Monday, July 13, 2009

Where Have all the Kids Gone?

Almost every house on our street has kids. During the school year, we were the only house busting with delightfully loud sounds of kids playing in the leaves in the fall, sledding and building snowmen in the winter, planting gardens in the spring and screaming as they run through the sprinkler and jump on the trampoline in the summer.

When school ended this year, I was looking forward to our street coming alive with the sounds and sights of Joyful children riding bikes, having lemonade stands, playing ball and just enjoying their unstructured summer freedom.

It was a bit shocking to see a school bus drop off so many kids on our street at 4pm! I soon learned that these kids all go to a "summer program", which seems to be our cultures trend right now. The kids get on a bus at 7:30am and are gone 5-6 days a week all summer long, away from their homes in exchange for a very structured summer program, in which they are in the care of others.

I do understand that most people work full time, so they need a place to send their kids all day. I can respect that. I just had a moment of realization of how much times have changed since I was a kid. The days of living in the moment, barefoot all summer catching frogs, climbing trees, having impromptu picnics and games with my neighborhood friends seem to be over for most kids in our culture.

I am so grateful to be living the life that we are. It seems like unscheduled time is such a luxury for most families in this time in history.
Today as I sat with my children on a banket in the yard, our street was silent. As I gazed at my barefoot kids with jelly on their face, my son woke me from my trance and said, "What do you guys wanna do after lunch?" I smiled, knowing that they can do whatever they want to do.
For us, the summer has only begun.



Dina said...


16 blessings'mom said...

It is pretty sad that childhood has become so structured, isn't it? We are lucky enough to live out in the country, and our kids climb trees and swing and explore and just run around the yard....bikes, jumpropes, chalk..I am thankful I am able to be here with them so they can do this. I am always glad when we DO see kids out playing. (I am still a barefoot girl!)

Rana said...

We don't see a lot of kids out in our area either. We live in the 'burbs. I'm happy that we can live the life we live now too. My kids are doing the same things I did when I was young. Riding their bikes, playing on the swings, laying on a blanket and reading stories under the big tree, watching the clouds go by. That's what summer is about the unstructured time. The lazy days of summer. I'm glad they can do what they want when they want. Have a great summer!

Sam said...

I feel sad for all the scheduled kids out there :(

Kristi B. said...

Here, here! I feel so blessed to be able to live an unschooling life with my child and all the freedoms that entails. One of the criticisms I've run into from family and friends is how elitist unschooling can be for those parents who need to work a traditional schedule and have no other option but to utilize school/school care. So sad when you consider how school has really come between the family in so many ways (Gatto says this much better!) I feel for today's scheduled children who will never know another option and accept an over-scheduled life as de rigueur.

Anonymous said...

I too feel so lucky Dayna to have no schedule and have natural sleeping patterns I feel less stressed now that we live a totally free on our own term no one elses. I love the photograph for the post did you take it? It is a beautiful shot and sepia tone adds so much to it.


The Nilsestuen Crew said...

Loved this Dayna. My husband and I were just talking about how much our kids are outside riding their bikes! And I referenced their squeals of delight a couple times today. So sweet.

our JOYus life... said...

its ironic. i still have much deschooling to do, i've realized this past week... i thought i was doing my daughter a good thing by signing her up for all sorts of activities this summer...things like pottery on the wheel & off, painting, collage, soccer, boys & girls club (she can go when she wants and leave when she wants-when i come get her of course at time we agreed i would pick her up...OR...when she calls me to come get her because she misses me like she did her first day), piano prep 'camp' for her age (she is 6 3/4 yo), swimming lessons (which we never went to as my son was sick w/ diarrhea), horse back riding lessons...did i miss anything???

most or all of these things my daughter has announced on the first few days that she is not going back to whatever class it was. she is either done w/ whatever it is on HER terms...which is how it should be. and how it is. but i honestly can admit i get frustrated about how much money my mom and i have spent on providing these experiences for her to not carry them 'thru' and carry on some friendships she was developing.

what i have realized the time, it didn't seem like a lot of activities because my daughter is sooo extroverted and active...i felt she needed these different fun things w/ other children of various ages. i figured she'd enjoy this more than being w/ brother and i. i was wrong. kids will act like they want this but deep down, they just want to be home mostly, with family.

the other day at her riding lesson i could feel the disconnection going on w/ her instructor and it made me so sad for my daughter. the instructor was very far away and i wanted to scream. my daughter ended the lesson early because she couldn't stand it either. she felt it. i felt it. usually they connect. plus, my daughter was given a different horse to ride than her normal one.

i will blog about this but wanted to share w/ you all my experience so far this summer & what i have learned. ;o) its funny how we parents can unintentionally wind up boxing our kids in again and again...

Joie said...

i love our unschooling life because it allows my family the freedom to be there for our family and friends when they need us. for instance, my friend is facing a possible divorce and she is freaking out about it (naturally), she does not want it. she has three children and they are feeling something is up. i learned all of this late last night, and i was so glad that i could listen to her and then have her over today with the kiddos for some reprieve. she was shocked that we could do such a thing, because some others (family) could not do that for her because of their scheduled busyness. i am so grateful for our lives that we get to live, because it is going to show our children what is important in life, and build so much character and compassion.

Nicole said...

I was walking from where I work over to a close by deli a few days ago. It was a beautiful day. I was taking the side streets to avoid the traffic noise. It struck me on my walk that it was summer and no kids were around. It felt odd, like I was in an abandoned town. I was glad to read your post and see other people feel a tad uneasy without kids playing outside. (Right now I can hear some adults having a great time outside. Glad they are enjoying such a beautiful night.)

Rosie said...

Hi Dayna, lovely to meet you! Just came across your blog and enjoyed your post. I remember writing something very similar a while back. My kids have now been at school for a year (for various reasons I won't go into now) and I'm so looking forward to 6 weeks of unstructured days, while my friends are busy trying to plan out their holidays, and very considerately trying to fit me in to their busy schedules. I need a rest and so do the kids.
I agree it is quite shocking how there seem to be no children around sometimes.... they're all in their little boxes. Fortunately mine seem fine without the structure (it seems to be adults who impose this anyway) ... I think they are really looking forward to a bit of autonomous ed! (or what I call 'happy just pottering' to people who dont seem to understand the concept!).
I've not been blogging much lately but I'm inspired to start up again!

Shelly said...


This was a beautiful piece,and it's so true! We are;however,a so called "traditional" schooled family,that follows the exploration route too. Even though my children attend public school,I guess I homeschool/unschool them in away too. As a childcare provider,I feel exploration is the best way for anyone to learn.This type of learning shouldn't only be for preschoolers or the lower elementary age range.
Summer for my kids is almost over,and every summer, I dread sending them back to school,and getting into that boring routine all over again. It's funny how,I have more time during the summer months than during the school year.Well,one things for sure,my kids have always had great summers and I'm proud that I have allowed them to: climb a tree,collect rocks,go swimming,eat outside,create a vegetable garden,collect worms for compost,have a lemonade stand,catch lighting bugs,go to the country and visit grandparents and so much has been a wonderful summer,just being us and I loved every moment of it.