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Buttoned Up > Everyday Life > Kids > 8 ways to gracefully opt out of the academic arms race

8 ways to gracefully opt out of the academic arms race

posted by Sarah on September 8, 2013 | print article | e-mail to a friend
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  • majormarilyn

    I was so happy to read this article. Play is a child’s work. I have a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I have been retired for almost 20 years. Even then, I was chastised because I let Kindergarteners PLAY. We had Centers and Story time and time outside. We sang and had fun. In April-ish, we learned the alphabet. Young children’s eyes and ears and small motor co-ordination are not ready for “formal learning” much before that. I was told I had to
    sit the kids in desks and teach the alphabet from day 1. The idiots were the ones behind the Administrators desks THEY did not know what a Kindergartener was. This is so sad. Problems are DEFINATELY caused by “pushing” The general population needs more education about “Ages and Stages”.

  • Muley

    We have been a homeschooling family since our eldest son finished two years of preschool in 1989. We became fans of ‘unschooling,’ Most of the kids learned to read at five, and very little writing was required early on, especially for the boys. Tons of free time indoors and out, time with friends, travel and experiential learning was the focus. Our eldest son commuted to a nearby state university at 16, graduated college at 19, earned his master’s on a full scholarship and is in his third and final year of doctoral work at 27. Our twenty-six year old daughter completed her undergraduate degree with a near 4.0 and is employed full-time as an artist, and also free-lances. Next son is an adventurer (who wasn’t ready to read until age 8) who unicycled across America a couple of years ago, and just returned from a 4,500 mile bike trip in Europe. Our fourth child is in culinary school and aspires to own her own bakery. Our 18 year old daughter, who has completed high school graduation requirements, is taking a gap year to travel, practice her violin and study before settling into academic life. Early on I felt insecure with our laid-back methods as we watched other kids and parents whizzing through life. At this point, I am glad that we followed our intuition and a different path. We are not a family of means but scrape and live frugally in order to provide our children with the time to live creative, stress-free lives of possibility. And one last thing from this stay-at-home mother of seven…I was that person, in my early 20’s, who would sit in restaurants and look at families with young kids and my only thought was, “Those monkeys are wrecking my dining experience.” !!!!

  • Karen


  • Grimm

    I homeschool my daughter. No surprise there, right. The reason being that the public school system has taken a turn for the worse. As you stated that being a grade a head academically is the norm but I need to share why this is. In public schools today grade level materials are actually below where they were 20 years ago.

    So many parents and kids do not take an active role in their own educations that teachers are playing catch up just to get the students at the level below where they should be. So if “Tommy” is in 5th grade he is actually being taught 4th grade materials. The current honors or advanced classes are in reality learning grade level materials. “Sally” is in 6th grade honors and being taught basic 6th grade materials. If you truly want your child to be ahead of the curve being at least one grade level ahead is required.

    Blame “No Child Left Behind” for all the mediocre BS in the schools. The kids know they will be moved on even if they fail therefore the teachers have classrooms full of lazy students that don’t know the basics. The teachers are stuck because they can’t move on in the class lessons if the students don’t have the foundation to leaner/preform the new material.

    Those that want a good public school education have to pull and pack their kids lives to make sure they are getting what they actually should be learning in school.

    BTW my mother is a public school teacher and supports my choice to homeschool my daughter 100%.

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  • SarahButtonedUp

    So fascinating – and terrifying at the same time. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  • Ima 46yearoldfirsttime dad!

    “Play IS their work”

  • SarahButtonedUp

    Wow – I am in total awe. I am not sure I would be the best “teacher” for my kids…not my strength for sure. But I really love hearing how your kids have thrived with the unschooling approach. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and results.

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  • anon

    I am a homeschooling mom of three young ones. I’m often asked why isn’t kid1 in more activities? What do you do all day? How does they become “socialized?” etc.. I think it’s ridiculous. Our kids need time (and plenty of it) to be kids. That means playing. All the time and as much as possible. My job is to give them opportunities and, sometimes, to facilitate. I’m close to parents of kids who are (as you put it) scheduled within an inch of their lives at a very young age. I think young kids (until about 5) should be with Mom and Dad most of the time. I am busy building a solid moral and social conscience in my kids. They aren’t born with those. I don’t understand families who over-schedule. If you have the opportunity, why wouldn’t you, as the parent, want to be who you kids spend most of their time with? Isn’t THAT our job and obligation to our kids?

  • Whatsreal

    If you don’t have a blog, please consider making one 🙂 If you do have one, could you share it? I stressed through 25% of our unschooling experience w/my ds and I shouldn’t have! I know you could contribute so much to our understanding of “education” because it is clear you don’t take ownership of your kids’ accomplishments, nor do you brag.. more like marveling 😀 (btw we took my ds out of school in 3rd grade, tried many things, ended up scaffolding his interests unschoolishly and he is now a 17yo professional programmer. He loves his work, loves his life, and is supporting himself very well…. He also got a 4.0 for his first semester of community college when he started that) Don’t get me started on my talented 12yo daughter 🙂 But, my point is, every story helps keep that fear at bay.. Especially when we stress that these kids aren’t geniuses… totally regular kids who were given ” the time to live creative, stress-free lives of possibility” Beautiful words!

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