Moms (and Dads) on a Mission–My Kindergartner Needs Recess

Denise Hills, a geologist, and her husband, a college geology professor, live in Tuscaloosa, AL with their two children, a kindergartner and a two-year-old. The kindergartner, who goes to the local public school, gets no recess. Denise recently wrote the following letter to the school and told me that, “after tackling recess, I plan on going after the homework policy. Right now, we have a very understanding teacher so it hasn’t been much of an immediate issue. I expect that to change next year, so am gearing up for that.” So far, Denise hasn’t heard back from the school.

My Kindergartner Needs Recess
by Denise Hills

Dear Principal/School Board,

My son is in kindergarten at School. It has come to my attention that they have no recess period during the day. While I understand that, according to standards, they are only required to have PE OR recess everyday, I want to urge you to reconsider reinstating a recess period in addition to PE.

Recess (unstructured time) is important for many reasons. Childhood obesity rates are on the rise, and more physical movement during the day could help reduce that. Recess holds other physical, social, and even academic benefits for children.

Physical activity and UNSTRUCTURED play time not only provides physical health benefits but mental health benefits as well. As an adult often feels emotionally more balanced after exercise, children feel the same. Also, recess gives children an outlet for their natural urge for exuberant play. With an allowed time for this, children are generally calmer and more focused on their academics in the classroom.

Recess also allows for development of interpersonal skills that lead to cooperating, helping, sharing, and problem solving, including conflict resolution. These are not things that just magically appear in children as they get older; they need to learn them through unstructured play. By eliminating recess, we eliminate a vital aspect of our children’s social development.

I understand that recess has been eliminated to make more time for “academics.” However, studies have shown that kids who have recess have higher learning and test scores. Physical exercise enhances brain function. Students who spend more of their school day engaging in physical activity perform better academically than those who spend more time in instruction.

Recess has far too many benefits to be considered optional. I urge you to reconsider your standards, instituting both a PE and recess requirement for younger grades.

For more information please read the enclosed article.

5 thoughts on “Moms (and Dads) on a Mission–My Kindergartner Needs Recess

  1. Sara,

    I just got off the phone with the principal of the school. She was very receptive to my letter, and frankly, agrees with me. Her hands are fairly tied about what she can do based on state legislation, but has told me that the children do get some free play (10-15 minutes) at the end of every PE class, which they have every day. This is something she helped institute at the start of this year.

    I took the opportunity to broach the homework issue with her since she seemed so open. There is apparently no school, district, or state standard for homework. She told me about the 10 minutes/grade level guideline that they use, and understood how frustrating it was to watch that 10 minutes turn into an hour of battling wills. She seemed keen to learn more about the Stop Homework project, so I have directed her here to the site.

    Overall, I was left feeling both satisfied and frustrated. Satisfied that the principal agreed with me, yet frustrated because she is powerless to change things at this time. We can only hope that this changes.

    Thanks for all you do, Sara!



  2. Wonderful that you found a sympathetic principal. But I dare say she is more powerful than she lets on. Sounds like she’s taking the path of least resistance. And gripped by the Fear Factor, the dominant theme in public schools today.

    A Teacher, the one who accused us all recently of being “helicopter parents,” blamed it all on NCLB. Told us her hands are tied. Which means we should just accept the homework wars. The principal says, nothing I can do, state requirement. State says, nothing we can do, the feds force us.

    Where does the buck stop? Who finally has the final say? You know what, it is us. Rather than working so hard on changing a monolith, why not start creating new schools.

    But your tax dollars are still going to support an increasingly ineffective system. That’s what hurts most of all. You leave because it has become untenable but you still have to support it. Double tuition. To the state who shrugs and says, suck it up, and to the private school, that in more cases than not, is just a little bit better. They’ve been bitten by the “gotta be number one” bug too.

    The only solution is to homeschool. Create co-ops so you don’t have to choose between career and your children. I firmly believe it’s the only way. It’s the paradigm shift for the twentieth century while public schools are still stuck in the 1950’s. Without the advantages. At least then we valued family and play.

    With apologies to Sara, who is trying so hard to get us to work within the system. Okay, Sara, I’ll give it one more shot!


  3. Ooops, meant, “paradigm shift for the TWENTY-FIRST century.” Fredian slip? Even in the 90’s, it was already too stale. Then along comes NCLB and there goes education.


  4. “With apologies to Sara, who is trying so hard to get us to work within the system. Okay, Sara, I’ll give it one more shot!”

    No need to apologize to me. I think parents should do what’s best for their children and if that means pulling their children from traditional schools, then they should. I think parents need to find a system that works for their child. And that system has to work for the parent as well.

    Whether educators’ hands are actually tied or not, many of them feel as though they are. It takes a brave educator to try to do something different, just as it takes a brave parent to stand up on behalf of her/his child.

    When I was conducting interviews for The Case Against Homework, I interviewed a principal of a suburban N.Y school who didn’t believe in homework at all. But she felt as though she would have to establish herself for several years in that community before she could try to change teachers’ practices and parents’ and teachers’ expectations. Since that interview, I’ve heard that same sentiment hundreds of times.

    Denise’s principal sounds open-minded. Maybe reading how the Wyoming principal eliminated homework at her school is all she’ll need to do the same.


  5. Denise, I applaud your efforts. Thanks to the efforts of a small group of dedicated parents who lobbied for change via a volunteer wellness committee, our elementary school students are required to have outdoor recess when it isn’t raining or snowing. My sons, who hates to wear a jacket, cannot be denied recess if he doesn’t seem to have the appropriate clothing. He runs around so much that he gets hot wearing more than a sweatshirt, even when the outside temp is near freezing. 🙂 The policy sounds a bit better or paper than in reality, but it’s a big step in the right direction. You might check out the movement “No Child Left Indoors.” I only recently learned of it from one of the wellness parents. I am grateful to parents like youself who are working to bring balance into our children’s lives..


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