Calling All Teachers!

Hey Teachers (and everyone else, of course): I’m going to be talking to a few teachers groups in the near future and would love to hear tips from any of you who have figured out how to incorporate some Free-Range ideas into your classrooms.

Is there a way you’ve figured out to add free time or encourage independence? Do yo have any great thoughts on making homework shorter and/or recess longer? Or, if you’re teaching older students, any smart ways of helping them to feel and act more grown-up (in a good way)? Any special tips for those teaching special ed or gifted classes? How about tips for dealing with parents who are particularly intrusive or hovering? (And administrators, too.)

I’ve got some great talks I give to parents and conventions and the general public (see the “Speaking Engagments” tag, above). But I’d love to have some real-world insights about school to share with teachers eager for new ideas. Thanks for any help you can give. And thanks for being a teacher!  (Enjoy your weekend!) — Lenore

Our Kids Get Lessons on Every Danger, And Yet…

Hi Readers — Here’s a comment that got me thinking.
Dear Free-Range Kids: My sons came home from school the other day with a letter informing parents that there would a Healthy Eating talk given to all groups. This comes less than a month after a talk on the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases that was given to the older kids in the school.
Now don’t get me wrong . I am not against either of these or any other similar education program. I did, however, think back to when I was at school and I could not think of a single social education talk that we were given. I have only been out of school 20 years, so we are not talking the middle ages here.
This got me thinking about the current generation of children in the majority of western countries. They have had every talk, seminar and lesson on the dangers or drunk driving, unsafe sex, unhealthy eating, Stranger Danger, Road Safety, cyber awareness, drug awareness and hundreds of other educational programs that make them by far the most informed generation ever.

Is it not ironic, therefore, that they are a generation of virtual shut ins with restrictions on everything they do, despite the fact that  are probably better equipped to face the so-called threats out there compared to many of their parents?  If we are going to educate them then we should trust them with the knowledge we have given them.  Our children are not stupid!!

P.S. Right on! AND — to the writer of this note: I have lost the original but would like to credit you. (Long story — my computer died.) Please send me your name and your blog’s URL so we can post them here!

Yikes! A Speech!!

Next Tuesday is Pres. Obama’s speech to children, urging them to stay in school and read books and, for all I know, brush their teeth. It’s about that controversial…or so you’d think.

But of course, nothing is uncontroversial in these hyper-umbrage-taking days, so we’re hearing from some parents and school administrators and concerned citizens that this is wasting “valuable” school time and amounts to “brainwashing.” They’re treating the speech like it’s a heroin demo for first time users.

Can we please calm down? This is our President, the guy we elected to lead and inspire our nation, and here is his stated agenda for the speech (outlined on the U.S. Dept. of Education website): He hopes to encourage students to “work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.” The only thing kids are really in danger of is hitting their heads on the desks when they fall asleep.

One radio talk show host (the avatar of all things rational, of course) was quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t let my next-door neighbor talk to my kid alone; I’m sure as hell not letting Barack Obama talk to him alone.”

Uh, sir? Obama is talking to kids in their classrooms, not in a bathroom stall at Great Adventure. And if we stop talking to our neighbors AND listening to our President, this is just one weird, sad, crazy country that needs to be less totally paranoid about everything and everyone.

 But I guess we sort of knew that. — Lenore

Up With Recess! (And Down with Homework)

In case you had a sneaking suspicion that when schools chip away at recess time, they are doing their students no service, along comes this nice little study to say: You’re right. And while we’re at it: Grrrrrr.

Thanks to No Child With A #2 Pencil Left Behind, more and more schools are sucking time out of play and handing it over to classroom larnin’. Nothing wrong with larnin’ of course. (Except spelling it that way.) But this study, released last week, found that kids who took a brisk 20 minute walk on a treadmill actually read at a GRADE HIGHER level than when they picked up a book after sitting around for 20 minutes.

Here’s the study:

And here’s the fabulous website stophomework — —  which is dedicated to bringing sanity to how we fill our children’s time. As Sara Bennett, the founder of the site and author of The Case Against Homework, points out:  homework not only takes time away from free play, in the grammar school years it does not give anything back. For kids below middle school, “there is no correlation between homework and academic achievement,” Bennet says.

 Still, I know my kids bring home homework every day, and have since kindergarten. It’s the worst part of their day (and mine!). And all it means, says Bennet, is that “Kids spend an awful lot of time doing something there’s no proven value to.”

Meantime, there IS proven value to play. It just seems weird to have to justify it that way: “Go out and play, sweetheart – it is so educationally sound!” But if that’s what it takes to get schools to start rethinking homework, so be it.  – Lenore