Where are all the Children in the Parks?

I have an opinion piece posted on the National Wildlife Federation’s Green Hour Blog:

Do you ever take a walk in the park and wonder where all the school-age children are? Do you walk by playgrounds in your neighborhood and notice that there aren’t any school-age children there either?

I do and it breaks my heart, because I know where they are — inside doing their homework. Kindergarten, which means “children’s garden,” has become a misnomer. Gone are the block area and the dress-up area, the sand and water table, and recess. Instead, children are ordered to sit quietly at their desks, listen to scripted learning programs, and focus on academic skills.

Read the rest here.

4 thoughts on “Where are all the Children in the Parks?

  1. My kids are often the only ones at the park. I actually had some elderly people come up to me and tell me it was nice to see the park being used once.

    I often drive my kids to a park near an apartment complex for two reasons

    1) Because its really nice

    2) There are usually a few kids there. Not many though.

    It is really sad.

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  2. Did you all catch the comments? The last one was posted by a teacher. Usually I am so articulate and could come back with my own zinger. I intend to but forgive me while I check out for a while; I’ve got battle fatigue.

    I’ll post my reaction here soon and will also include it on the site as well.

    Here’s a preview. There was that part that insisted that it’s not too much homework. Then the teacher proceeded to blame the child and the parents. That tired old canard, I’ve heard it before. I’m thinking back to elementary. Not so much at private because I felt at least heard. In public school, especially with one teacher, the attitude was, go away, do what I say, follow directions, get it done.

    If I as a parent had concerns that the time at school was not used wisely (showing videos in class, a three day assembly on cigarette smoking for ten year olds, test prep, endless oral presentations while the teacher checked her email), I was not allowed to criticize, to say a word. Yet it stunned me how the teacher could completely map out our afternoons and evenings, and nary a protest from me was justified.

    Dear teacher, the one who posted the comment. We don’t have a tv. Even when we did, no tv on school nights, so sorry, can’t blame the tv. Video games? Don’t have those either. Can’t blame that as well.

    I was there each and every day, I carved out homework time, created the right conditions, made sure she had supplies, took her to the library and the crafts store, stayed up late with her.

    So dear teacher, at what point can I say, she’s done four hours, it’s enough, she’s going to bed. Or out the door to play. If I told you she’d made a strong effort, look how much she got done, you sent home way too much for a ten year old, would you have been flexible? Would you have said okay, I hear you?

    Because if memory serves me correctly, you didn’t. Instead you punished. Deprived her of recess. And you made her recopy a long English assignment that had been done in the notebook instead of on loose leaf paper.

    Dear teacher, you insist it’s not too much, there was still plenty of time to play. But when we took our short walk in the woods,, she didn’t get it all done and I remember you got pretty angry when she quietly told you she didn’t finish because I forced her outside.

    Were you there, at my house, observing? Then how do you know it wasn’t too much? Your own children are long gone from the house, homework has changed, you must not remember, you don’t live this every day. I was there, every day. I found out you didn’t teach math and I had to. You weren’t teaching writing either, thank heavens my daughter is a ravenous reader and picked up the skills along the way.

    You say that after the child and parent’s best efforts, if it is still too much, I should talk to the teacher. I tried that. Didn’t get very far. I hardly got a word in edgewise. I tried to be diplomatic, kind, articulate, caring, seeing your point of view. It was hard because you were just so defensive. I doubt you heard much of what I said.

    Let’s make a deal. You don’t criticize my home life, I’ll try not to criticize what you do at school. Except I don’t get paid and you do, so maybe I have the right to scrutinize how you spend your time at the helm. On the other hand, my home is my haven. You had my child for six and a half hours at school. You do what you do best. Or should do. Teach. Allow me to do what i do best. Inspire, model,homeschool on the side, nurture, parent.

    Deal? Thank you.

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  3. As a high school student I have noticed this as well. I can personally vouch for what happens when students are forced to do homework instead of being allowed to go outside and get some exercise. This may not apply to everyone, but this is what it was like for me:
    *Get Home
    *Get Something to Eat
    *While getting something to eat watch TV
    *Sit in front of the computer and seriously consider starting my homework
    *Read gadget blogs
    *Talk to people
    *Really, really think about doing homework
    *Play videogames
    *Getting asked by my parents why I’m not doing homework
    *Begrudgingly do a little bit of homework
    *Eat Dinner
    *Repeat Cycle
    *Go to bed late

    I’m sure that I’m not the only one who goes through something like this. For a long time I assumed that it was just because I was lazy or I was a procrastinator, but gradually I realized what was really happening. It wasn’t necessarily my fault that I wasn’t doing my homework. After all this is a perfectly natural reaction to something as pointless as homework. My parents said, like many others, that I would have to finish my homework before I could do other things. So I would sit down with my homework and try to do it, but inevitably get distracted. One perfect example is one time in which I tried to eliminate all distractions. I disconnected my modem, turned off both my house and cell phone and put them in an inconvenient place. I then proceeded to sit in my room and start working on homework. Instead, I started doodling a man. Then I gave him a name and then I gave him a backstory and eventually I ended up writing two pages about this character I had drawn.
    So, gradually I started thinking about this. And I realized that all of this stemmed from my desire to put off homework as long as possible (To compare homework to syrup of ipecac would not be a stretch.). This made me consider the merits of homework. (You can fill in the blanks right?) Once I decided that homework wasn’t helping me I decided that I would put other things ahead of homework. Now I go biking every day that I can and I have really been enjoying it. But I rarely see any kids in parks that are my age. For the most part I see little kids or adults. And I think that this is because of the cycle that I have mentioned above. Kids waste a lot of their precious time when they are forced to do homework.

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