room during class hours. Our school has teachers that monitor recess…..who may well do all that a Playworks coach does. I will go check out that TED link— thanks for posting!

  20. posted by Cagesjamtoo on

    Ok, here’s my two cents:

    I liked Pamela’s comparison. I don’t have any experience with the Playworks system, but it sounds good to me.

    I heard a long time ago that when children are given a structured way to play (ie “run three lap”s vs. “go run around for a few minutes) then they are actually get more benifit (like getting more tired). I have actually seen this with my crew lately. They get more worn out from playing 30 at a local park than they do playing 30 minutes here at home with basically the same equipment.

    I think the Playworks system probably works the same way. Also in this world of seemingly constant electronic entertainment, some kids just don’t know what or how to play without it.

  21. posted by Dede on

    Organized recess = PE class.

    Kids need time AWAY from adults and time to work out their pecking order. And that means some kids are going to be last – welcome to life. I was always one of the last 2-3 kids chosen for anything, so my friends and I spent recess hanging out, talking to teachers, playing our own hopscotch, etc. My three daughters all did similar – some played the games, most just hung out with friends. ALL of them enjoyed time away from adults. I am all for adult supervision at recess and a coach to show them how to play a game, or to be available as an arbiter. The adult should NOT be a judge who decides, but shows the kids HOW to make their own decisions. The only time an adult should step in is for blood or a broken bone or to stop a punch being thrown.

    The best thing you can do as a new parent is to unplug the TV and lose the internet connection until kids are in high school. Let them go outside and play, get dirty, eat bugs. It won’t kill them and it will develop an imagination that will bless them for the rest of their life.

    And speaking of HS – morning breaks needs to be reinstated in the local high schools. If your HS still has a morning break, be grateful.

  22. posted by Candace on

    While I definitely think that having unstructured play time is necessary, I’m not sure it’s always necessary to have it at school. From what I recall, my elementary school had both structued and unstructured times, and both were useful, and I generally appreciated my unstructured play time at home more than my unstructured play time at school anyway.

    As far as picking teams, I think the random method is far superior to allowing team captain to pick. I was always picked last, because I’m a girl, I wore glasses, I was shy and I was not popular. It didn’t bother me at all if we were playing a sport that I truly wasn’t good at (after all, if I was picking, I would have done the same), but it was very discouraging to be picked last for sports that I excelled in. I eventually gave up on organized sports altogether, and became shier and more withdrawn. Since all the kids are going to end up on one team or another anyway, you might as well start them off on an even playing field and let all of the kids have the opportunity to try their best without being prejudged.

  23. posted by Visty on

    If I think about this topic abstractly, it doesn’t sound like a good idea, but if I apply it to our own elementary school and what is already happening there, then I would be for it. First, our elementary school is an inclusive school that integrates disabled children into regular classrooms/lunch/recess/PE. More supervision and structure during recess would be a good thing for everyone.

    Second, our school has crappy recess. It’s only about 15 minutes long (2 daily for younger kids and only 1 for the big kids), and crowded with all the kids in one grade level at the same time. There are two play structures which are nice, but then only 2 or 3 balls that the same kids grab every day. When it rains, which is most of the school year here in Oregon, they are stuck “under cover” on a big cement porch with nothing to do but watch those kids play basketball.

    My kids always loved PE at that school so much more than recess, because there were games to play. Recess was wandering around looking for your friend in a sea of 100 kids and then hearing the bell 13 minutes later. It’s not what it used to be. They don’t have enough room to really spread out and create their own games the way I did 30 years ago.

    If recess is already a time crunched, over crowded, limited space event, then this kind of program could really make a difference. Of course, the real problem is the slow death of recess itself.

  24. posted by Jason on

    @Pamela

    A joystick? Surely no one under the age of 18 knows what that is either. PS3s and XBOX 360s don’t have those, nor do their iPhones.

  25. posted by elizabeth on

    so when children want to play pony mysteries … or nature fairy …. or power rangers chase the nature fairies … or pine cone collection agency .. they can’t?

    in my mind recess is free form .. a child who wants/needs to run and yell and let out pent up steam is allowed to … a child who wants to tell secrets with a friend while making pine bark sculptures is also allowed to … and when the run/scream child stomps on the quiet sculptor’s sculpture, a kind grown up is there to point out the joy of differences and teach some basic negotiation/good human being skills ….

    that said, recess coordinator might be my dream job.

  26. posted by elizabeth on

    one more response to some of the comments .. a good gym class is AMAZING …. a good pe teacher will blow your mind with how fun the time can be …. i went to a bring your parent to pe class … and i’d go back every day if they’d let me ….

  27. posted by nmrosycheeks on

    I teach 3rd grade in northern Louisiana. We go to school 9 hours/day, Tuesday-Friday. Kindergarten through 3rd grades have one recess, but 4th & 5th get nothing. (3rd grade recess is 10 minutes–ridiculously short.) All this in-class time is in the name of high-stakes testing, BTW.
    I would love a recess coach: someone besides your regular old teacher (me, on recess duty) doling out advice and suggestions for games & resolving conflicts. I also agree there should be an area for those who want to just hang out, or swing or whatever, to do that without adult micromanaging.
    The skills we (30+ year olds like me) learned in our middle-class families are completely missing in my students. These poor, rural, undereducated parents lack those skills themselves, so how could they teach their own children? The kids don’t know how to express feelings, walk away from a fight, have a ‘do-over’ on the field, or basically get along at all. I am: Mom, Dad, teacher, counselor, mentor, etc etc.
    So, while organized recess may not be ideal for all situations at all schools, it sounds like a potentially great fit for my school.
    Finally, in P.E. (1x/week), the kids learn different sports in noncompetitive play, plus healthy eating choices, benefits of exercise, etc….. P.E. is more than just kickball.

  28. posted by Beth on

    My two children in 2nd and 3rd grades currently attend a smallish private school, average class size of about 15, grades k-12. In the elementary grades, the younger classes receive 3 15min breaks and the older classes get 2 breaks. They do not have a Playworks coach, but our 6th grade teacher is a very active lady and she will generally organize games when the older grades are on break together. My 3rd grader who is typically shy and not hardly athletic will, much to my surprise, join in the game, (even dodge ball, and some of those kids throw it really hard) Slow through the participation in these games, she has come out of her shell this year and made new friends and been a little more outgoing. I doubt she would have ever joined in with these older kids playing the games if there were not an adult there encouraging fair play, ect. On the flip-side, my other child is naturally more social and develops these skills much easier, it may not have a huge impact on her.

    At first I disliked the idea of organized recess presented in the article, but after thinking about it, it sounds more like what this teacher at our school is already doing, and if the kids have a choice on what to do, then it could be a great thing, not only to help limit bullying, but to help draw out those very shy introverts who wouldn’t have even tried.

  29. posted by Bitts on

    As a former teacher, and current parent, I think this might be an excellent idea. I agree with a previous poster who said that the unstructured play might be better accomplished at home, while the “coached” play might be more productive at school. Kids need to be TAUGHT to include everyone, to play fairly, to take turns, to negotiate disagreements — these are all skills for which there is ample opportunity to learn at recess, skills kids will not necessarily learn on their own. A coach can make sure the kids are applying appropriate solutions to these problems — not sequestering one another under the play structure to duke it out with fists and name-calling (scarred much? oh yes.). In addition, with the current trend of abdicating virtually all parenting responsibility to the public school system, a coached recess is one way to cover all the interpersonal and kinesthetic elements that are being neglected at home. Like a previous poster said, many, many “kids these days” do not arrive at the playground with these skills already in place. No classroom teacher can do it all (although it sounds like nmrosycheeks is being asked to do so!), and a Playworks-trained recess coach might be just the thing to fill in the many, many gaps in basic knowledge of conduct that children bring with them to school.

  30. posted by Meg on

    I had a version of lightly supervised play growing up. We played part of the time in mixed age groups and my older cousins set the standards. Include everyone, don’t get too rough, etc. They also came down on us for “whining”, being a little bit tough about letting us know how much the world would shift to our needs and how much we needed to just live with For example some attention and care for a skinned knee or bee sting, but dropping your ice cream cone didn’t get you another one. The third generation still has the rule that little kids got to first base without being tagged in kick ball.

  31. posted by deb on

    How about recess in general? My son (now 18) went to a public elementary school where all the kids had recess EXCEPT his kindergarten class. The shrew of a teacher thought they needed class time more than “play” time. I fought tooth and nail to get daily recess for that class but failed. I was ready to pull my son out but by that time he made some good friends so the disruption wouldn’t have been worth it.

    In fighting that battle I found out that there are schools, districts and states that are taking away recess time because of budget reasons (playground equipment/safety), mandated programs taking up the school day, test training, etc. Meanwhile, kids are getting fatter and losing out on a good dose of vitamin d. Idiocy.

  32. posted by Carol C on

    I’m a retired teacher and am in favour of anything that will reduce conflicts and bullying at recess.

  33. posted by Vic on

    This is a great idea. I’d also like to add this would be a great idea for anything you do in life. Being organized on a regular basis could probably add several months on to someones life. The fact that they want to instill this behavior into students this early is fantastic! Thanks for sharing this.

  34. posted by Roxanne on

    I disagree with the concept of organized recess. It’s a child’s only unstructured and free period during the school day, so why take that away? Plus, most schools have gym class, which covers a lot of the same stuff about learning to play fairly, take turns, and so on. Some people may have enjoyed gym class, but I certainly wasn’t one of them. When I was in elementary school, I spent recess catching up with friends, reading, or playing on the swings … not playing kickball. (And as an introvert, I appreciated having some time to myself as well!)

  35. posted by Gina on

    Maybe my school was ahead of the curve, because in the 80’s, while she/he wasn’t called the “recess coach” we had teachers and/or aides who were on the playground and kept an eye out for issues. I loved being able to do what I wanted at recess and not having anything too structured.

  36. posted by Lesley on

    This is crazy. Kids need to learn how to get along with each other, and how to organize their own games. A recess “coach” leaves them standing around and waiting to be told what to do.

    For heaven’s sake, let kids be kids. At my kids’ school, they organize their own games – as it should be.

  37. posted by saintez on

    I think it sounds like many people are over reacting to this notion. Please read the comments that come from parents whose children have participated in these programs. Children are not forced to play!
    These adults teach new games and help kids to ‘figure out the deal’ and then they are left to their own devises. There is a lot of push back from people who don’t like athletics or gym class and think that the organized approach to recess = PE. It simply doesn’t. Watch the TED talk and try to rein in your own bias.

  38. posted by EngineerMom on

    This “organized recess” sounds a lot like just regular old recess. Teachers there to help kids learn how to play and deal with each other. Isn’t that the actual purpose of teachers being assigned “recess duty”? This just sounds like someone sat down and said, “what makes a good recess duty teacher vs. a bad recess duty teacher? Hey, I know! A teacher who arbitrates and helps kids learn how to solve problems, but lets the kids play whatever they want to play vs. a teacher who views recess duty as an excuse to sit around and bitch about recess duty. Let’s write that down so we can actually help other schools learn, too.”

    I agree, kids are a little over-supervised these days compared to 30 years ago. However, speaking as a kid who was always picked last, was bullied (though what I got was nothing compared to what my sister experienced), and made to feel a complete outsider for 4 years (5th and 6th, then 7th and 8th where there was no recess), having a teacher out on the field doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

    Kids do need to “learn how to get along with each other”, Lesley. That’s what the recess coordinator is trying to teach. Anyone remember Lord of the Flies? Perfect example of what happens if you just let the kids work it out for themselves. I’m glad your kid’s school is civilized enough with children from intact families who have learned appropriate ways to organize their own games. Not all kids are that fortunate, and an adult on the playground teaching them those skills could be the difference between an uneventful high school graduation and Columbine.

  39. posted by Michelle on

    @Erin: “In homeschooling there is even more adult involvement in a child’s day.”

    As compared to public school? I’d like to know where you got this idea. From my perspective — having homeschooled my kids for ten years, being married to a man who was homeschooled, and knowing many other homeschool families — kids who are homeschooled have *far* more opportunities for unstructured play and activities and far more freedom in their daily activities than do public school kids. Yes, part of the idea is that my kids can have 1-on-1 help with school when they need it. But it also only takes them about 3 hours to do a whole day’s worth of school work. After chores (another hour and a half), they have the whole rest of the day to themselves. They absolutely do *not* have mom standing there “supervising recess.” What they have is the time to go play outside, on their own, with their friends.

    On top of that, they have more freedom to express themselves in their appearance, freedom to go to the bathroom whenever they want, freedom to make their own lunch (my kids made lasagna today), freedom to talk and socialize, freedom to explore their interests and “extra curriculars” as they please…

    I admit, I do know one homeschooling mom who is paranoid about letting her kids out of her sight. They live in the country, but she won’t even let them play in their own yard unsupervised. But I also know public school parents like that. It’s definitely not part of the “point” of homeschooling.

  40. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Michelle — You further illustrated my point with your explanation. Not only do you have more 1-on-1 time to help your child when he/she needs it with a lesson, but you spend more time crafting those lessons for your specific child than a public teacher does for a specific child. More adult time is being spent on your kid in a homeschool environment in many ways. Stop thinking about it as patrolling a kid, that isn’t how I meant my statement, but all the ways you invest in your child’s homeschool experience — because teachers in public school cannot invest that much time in just one child. It’s impossible when there are 30 kids in a class to craft every lesson for every child. You want to be involved in your kid’s education, you want to decide on the curriculum they’ll follow, you want to help them choose their books and get the ingredients they’ll use when they make their lunches. Trust me, you spend vastly more time on your child’s education than a public school teacher would on your specific child. It’s not just about “standing there.” That wasn’t the intent of my statement.

  41. posted by Michelle on

    @Erin, you’re changing the question here. The question is not one of how much of my own time I spend creating lessons for my kids, but how much of my kids’ time is free from adult involvement. As Matt originally said:

    “So, we send our kids to school where they are told when (and most of the time WHERE) to sit, when to eat, when to talk, who they can talk to, where they have to be at what time, what they cannot do and what they can eat (which is usually Government approved crap). Now we are going to take the one time they are able to express themselves as kids and individuals and structure it to the point where they are mindless drones even during recess? Reason 1,984,424 why I intend to homeschool our kids.”

    Public schooled kids have every single minute of their day, from 8am to 4pm at my local school, structured and organized, except for recess. Sure, my kids may be able to get individualized attention and help during their lessons, but public schooled kids have to sit quietly at their desks while the teacher helps someone else, even if they are done with their own work.

    If we compare my kids’ three hours of school time to three hours of instruction time in a public school, we find that my kids are receiving more *quality* attention, but not more “structured adult involvement” of the type we’re discussing. The public schooled kids must sit in their desks, are told when to do math and when to do science, must ask permission to go to the bathroom, are not allowed to have a drink or a snack while they work, and must sit quietly and wait if they finish before everyone else. My kids may sit wherever they like as long as they are concentrating on their work, may do their work in any order they please, may move onto the next subject whenever they are ready, may go to the bathroom whenever they need without asking, may help themselves to a drink and a snack without asking, and are free to go play as soon as their work is done. Yes, they have my attention whenever they need it, but they also have far more freedom to do their school work on their own terms.

    You said, “You want to be involved in your kid’s education, you want to decide on the curriculum they’ll follow, you want to help them choose their books…”

    Yes, obviously, of course I do. But the kids in public school also have their curriculum and books chosen for them. My kids do not have more of that than do public school kids. They just have better choices made for them (because, like you said, I can choose per child rather than having to make one decision for a whole class or school). That’s not *more* adult involvement, it’s just *better* involvement.

    However, when you continued, “and get the ingredients they’ll use when they make their lunches,” you entirely missed the point. I didn’t do that. I bought bread, peanut butter, and jelly. My kids rummaged through our pantry and came up with the lasagna thing entirely on their own. That’s the big difference between public schooling and homeschooling that I’m talking about. If kids in public school make lasagna, it is because some adult decided that would be a great idea, bought everything necessary, crafted a lesson plan around it, carefully laid out every step and told the kids exactly what to do. It wouldn’t matter whether the kids were interested in making or eating lasagna. Plus, the kids probably would be told to be quiet and pay attention during the “lesson,” and have to ask to go to the bathroom if they needed to.

    My kids were rummaging around in the pantry, found what they needed to make lasagna, and made it. They followed the instructions on a package they found, while I ate my own lunch. The sole extent of my involvement was saying, “Sure, go ahead.” (And they only reason they had to ask is that I might have been planning that for dinner one night.) IMO, my kids are learning something far more valuable from this experience than how to make lasagna — precisely *because* I was not involved at all. They’re learning independence, self-reliance, and to trust in their own intelligence and abilities. They’re learning self-worth (not self-esteem). They’re learning to work together without an adult forcing them to. All of which is why experiences like this are common in my house.

    You said, “Trust me, you spend vastly more time on your child’s education than a public school teacher would on your specific child.”

    I have to say, when I taught in a private pre-school, I spent more time crafting lessons than I do now. That’s because I was required to make my own curriculum then, and now I have several books that I like and use that require almost no planning beforehand. But even if the situation was reversed — say I’d used an out of the box curriculum then, and now created everything from scratch — that would be completely beside the point. Because when I taught, my students had every minute of their day planned for them. When to play with the blocks, when to sit and color, when to go outside. Where to sit, even HOW to sit. Frankly, that level of structure is inherent and NECESSARY for classroom schooling, because it’s the only way to control and teach an entire class of children at once. It’s not necessary at home so it doesn’t happen, and that’s one of the major advantages of homeschooling.

  42. posted by Michelle on

    I guess, to summarize what I am saying, even if a public school teacher was only able to spend 10 minutes per day on each child, each child would still be spending 7 hours a day having their every movement structured and organized by adults. Even if I devoted several hours every day to each of my kids’ education, they would still have far more freedom and far less adult-imposed structure during their school time, and they would still be able to spend hours of their day creating their own structure — without adult interference — while other kids are still in school.

  43. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Michelle — It sounds like your method works for you and your family. Was just pointing out that most homeschoolers (at least of the more than 40 families I know and of the dozens of homeschooling lecturers I’ve heard at conferences) do so their kids will get more individualized attention. They enjoy crafting individualized lessons and providing opportunities — going to Gettysburg while studying the Civil War, for example — that their children wouldn’t otherwise get in a traditional classroom. One friend has a science lesson each day when they make lunch focused on chemistry or physics or biology or botany — I certainly never had a lesson like that in elementary school. Many of my friends have children with learning disabilities, so they’ll present each lesson maybe two or three different ways before moving on to the next subject. Another of my friends has Bible study that they do after dinner each night, so their school day goes from 9:00 am until 7:00 pm every day. You’re sincerely the first person I know who homeschools who does so to give their children less attention than they would get at a traditional school. And, like I said, it sounds like it works great for your family. My kid goes to a Montessori school because it’s the best place for him. We all do right by our kids, which is what matters. And, my assumption is that the schools that are implementing organized recess are doing so because they believe it’s what is best for their students and their school environment.

  44. posted by Michelle on

    @Erin, I don’t know how, but you seem to be interpreting my words to mean almost the exact opposite of what I said. I never said that homeschooled children do not get more individualized attention than public schooled children, or that I am trying to give my children less attention than they would receive in public school. There is a HUGE difference between the sort of individualized attention that homeschooled parents give their kids, and the sort of micromanagement under which public kids suffer throughout the day. As I said, I could spend hours and hours every day crafting lessons and tutoring my kids one-on-one through their lessons, and they would STILL have less adult interference in their lives because it’s not necessary to control their every moment like it is in a traditional classroom setting. For example, I seriously doubt that any of those homeschooling friends you reference make their children request permission before using the bathroom.

    Also, I don’t understand why you bring up the “everyone wants to do what’s best for their kids” argument. No one is saying otherwise, or even trying to say what other people should do for their kids. I am merely trying to correct your fundamental misunderstanding of how homeschooling works for most families. Bringing in an appeal to emotion like that is… well, an appeal to emotion. A logical fallacy that can only serve to derail the discussion.

  45. posted by Uly on

    Couldn’t schools do both? I mean, ideally children have more than one recess period in a day. I know, I know, it doesn’t always work like that – but it seems to me that making all schools provide adequate playtime is a bigger priority than worrying about how it takes right now.

    But let’s say that your kid has 3 recess periods. 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon, and 20 before lunch. (Before lunch is better than after lunch because a. it means kids don’t toss their lunch to go play and b. they need less calm-down time before the next lesson.)

    Couldn’t the lunchtime recess be more structured (for those children who choose to participate in the organized games – remember, although some schools don’t do it that way, the official rule of this organization is that it’s OPTIONAL) and the others less so?

  46. posted by Deborah on

    I’m in PA. My kids are in elementary school where they get 15 minutes of recess a day. They are micro managed all day, by having to sit with their class for lunch, what they can bring for snack (must be healthy and no nuts) when they can use the rest room etc. As it is, they are not allowed to run at recess, (because they might fall or run into someone.) so please, let them do what they can to still be kids, on their own.

  47. posted by Lianne on

    A look of horror grew on my face as I read this. More like gym?! *shudder* I HATED gym. Free play is important!

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