Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ten Ways For Schools To Confuse a Child

In case parents don't do enough to sufficiently confuse their children, teachers and school administrators can do their parts as well. We can all work together to make sure no child is left thinking the world makes sense.

Each of these items is worth ten points, with a few extra credit opportunities:
  1. Punish him for something that is completely beyond his control, like being late for school because of traffic or because his mother overslept.
  2. Make a really big deal about how important it is for kids to get physical activity, and then force him to sit still for 95% of the school day. *extra credit for giving excessive homework, leading to more forced sitting: 1 point for each hour
  3. Tell him how important it is to present original work, and then take away points on his math test when he gets the answers his own way.
  4. Brush off his complaints about being bullied, telling him he has to toughen up, and then punish him for retaliating against the bully.
  5. Call something "an opportunity," and then make it mandatory. *extra credit if you recently made him learn the definition of the word opportunity: 5 points
  6. Ask lots of questions to which you already know the answers.
  7. Tell him how important it is to develop healthy eating habits, then make him ignore his hunger for most of the day, only allowing him to eat at designated times, and then serve up some horrible food in the cafeteria. *extra credit for making a rule against bringing any food from home: 20 points
  8. Give him a long-term assignment with very specific requirements that take a whole page to explain, and write at the bottom "Have FUN with this!"
  9. Tell him how important it is for him to get eight hours of sleep every night, and then make it impossible for him to do so. *extra credit for starting school super early: 1 point for every minute before 8 AM
  10. Talk about how one purpose of school is to teach critical thinking, but then absolutely don't pay any attention to his criticisms of anything about school. 

How is your school doing on these? Tally up the score and report it in the comments below.

*More on this topic here. It's a response to one of the anonymous comments below.


    1. Every day I find more and more reasons for homeschooling. This gets an A+! :)

    2. Right on, sistah. Feeling especially gratefully to be freedom loving unschoolers.

    3. This is sadly so true! My son's teacher has them doing a picture book as a culminating activity, no typing or computer allowed, no coloring the pictures in marker, and no, he is not in kindergarten, rather finishing up his last year in elementary school. So, we lost sleep and enthusiasm for learning over this, so much that he said, "can I go to a cyber school" and " when I grow up I am going to home school my kids so that they have fun learning!" seriously!

    4. Thanks for the comments!

      @Anonymous, Remember, it's not too late to start homeschooling! Seriously!

    5. I am so glad we have the opportunity to homeschool. i still have to work but i can freelance from home, and work in a bar in the evenings, so i can be home with the kids.

      This has inspired me to write a blog post about the reasons why we homeschool. I'll link you! :)

    6. @Imogen, Awesome! Can't wait to read your list :)

      I am really happy to have the chance to homeschool too. I also have to work (as a tutor), but I only do so a few afternoons a week, and I am lucky to have an amazing babysitter who my kids love. So I can spend most of my time with my kids. It is a wonderful life!

    7. stumbled into this. very very confused. I thought "homeschooling" was nuts! I just have to say something, its not in me to not say something...

      1-the entire adult world is geared around being on time. I cant give excuses for being late at work, why should school be different? Surely an occassional instance of getting stuck in traffic is not going to scar a kid who shows up late, but isnt part of the point of school to prepare kids for the real world?
      2-physical activity is for before and after school and at recess and, hopefully, P.E. That should be enough. It is also important to learn how to sit the hell down so that you dont grow up to be a spaz who cant hold down a job.
      3-isnt the point to teach the process?? A kid can stumble on some weird way of getting an "Answer" but if they dont know the process won't they will be lost in higher grades when they build on that process?? Your not going to find an Alternate Way of doing trigonometry!
      4-Bullies are everywhere. You cant hide from them and if you dont learn how to deal, how will you handle an overbearing coworker or boss or random bully who is posting to your blog?
      5-Mandatory Opportunity is simply not an oxymoron. Its not.
      6-its a pretty sad teacher who doesnt know more than the student-- sad student too for that matter. Unless you are talking metaphysics, someone in the room better know the friggin answer or tell me who the heck is learning anything in that room!
      7-eating whenever you feel like it is not a healthy eating habit, disruptive, unfair to other students, and sort of gross. Gross school lunches are however a good point. Make sure your kid eats healthy for all other meals and pack him an apple or something.
      8-i dont understand this one even enough to make a comment. You dont give complicted assignments that require a lot of explanation? Why the heck not? Why shouldnt they have fun with a hard assignment?
      9-what? how is the school forcing him/her to get less that 8 hours of sleep? Dont tell me a grade schooler has six hours of homework.
      10-"Critical" thinking is not the same meaning as being "critical" of your teachers. Different meaning of the word. I learned that in school.

    8. LOVE this! & to respond to above post, I'm an adult who eats every 2-3 hrs. If I don't I get sick. It's not gross or unhealthy. I eat a VERY healthy diet but GOOD food doesn't stay in a person's system for long. If a child is eating garbage constantly THAT is unhealthy. At the same time, kids do have higher metabolism than adults so they need to eat more often, hopefully healthy food.

    9. Thanks Toni Racquel!

      @Charity, I agree with you about the eating.

      @Anonymous, I wrote up a response to you. You can find it here:

    10. Anonymous .... I could say a lot but it would be worthless to because thick headed people do not like to learn about great things such as this, I hated highschool, teachers were dumb I was bored I didnt get enough physical activity, when I took college classes online, I had a 4.0 gpa for 2 semesters ...... Now its a 3.6 (darn math) I love love the cyber learning and will start with my son next year plus there are more class options online and my child ca excell however he wants and get ahead which is not what you can do in a public school and worrying to much about social statuses

    11. One more way to confuse a child:

      Deny a child a privilege in one class that they are excelling in, because of perceived poor behaviour in another class.

      I've seen this tactic used on two children, the child of a friend of mine, and myself. And as I can testify for myself, it can damage a child severely.

      Example: I was bullied pretty badly in school, and it resulted in some behavioural upsets. But choir, which I loved because I sing well and always have, I made extra effort to put up with other kids. My parents were told that I kept getting denied solos in choir concerts because my behaviour in other classes was bad, and eventually I quit choir and didn't sing in front of people for about five years.

      What is tragic is that someone thought this kind of punishment up in the first place and that it's been applied across time and distance in at least two cases.

    12. @Marynoel, Thanks for the comment. I responded to Anon's comment with a whole long post (see my last comment for link), but I haven't heard back from Anon yet. I figured it was just a "drive-by" but still wanted to rebut some of the arguments.

      @Amiee, You are right, that is beyond confusing. That is tragic. I have also seen that type of thing, where a really active kid can't sit still in class, so they deny him recess! The only physical outlet he has during the day. It is a horrible thing. This kind of denial of privileges, as you experienced, only serves to break a child. Nothing good can come of it! Thanks for sharing your experience here.

    13. So, for those of us who cannot homeschool, how can we best counteract these issues?

    14. Oh, I have another one to add to your list --

      Preach against bullying, but then set kids up for bullying by using the "we'll punish the whole class if one person screws up" discipline method.

    15. Respectfully, this seems like a pretty outdated representation of the school system. Or perhaps you live in an area that is not very progressive. I have worked in many schools, and I have never seen many of the situations you describe above. Sometimes lengthy assignments lead to powerful discoveries, sometimes it is really important to show your work in math. Sometimes school starts early because the entire system has to share bus routes. And sometimes, through mandatory opportunities, we can learn a lot about ourselves.
      I agree that there are many positives about homeschooling, but this seems like quite a stretch of a list to paint schools in a negative light. Most schools are quite progressive, focus on discovery learning, and are not the hell holes you seem to think they are.

    16. This comment has been removed by the author.

    17. @FarrenSquare, I have seen every one of these things happen in schools... I'm not making them up. However, I definitely am not implying that all schools do all of these things. This is not meant to be a representation of the school system as a whole. I never called schools hell-holes. I only said that the more of these things a school does to kids, the more confused the kids will be. I left it up to the readers to assess their own schools based on these criteria. It's wonderful if you are in a place where the schools don't do these things.

      I know there are progressive schools out there, but I'm not convinced that "most schools are quite progressive, focus on discovery learning..." I have seen quite the opposite.

    18. My daughter (10 years) is attending a week long Rec camp (day camp) this week at her dads. She had day one yesterday and called to tell me that her friend told her "all the kids are talking about you...they think your life is so amazing and that you are so lucky to be homeschooled." This warms my heart.... I think our life is amazing as well...

    19. We showed my daughter a couple of ways to tie her shoes before she went to kindergarten. She sat with a shoe in her lap and recited "I am learning to tie my shoe" "I am practicing tying my shoe." "I am tying my shoe by myself." When she was finished she had in fact tied her shoe by herself in her own unique way and IT STAYED TIED. We told her this was a really neat thing about her; that she was creative and could figure things out in a new way. Her teacher told it was wrong. And she never tied her shoes her own way, again.

    20. @JenO, That is wonderful. Wish every kid could experience the freedom...

      @Carolyn, :(

    21. @Jaycee, I got this comment on my FB page from a reader named Angela, so I will share it here with you:

      "There is someone who commented on this post asking what people who are not able to homeschool can do. I would like to suggest Sudbury schools but I wasn't able to post on the site. I'm not sure if you would feel comfortable passing the information along, but the main website and info is at, a list of Sudbury schools is at, and a blog post and some good discussion of these schools and the similarities to unschooling is at, and that post links to a CNN article on unschooling and Sudbury schooling. My son is attending one of these schools because they are doing what we do at home, but they can do it with him while I work. :)"

      Sudbury schools seem like wonderful options if they are available near you. If not, I would say at least watch out for nonsense things the school tries to do. Be your child's advocate. Speak out against excessive homework. Let him stay home from school for no reason sometimes. Above all, listen to your child. He will thank you for that. :)

    22. Just wanted to quickly comment on Anon's point 1) because even if Anon doesn't come back, I have a relevant story.

      My son desperately wanted a brand-new 3DS by his birthday, which was last week. He knew that our budget couldn't find the $250 price tag (and he knew the price because he'salready donesome online research on it.

      He decided to save his allowance, and for several weeks, he got up at 7am or 9am to go work at his grandfather's. Sometimes he worked as much as 8 hours with just a lunch break. Sometimes he went to sleep at 4am, but still was up at 7. He packed his own lunch, got his clothes ready, and only asked that I walk him to their home down the street and come to walk him back.

      He helped open a pool, with the construction of a playroom, learned to operate a riding mower, helped with plumbing and soldering and general cleaning up.

      Each day he worked, he earned $4.

      He budgeted very carefully, buying very little for himself while he was saving. He kept researching the 3DS, to learn its functions, where and when it would be available, what colors it came in. We visited several places that had demo models, and he tried these out, read the display signs carefully, and struck up conversations with salespeople in at least three different establishments.

      A few weeks ago, Nintendo dropped the price to $169.99, and Jeremiah learned about it on their website when he went to check it.

      He added up his saved allowance, the money left in his bank account, and the cash he had on hand - and knew that if he spent only $10 at a conference we were attending (NEUC), he would have enough to purchase it *on his birthday*.

      He chose to go to Target, chose the aqua blue 3DS, and found a salesman with a key. He paid himself (he did ask me to hold the money until he was ready, to keep it safe. And his dad and I covered the tax, because 10 year olds should not need to pay sales tax.

      My husband and I were support staff. Jeremiah provided the know how and the elbow grease and the perseverance and the work ethic that made this happen.

      Oh, Jeremiah has NEVER gone to school. As a radical unschooler, he is not forced to work, or to go to bed or get up at a specific time. He is not made to save his money, nor told how he may spend it.

      And yet, he set himself a goal, and took a variety of actions of his own devising to reach that goal. He made plans, followed through, adapted when necessary, sought the help of others when he needed it, did his research, and attained his goal.

      He did this at 9 years old.

      Which begs the question: Is it really necessary for children to be in school, or schools to restrict and control and punish, to prepare children for the "real world"?

      Maybe, when we don't remove children from the real world and segregate them in separate buildings to begin with, the simple process of growing up in the world around them, watching older people function in it, they learn quite naturally how to function in that world?

      Wow, that touched on more than one point, and took a while. Sorry to monopolize - I am still rather in awe of Jeremiah and what he accomplished this summer.

      1. I love this story of Jeremiah, wow, very intelligent young man.

        My daughter Soriah is as clever, I was made to feel that her full potential would never be achieved at school and that she was only able to function on minimal brain power. So I took her out of school, she is still de-schooling, but socially she is a whizz. I can leave her to hold mature convo's with virtually anyone.

        Im glad shes no longer there, I have no confidence that another school will be any better either, and she seems so peaceful and more relaxed now, it was just too much pressure for her at school. In her reluctance to learn at school she began to pull away socially, I do not have this problem anymore.

        Sometimes I have the problem of others who are conditioned to think that she will amount to nothing if she does not go to school, but I do not have that urge to do so, sometimes she wants to go back to her old school and misses everyone but she'll be fine and soon forgets it.

        She behaves in a more mature way anyway now, she may find it difficult to learn from me sometimes but i am learning too, how she best learns.

        thanks for listening

      2. Thanks for sharing your story! Sounds like your daughter is very lucky to have you. :)

    23. @Shannon, Thanks for sharing that awesome story! I'm often amazed at what children are capable of, when given the chance to shine. :)