I was waiting for my son’s dress rehearsal, sitting next to a mom who was talking to the babysitter on the phone. On a Saturday. She said, “Tell Alex he can only have one hour on his DS and after that he should watch a movie or something. I don’t want him doing the DS for too long.”
The instructions sounded absurd to me, so I broke an important rule of sitting next to someone in an airplane or a dress rehearsal: do not start a conversation with the person next to you because they might be crazy and you will be trapped.
I said, “I’m curious. Why did you tell your son no DS but a movie is okay?”
She told me she thinks he looks down at the screen too much and if he looks up at the television it’s more social.
Okay. So I could have told her how the DS has mulitiplayer games and is social. I could have said that watching TV is passive. I could have said a lot of things.
But I don’t learn anything by trying to convince her to see things my way. So I tried to see things from her point of view. And I realized that if you send your kid to traditional school then you have to believe that kids cannot manage their own time. And if you convince yourself that’s true then you need to bother them about what they are doing every hour of the weekend. Because they can’t manage their own time.
If a mom says, “I leave my kids alone all weekend. They make good decisions.” Then that begs the question, “Why not do it all week?”
Since then, I’ve been noticing odd things parents do because they have signed up for the idea that school is good. For example, teachers tell kids whether they should leave their boots at school or take them home. It’s subtle, but it’s saying that the priorities of snow play at school trump those at home. And schools decide when vacation is and families plan around that because if you send your kid to school you are saying that school is more important than family vacation.
A business blogger wrote about Kumon, a tutoring company, and how they are successful because they provide babysitting after school. Kumon has contracts with school districts to provide low-performing students with after-school tutoring which coincides perfectly with the kids who need after school care.
If you buy into the idea that kids make bad decisions, and test-taking is everything, then it’s easy to put your kid in extended school all day. It’s free.
You could say, of course, that it’s family and school working together. But what I’ve noticed is that families give up more and more control over their lives to the school. And that frees up time where parents can micromanage what their children are doing all weekend. Because school takes care of how family life runs.