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Free Play or Tiger Children: You Decide

I love San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll — not only because he can churn out witty and inspiring columns every day — but because he often brings a grandpa’s perspective to the table, and oh how I enjoy gazing into the future and getting a glimpse into how this whole parenting thing might turn out in, say, 25 years.

He wrote recently about a New York Times story about how much free time kids get at school. Apparently there’s a trend afoot to squeeze in extra music or art or science or whatever classes … during recess.

I hate to put my foot down or jerk my knee, considering I have no idea what’s going to happen with my daughter in five or so years and who knows? She may want to spend recess inside, practicing the oboe or whatever. But right now, I’m going to do both. Commence knee jerking and foot downing. Because there ain’t no way no how I’m letting the kid give up valuable free time for stupid lessons on whatever.

The weird thing is, I think kids need to be pushed harder, be challenged more, made to feel what one of my favorite principals calls “cognitive sweat.” I wish kids learned three languages each at an early age and were made to do some seriously difficult mental leaps. In school. During class.

But with all that work comes a much-needed break, a chance to burn off steam, process, play, be a kid. Carroll writes about a lot of playtime being scheduled and prepared by parents, and how many kids don’t have the time to just be … bored. Or to make up their own fun.

In our house, I’m more than happy and excited to play with my daughter. We have a great time together. But there are times when I say, Sorry, kiddo. You need to go make your own fun. I have no studies to back me up, but I’d argue that kind of do-it-yourselfism is just as important — or at least close — to parental play time. For many kids, recess is the perfect time for this.

What do you think about taking recess time for more lessons?

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