There is a place…a place not too far away from here…

…where the idyllic days of summer vacation…

…do not exist.

Yes, a school district in my town is toying with year-round school. Maybe some parents are cheering, but I’m hoping this idea stays right where it is, and doesn’t spread. I’m hoping those kids don’t do any better on their state-mandated tests.

It’s not just because I’m a teacher and I need two months of “vacation” (it used to be three). My time off is spent working…on the next school year. The space of summer gives me the mental margin to think creatively about the coming year. I’m a better teacher because I get time off from teaching.

Your kids need it too. I know there is a lot of talk about how much academic progress is “lost” because of vacation. But here is the thing: we have more and more people in charge of our kids’ education who don’t know a whole lot about kids. They know some philosophy of education. They are obsessed with data points. And they are working tirelessly to make school more regimented, more micromanaged, more rigorous.

In the midst of this, your kids are losing one of the greatest learning tools they have…

Play. 

Recess is not an “extra.” P.E. isn’t to try to make our kids not so fat. Kids have an intellectual need to play. That’s what summer is all about.

And I’m not talking about the little playdates you arrange for them. I’m talking about wandering around. I’m talking about picking up sticks, running through puddles, getting dirty, experimenting, taking risks, real play. 

It is through play that children truly learn about the world around them. They read about sticks in school, but through play, they experience sticks, and dirt and bugs. The world becomes their laboratory. Through play, they develop the skills to not be antisocial, lonely adults. Through play, your kids learn to stop hanging onto your leg and go be independent problem solvers.

Albert Einstein even said that play was the “highest form of research.”

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Parents, play time is under attack, I believe. The powers that be are contemplating taking away two months of free “research” each year. Free range parents are having their children taken away for letting their kids do what kids do best.

Let your kids learn as much as they can, before school makes them come back and learn the answers to a test.

I know what I’ll be doing.

mckinney-eric-casebolt-640x420I was actually afraid I might have seen things wrong on Monday.

I don’t usually write about stories immediately as they are happening. But Monday was different. Sunday night, I saw the video of McKinney cop Eric Casebolt subduing black teenagers in swimsuits. I went to my computer and wrote my immediate reactions and hit “publish.” I didn’t even know if anyone else was paying attention to this.

Then, the next morning, I saw the story on Good Morning America, and I knew this was a real, big thing.

As my Facebook feed flared up with links and comments, I wondered if I had got things wrong. I boldly claimed that – yes, we do not know the whole story of what happened at that pool party, but – no, none of the rest of the story matters.

I wondered if some insightful person would offer a comment that would punch a hole in my theory, that the rest of the story doesn’t matter.

I looked and looked. No one was able to.

Oh sure, plenty of people offered “explanations” and “defenses” and “analysis” of the police’s actions. But none of them changed my mind. None of the extenuating circumstances made a bit of difference on what we saw on film.

I am tired of the ridiculous, indefensible excuses being made on behalf of abusive police officers. These are among the comments that may cause me to block you in my social media stream.

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Yesterday, like many of you, I saw the video of a McKinney police officer “serving and protecting” the community.

It was disturbing.

It was maddening.

Everything he did was probably illegal.

I thought I had had my dose of righteous indignation for the day. Then I read the story from The New Yorker about Kalief Browder, a teenager who was detailed for more than a thousand days without a trial, was abused, starved and beaten by guards on video, and recently committed suicide after his release.

The thing I found myself thinking about these two stories is that I don’t need to know the whole story. With stories like Michael Brown, the issues that we could have talked about were undermined by the fact that we do not know the whole story.

But in these two cases, we just don’t need all the facts. It doesn’t matter that one video doesn’t tell the whole story. An officer kneeling on a hundred-pound girl in a swimsuit is all we need to know. The same officer pulling his gun on teenagers while kneeling on the girl is all we need to know. The officer running around, cursing at teenagers is all we need to know.

We do not need to know anything about the robbery that Kalief Browder was never tried for. We do not need the details of his life.

Why do we not need any of these things?

Because they do not matter to the outrage we should feel. Not one event, not one circumstance that preceded these stories makes anything justifiable. There is just no reason for an officer to act the way this guy is acting. There is no conceivable reason why a sixteen year old should be detailed for years, waiting for a trial, and be abused while being detained.

So I ask you, parents, when are we going to start teaching our children about where they come from?

Obviously, the parents in that McKinney neighborhood are teaching their kids where they come from. They put up signs around the pool, thanking the police for keeping them safe. But that’s not what I mean.

I mean teaching our children that the world doesn’t look like our own homes.

We keep a photo of the Rwandan boy whom we sponsor on the fridge, because we want our child to see that the world is not a middle class neighborhood. Not everyone is white. Not everyone gets to go to school. Not everyone gets the (modest) luxuries that his parents can afford. If nothing changes, our child will never live in danger of poverty. And we are having serious discussions about how to help give him a sense of justice toward the children who do live in poverty.

How do we even start to teach him that not everyone is afforded the same police protection in this country? I have next to zero fear that my child will ever be assaulted by a police officer. I just don’t know.

I don’t know how we are going to teach our son about these things, but I think the point is that we are going to do it. It took me until I was an adult to really see these things in the world. I don’t want it to take so long for my son.

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Those parents in McKinney appear to be completely tone-deaf, or they didn’t see this officer going on a rampage.

But I’m done. I can’t teach my son to unquestioningly trust authority. I can’t teach him that police are always there to help.

We usually tell our children that life is not “fair” when they whine or complain that they don’t have what they want.

I think I’ll show my child just how unfair the world can be, just how unfair his life really is…

Love.

 

That’s the response.

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By now, just about everyone is on summer vacation, and if you are not, then I just feel sorry for you.

I think it’s a well known fact that teachers need summer vacation as much as kids and families need them. I don’t care what people say about the benefits of year-round school, our society is just built around summer vacation (even if it is a month shorter now than it used to be.)

When it comes to summer vacation, though, I think a lot of families are missing out on something huge. Parents dread the thought of having to occupy the kids all day, so we come up with playdates, camps, and other activities to keep the kids “busy.” Quantity over quality.

However, have you ever considered how much kids love learning?

They probably love it more than most adults. If kids love learning so much, then shouldn’t we stay in school all year?

If kids love learning, though, then why do they complain about school so much? Because they don’t go to school to learn what they want to know. We send our kids to school to pass standardized tests, to jump through hoops, and every once in a while, to learn something that is interesting.

But in the summer, kids can learn what they want. 

Parents, how many of you are starting your kids’ summer with this idea?

What do you want to learn about?

In the course of a summer, your kids can soak up the equivalent of a master’s course in anything. Your kid likes plants? Take them to the library, and then the botanical gardens. He likes history? Take him to a museum.

The summer offers some of the best opportunities for learning, because it won’t happen in a classroom. It won’t happen in the confines of a test. They will learn by experiences, those rare joyful jewels that are reserved for the occasional field trip.

Here’s my thing: too many adults do not love to learn. You can tell, because adults have shut their ears to the world and have oriented their lives around collecting stuff rather than experiences. Most of the people in our culture got out of school, and stopped looking at the world inquisitively (if they ever did). Life became just about a job to pay for more stuff.

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Get your kids off the couch. Put them in charge of something meaningful this summer. What will they learn this summer?

What will you as a family learn this summer?

I wonder what kind of sex talk happens in this family...

I wonder what kind of sex talk happens in this family…

I’ll be honest, I have nothing to say about Josh Duggar, his misdeeds or his family.

It’s all been said…vehemently.

Some of what has been said has been reasonable, helpful and redemptive and some of it has not.

And so I sit on the sidelines, having some opinions, but fearing that my opinions are not well-informed enough, not helpful enough to share, and wondering who is really qualified to make definitive statements about this bizarre situation.

But I will tell you, this whole situation has given me pause as a father to give very serious thought about what I will tell my son about life, about sin, and about sex. We Christians complain that the public schools are pushing sex ed. earlier and earlier, but few of us are willing to have the kinds of conversations our children need. This is not an awkward ten minutes at the kitchen table, done because we find out our kid is already messing around. This is a conversation that deserves to be thought about for the ten years leading up to it.

If my son were old enough to have the talk, this is what I would tell him, in light of how Josh Duggar’s life has fallen apart.

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