Last Saturday, Nate spent his Birthday working in a booth selling the coloring books he helped make for the Church fundraiser (for more on that click here). Today is Sam’s Birthday and he, on the other hand, has opted not to lift a finger for anyone. While the contrast is clear, it is also inconsistent. Nate is by no means a captain of industry and Sam is hardly a sluggard. I think they are each just the right combination of plough horse and puppy. In fact, if we ere on any one side of the work/play equation in our family we tend to be heavy on the play. Actually, I should probably say since moving to Hawaii we’re leaning REALLY heavily on the play side. Hopefully some good hard work in the mountains of California this summer will remedy that. The point is, there needs to be balance, especially with kids.
The child-labor laws enacted in the early 1900’s did a lot toward bringing some of that balance into children’s lives, many of whom were spending a full days labor in factories and fields for substandard wages. Unfortunately the compulsory education laws that soon followed, however well-intentioned, eventually served to throw off whatever balance was achieved. Today, the average child will spend about 7 hours a day in the classroom with about 20-30 minutes of recess and 15 minutes for lunch. Add to that the typical 1-3 hours they will then spend doing homework and squeeze in an hour of practice if they happen to play a sport, and that 9-5 job with an hour long lunch break Mom or Dad complain about is a cake walk. American children are spending more time in the classroom and other school related activities than almost every other country on earth. With the remaining spare moments devoted to screens of various shapes and sizes, actual play time has become a thing of the past. For all our humanitarian efforts, how much have we really improved the lives of our children in the last 100 years? With obesity rates, behavioral issues, and childhood stress at epidemic levels it seems this new life style is wreaking havoc on the body, minds and souls of our kids. Especially our boys.
I want to pause here to emphasize two things. Number one: I am speaking in generalities. While my own education was exclusively in the public realm, my husband’s was public K-12, private for University, and he has taught in Christian schools, primarily at the high school level, for almost 12 years. That said, the choice we have made for our own family is to homeschool. I do not think this is the appropriate choice for ALL families. The most important thing to me is that families have the freedom and the courage to choose what’s best for their own children. The advent and subsequent evolution of compulsory education has done much to limit and obscure those choices. So when I speak of compulsory education I am not merely targeting public schools. I am targeting the GENERAL practice of forcing children to spend the bulk of their entire childhoods in a classroom and doing school related activities, whether that be in the public sector, the private sector or even in a homeschool setting. Good grief, just how many thousands and thousands of hours should it take to make a kid literate? But I digress. Number two: from now on I am going to be speaking very specifically about the effect compulsory education has had on boys. Now of course, in specifying boys I will once again be speaking in generalities :). There are multitudes of boys who thrive and show great success in the modern classroom setting (I’m related to some of them), but a vast majority do not and those are the ones I am addressing in general. Why just boys? Click here for an explanation.
Now that everyone’s feathers are sufficiently ruffled, I have to leave you all dangling one more time because I have some serious Birthday business to attend to. But before I go I wanted to inform all you kind folks that requested copies of the coloring books the boys made that we have some available for $4 each plus postage. Just email me your request or leave a comment and we’ll work out the details.