Today’s post is written by Megan Rosker and reposted from her blog Let Children Play. The original post was published on July 21, 2011 called “Many Thanks.”
“Nine months ago I did something every parent does when their child is five years old. I enrolled my son in kindergarten. He was excited. I was bittersweet. For the first few days he was giddy with the newness of school. Then reality set in. The reality was that these kindergarteners were receiving no recess time. In fact no child in the school was receiving recess.
My son came home burdened from school. He complained of sitting still for a long time, feeling rushed all the time and never getting a break. He was five! How could this be right?
I volunteered in the classroom. I saw the hours and hours of sitting, the coaxing of the teachers to manipulate the students into sitting still for lesson after lesson. Not only was it hard on the kids, it was almost impossible for the teachers to keep pushing and pushing at this pace. It was unnatural and unkind for both student and teacher.
How could I let my five year old be introduced so early to such a burden? To me, he was still barely out of toddler hood. He was ripe with creativity and wild with childhood imaginings. Not to have time to play or run around on the playground was not a good education.
I sat in front of my computer one fall evening and wrote Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids about my problem. She was the only advocate I knew at that time who voiced concern about the lack of play time kids receive these days. In the email I asked her,
Who can I write, email, talk to? What picket line do I need to stand in? What petition do I need to sign? Where is the place or the organization that I can go to be heard as an infuriated parent?
She responded saying,
I don’t know about a picket line…yet!
and then she went on to introduce me to the playful, dedicated play advocates at KaBoom!. She felt they would be able to guide me towards taking action. She was right.
One email quickly formed into a net of supportive play and education advocates from across the country. I was introduced to moms, dads, teachers, those working in the nonprofit sector and those working in social media, all of whom wanted something better for our nation’s children. We all cared that our children were not only failing in school, they were suffering through childhood.
As was the suggestion from my new friends at KaBoom, I approached the Academic Planning Committee at our school with a smile on my face and research on play in my hand, but instead of being met by a group of open minded educators, I was repeatedly rejected. I was even met with hostility. I even had a parent walk out of the meeting!
Visions of picket lines began to dance in my head. I wanted people to hear the concerns of parents (and many teachers) who believed in play. After all, I wasn’t the only person frustrated with the lack of unstructured free time in school. There were many, many more like me and our concerns needed to be heard.
With this in mind, I went to every television station and newspaper across St. Petersburg. I believed then, as I do now, that all parents need to hear this important message about their children. Kids need to play. It may sound simple, but it is a profound message given the turn we have taken culturally toward standardizing our educational system. In this standardization we have lost track of the fundamental needs of our kids. In the spinning, whirl of concern over the academic success of our children, we have lost track of how to raise them.
My message was met with acceptance every time and on every station. We were featured in the New York Times and I soon founded two successful blogs, Let Children Play and Let Children Achieve.
A month ago I was nominated by Amy Dickinson of KaBoom! for the Daily Point of Light Award and last week I was honored to receive it. This award honors individuals who are creating meaningful change in communities across America. Thank you Amy for thinking of me.
I am incredibly honored to receive this award, but it isn’t just mine.It represents the commitment every parent makes when they desire something better for their child. It represents the struggle to be heard that many parents have and overcome. I started this work because I believed my three children deserved more play, but this is true for all our kids. What was initially a personal battle, has ignited in me a fire for change in our educational system. Without the voice of moms and dads change that benefits our kids will be impossible.
What I write, what I share with others and what I do for my community and country I understand as simply part of my job as a mother, friend and writer. I passionately believe our children deserve what is best for them. Sometimes what is best for them doesn’t mesh with our adult agenda, but in the end the only thing that matters is the well being of our kids.
I look forward to continuing to write, speak, listen and connect with millions of parents and advocates who believe as I do that nothing is more important than our children.
I look forward to seeing you on the picket line.”