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Parents need to take ownership of their children’s education

If my child wasn’t getting something I thought he should, then I needed to find ways to provide it for him

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Arianne Brown’s kindergartner, Axel, and 3-year-old Audi play at a playground before school. 

Arianne Brown

At the start of the school year, the pile of papers consisting of class disclosures made its way home for me to sign. Mostly, I glance over them and sign each, knowing that they mainly consist of behavior, attendance and overall classroom expectations. One disclosure stood out to me because it had the word “recess” in it. I love recess, and as a former kindergarten and preschool teacher of 10 years, I based my whole curriculum around unstructured play. 

Rather than glancing over the note, I read the entire thing. It was a paper outlining the rules for recess, which was totally warranted. Then, I noticed written in bold type: “Recess is a reward, not a privilege.” 

That statement got my blood boiling, and right then, I decided not to sign the paper. Not only that, but I took it a step further by researching what the school district’s protocol was on recess. I found that all students were required to have a minimum of 15 minutes of recess per day, and that it was not to be used as a reward or a punishment. 

With pen in hand, I decided that rather than signing the paper, I would write down my findings, letting the school know that by calling recess a reward and not a privilege, that it was in violation of district code.

After writing my thoughts and findings down, I went to place the paper in my child’s backpack. Then I had second thoughts, and decided not to send the note. Doing so would label me a difficult parent, and I didn’t want that, so I decided to let it go for now.

A couple of weeks later, I was walking home from school with my kindergarten-age son, and I asked him how his day was, and I asked him about recess.

”We didn’t have recess today,” he said.

I asked him why, and he replied that they hadn’t earned it yet. He had been in school for more than two weeks, and had only experienced unstructured play with his classmates one time. It would be another two weeks before the class earned another chance to play outside.

Again, my blood started to boil, and I thought of ways I could bring this up to his teacher and even school administration. The teacher was clearly in violation of district code, and was denying my child and all his classmates something they were not only entitled to, but something that research has proven several times over as a key contributor to academic success.

I was mad, sad, frustrated — all the negative feelings — and fully intended to let my voice be heard.

Again, my resolve to take action soon went away. This time it wasn’t because I didn’t want to be a squeaky wheel, but because I had an overwhelming feeling that it wasn’t the school’s job to provide unstructured play for my child. Sure, it was clearly outlined in the district policy that it was its responsibility, but I was the parent. If my child wasn’t getting something I thought he should, then I needed to find ways to provide it for him.  

So, each day, I’ve made it a point to take my kindergartner to a park where other kids play. I’ve been able to watch him and his younger brothers run around the playground, slide, swing, jump and make up games with kids they meet. 

Taking ownership of things that are lacking in my child’s formal education, particularly recess, has made me less angry at the system, and more aware of my responsibility as a parent. I have become a little more understanding and less critical of teachers who are also doing their best with all the tasks thrown their way. 

Recess or no recess, my child will play because I won’t have it any other way. 

Arianne Brown is a mom of nine, who writes for many local and national publications. She finds solace at home with her family and logging miles anywhere her feet will take her. Many of her writings can be found by searching “A Mother’s Write” on Facebook. Contact her at ariannebrown1@gmail.com.