Especially in light of recent developments in the L.A.U.S.D. we see how many problems there are with our schools. It often seems that education and the welfare of our children are at the bottom of the priority list while bureaucracy and politics top it. I could go on for pages about the treatment of good teachers, the corruption of the teachers union and a myriad of other problems, but our children’s health… My children’s health is what is concerning me today.
There has been a lot of talk of school lunches and their healthiness… And to be honest I have seen vast improvements (Although I still believe if you have the economic ability making your child’s lunch is the best choice.) The only complaint I have is that (at least at my kids school) no one makes sure the kids eat the more nutritious aspects of the meal… In fact they have a tray where kids can leave the portions of their school bought/provided meal that they do not want… It is most often filled with fruits and vegetables. But I don’t see the lunches as the biggest issue.
This morning, as every morning I take my kids to school, we were early, I like to get them there early so there is less stress and they can play for a little bit before being confined to a desk for the next few hours. As we made our way onto the playground I heard the call of “Lucy, Lucy” being shouted across the cold March air. Two of Lucy’s classmates were holding a playground ball and summoning her over to join them for some kickball. She looked to me and I gave her the green light to join them, Bing hung back complaining he didn’t know how to play the game. Lucy ran off excitedly and I stayed back for a moment to draw the correlation between kickball and baseball for Bing. Confident in my explanation he decided he could handle it too. I stood to the side of the blacktop diamond and watched as they kicked and ran, and kicked and ran some more. They were laughing and debating rules, chasing the ball and chasing each other. They were having a great time and getting some great exercise. About ten minutes in a teacher came up to the kids and confiscated the ball, noticing I was supervising she came up to me and explained that the principal has decreed that no balls are to be used on the playground before school starts. I could tell she was slightly embarrassed to have to do this in front of me… And rightfully so, it’s a stupid rule! Lucy and Bing came up to me and were a little upset because they felt like they had done something wrong, I put them at ease and explained that I (like them) didn’t know this rule and that they were not in trouble… And that in fact they were getting great exercise.
Now if this was the first attack on physical activity it wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but it is not. Dodge ball has been outlawed (too dangerous), tag is no longer allowed (someone might fall), you have to be in the second grade to play kickball (I’m not sure why this is the case, I’m guessing they feeling like kids younger than 8 are not coordinated enough?) … You might say that these restrictions are justified and that there are other games to play, but those are some of the classic playground activities that require a lot of running and movement.
As many of you know, I have volunteered with my kids P.E. classes for the past couple years. P.E. at my kids school is not provided by the district, but is paid for by the booster club through fundraising, so without donating money and our time (they can only afford so many teachers) there would be no physical education in K-5. The kids would miss out on this 45 minute opportunity once a week to actually get some exercise and learn some new activities. Yes, even with a parent supported program they still only get 45 minutes a week… I know for a fact we had P.E. more than once a week when I was a kid.
Anyone who knows me knows I love art, heck daily I “pin” artwork I enjoy… But if I have to choose my kid excelling in art over being healthy I’ll pick health every time. I bring this up because at my kids school they provide a “quiet play area” where the kids can draw, paint, play board games or read (all things I support… And again, at my child’s school the booster club through parent donations provides art and dance classes once a week for all grades), so instead of playing and running during recess and lunch many kids choose to sit and engage in quiet activities… Including my daughter, who I have repeatedly told to get out and play during recess and I will provide her with art supplies at home. When I complained about this to other parents I found they had the same results, kids who choose sitting over running during there limited time of play during the school day.
I understand we live in a litigious society and that our schools are at great liability every time the recess bell rings, but is not our children’s health a greater price to pay? We are setting the precedent of a sedentary lifestyle in our kids at their most impressionable age. On the weekends I have to force my kids to play outside, to go for a walk or a bike ride… And when I finally get them out they really enjoy it, just like they would on the playground.
Sorry, it’s just been bugging me since we had our ball taken away this morning!
Rock on, Jack