Where are the children?

Here is my son at an empty pool. So many places we go are empty because we go in the middle of the day. This photo happens to be at the University of Iowa, where my brother is getting a PhD in chemistry. But the photo could be anywhere. As someone pointed out in the comments section here last week, people are not used to seeing kids in the world. At least during the school day. Kids are missing from the world during that time.

I never realized how creepy that is. Everyone notices us walking around because kids are not supposed to be seen during the day.

There are so many things I did not notice about the world until I started to notice school. Which reminds me of a study by Roy Baumeister. He had people walk with books balanced on their heads for a few minutes each day. And it turns out that making someone mindful for just a few minutes a day actually makes them more mindful about things all day long. Mindfulness snowballs.

I think this is true about school as well — being mindful of how our society teaches kids has made me more mindful about how our society does lots of things. And I’m shocked by how much I had been missing.

16 replies
  1. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Our culture is on a hamster wheel … and it either doesn’t know how or doesn’t want to get off it. Because really the only way “to see the forest for the trees” is to step back, reflect, and experience something different so that it’s possible to make a comparison. That’s what you’re doing here. Thank you for sharing your observations here.

  2. Angela
    Angela says:

    I swear sometimes we were separated at birth. The observations and opinions that you share seem as though you’re tapping into my mind and blogging my thoughts. I love reading your blogs and I get so much out of them. You’ve helped me in so many areas, and now I need to ask for some specific insight. As I mentioned, I follow your blogs and have read about your relationship difficulties, your business ups and downs, financial issues, and now homeschooling. I would love to be able to homeschool my daughter and financially support the two of us at the same time. I’m in the process of a divorce and the pressure of providing the basics like shelter, food and safety are sometimes in doubt. I do not lack in skill, professional contacts, etc., and my state of “poor and scared” is significantly better than most…but at 41 years old I’m still trying to find my feet and do what my heart is telling me to do. In reading your posts, I get the sense sometimes that you are so focused on the difficulties you’ve experienced that you’re not seeing the magnificent successes. I get that you’ve failed at things, but that’s great! If you’re not failing, you’re not trying, right? AND your successes far outweigh any failures. I just read a post you have on BNET and I think you were also a pro beach volleyball player? Not to mention surviving 9/11, launching many successful businesses, being a great mom…(Suddenly realizing that my question was lost in my Penelope crush…sorry!) Here it is: When you are in a position of massive life changes and you suddenly find yourself in the position of taking care of yourself and your child, how can you work through the process of deciding what to focus on–earning a living or taking full responsibility of the more important role as a parent. If I wasn’t concerned about paying bills I would homeschool in a second!

  3. Laura Grace Weldon
    Laura Grace Weldon says:

    So true! And it makes me wonder why children are segregated. Children long to watch and imitate what’s going on in the real world around them. This is how they advance in skill and maturity. That is, unless we restrict them to child-centered activities.

    Funny that you posted this today, as I just wrote about how to re-integrate children into the lives of our communities:


    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I like your ideas about how to integrate kids into the community. I read a lot about how kids like to be relied on as doing something important. On a farm, we do that with chores. But really, we could rely on kids way more, as pillars of the community. It’s odd, actually, that we don’t do that more…


  4. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I would love to hear about the other things you think are missing in society. Are you sure you don’t have time for a third blog?

  5. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    This reminds me of days when I have a doctor’s appointment and then decide to run a few errands, and I think, “Oh my God, why aren’t all these people at work?!”

  6. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    When I was homeschooled/unschooled, I remember getting strange looks when I was out in the world during the day.

    I actually still feel like that, since I’m always running errands and doing things for my boss during normal work week hours. People are always asking me why I’m not “at work.” And I’m like, I AM at work.

    It’s my favorite part of my job, actually. To be out in the world when other people aren’t.

  7. p
    p says:

    I notice this even with younger children–after my older child turned one (when parental leave ends in Canada), it became increasingly difficult to find any other children his age to play with. He’s in preschool three mornings a week now, at age four, just so that he can see other kids sometimes. I don’t know what we’ll do next year; considering homeschooling but dreading the isolation.

    I love this photo. It looks like so much fun.

  8. Ilaya
    Ilaya says:

    I had a blast unschooling my daughter while she was in school. She is almost 21 now and studying abroad in Italy. I put her in and out of private schools and public schools her whole life. But we were never there. The private schools were great because once you write the check they don’t care if you show up. She traveled the world with me while I set up refugee camps and worked for the UN. I taught her how to navigate the world on her feet, from navigating train routes to ticket machines and airline terminals, to coping with language and economic barriers, and how to respect and appreciate cultural differences. She learned technology not from schools but from exploration and conversation. My greatest joy now are her calls and letters, that always include “Thanks to you I can do…” She is brave and fearless, yet cautious and kind. I miss her.

  9. Holly
    Holly says:

    I homeschool three teenagers and on top of that we travel fulltime in a Rv. So you can imagine we stick out a lot among the usual 60+ crowd that swarms the rv parks.
    When my 15 yr old daughter returned from playing candy bar bingo (don’t ask!) on Tuesday morning at the activity center, I was reminded of the Olin Miller quote -“We probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of us if we could know how seldom they do.”
    Kids are usually in school of course, but when she came back I asked her if anyone said anything about why she wasn’t in school. She said the only thing they expressed was how happy they were that she showed up, because they needed four people to play or they would have to cancel! I usually don’t waste energy on possible inquiries from our short term neighbors, but she was going with out me ;) I’ve surprisingly found, those from much earlier generations are very supportive of the homeschool movement. I guess they have a broader perspective of the changes that have occurred in education over the last several decades. Oh, not to mention my kids are the politest kids in the campground ;) and able to ‘socialize’ with folks of all ages!
    I actually love it when places are empty, especially museums. It’s so much easier to focus and interact with not only the exhibits, but usually the volunteers or guides that enjoy the one on one interaction with small groups. I’m often reminded why I homeschool when I mistakenly forget that Friday afternoons are plagued with school field trips. We jokingly come up with new ways to expand on our imaginary product- The Smack-A-Brat.

  10. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Isn’t it sad? I just started homeschooling and I noticed the same thing. We move a lot because we are military and every time we move that is something that I am missing: children. Even in summer when it is vacation you don’t see many of them outside during the day. On one location, we moved during summer vacation. We drove down the street where our new house would be. I noticed in every backyard was play equipment, from a swing set to a trampoline, but nobody was outside. It was like that most of the summer. Well, I am out to change it :).

  11. Cherri Porter
    Cherri Porter says:

    I think more people must homeschool out here in Sacramento b/c there are kids everywhere all the time. Or, they’ve simply given up on education altogether. That! is a distinct possibility.

  12. Sara Gallagher
    Sara Gallagher says:

    I’ve been thinking that it would be great to start a company that recruits great teachers from public/private schools who are sick of the system (plus parent volunteers) and organizes homeschool co-ops with a cap of 5-10 kids. I live in the midwest, and most co-ops that are available are sponsored through churches…but I know there is a niche of parents who don’t want to put their kids in public schools, can’t afford private schools, but are scared to homeschool because they worry their kids won’t be properly socialized or they don’t want to utilize a religious co-op.

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      I love this idea. Parents need an organizer. Many families manage something like this, but it takes time to develop the community for it. They need to find each other and see how it can be done.

    • JustMe
      JustMe says:

      We tried out a homeschool charter group that started this way some years back. What we observed was that the teachers could not let go of the old way of doing things (emphasizing the state test, boring the students to death instead of tailoring lessons to different learning styles, etc.). Sadly, the parents were all too ready to cede control, and the teachers were not supportive of parent ideas (cut ’em off at the knees, I mean). It ticked me off when my family brought in treats one day and found the teachers having a catered lunch and a paid speaker on Stress Reduction. We left. Now I hear (and see) the school is just like “regular school,” with classes onsite and a big iron fence all around.

      In regard to Ms. Trunk’s original post, Amen! My little boy saw a yellow school bus go by one day, and he said, “Oh, those poor children!”

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