A post titled Our Kids Don’t Need F@*#ing Pedal Desks, They Need Recess got 40,000 likes on Facebook, meaning 40,000 people thought their friends needed to hear that. But those 40,000 people are not taking their kids out of school and they are not participating at a legislative level to change recess policies. 

The process of school reform is slow. It probably took three or four years for the teacher who got the grant for the pedal desks to actually get children sitting in them in a classroom. The only thing that goes more slowly than government funding is government legislation, so we’d need years to get kids more recess.

Parents know affecting change in schools is a waste of time

So there is no incentive for parents to devote their time to changing school problems like the recess mandates. Because parents would give up time with their kids to work toward changing school policy for the benefit of kids who will be in school after their own kids have finished.

Parents don’t want to look ignorant to the problems

Most of the stuff parents are irate about is not stuff parents are actually doing anything about. This explains all the Facebook likes. Chris Dyson explains that usually people who share on Facebook are picking a cause that matters to them, and then they share to

  • Define themselves as caring about the cause
  • Feel more involved in causes they care about
  • Get the word out about the cause

See how it’s fashionable today to display a clear understanding of how bad school is for kids?

But, as Dostoevsky says,  “It takes more than intelligence to act intelligently.”

Parents have a clear vision of what their kids need

There was general uproar after the Washington Post suggested ways to help fidgety kids sit still during school.

People said kids don’t need to sit still. And finally the Washington Post did the reporting to show that frequent short breaks and changes in seating isn’t the solution because kids need to run and roll and spin:

In order to create actual changes to the sensory system that results in improved attention over time,  children NEED to experience what we call “rapid vestibular (balance) input” on a daily basis. In other words, they need to go upside down, spin in circles, and roll down hills. They need authentic play experiences that get them moving in all different directions in order to stimulate the little hair cells found in the vestibular complex (located in the inner ear). If children do this on a regular basis and for a significant amount of time, then (and only then) will they experience the necessary changes needed to effectively develop the balance system–leading to better attention and learning in the classroom.

Lindsey Lieneck, a pediatric occupational therapist wrote “Come on people! We are a brilliant society! We can create technology that is out of this world. Yet, we can’t figure out how to provide enough time for children to move?”

The cacophony of complaints about school is not anger, it’s fear

Probably most of these people are not taking their kids out of school. And none of these people are publicly demanding other people take their kids out of school. Because that’s too scary for most parents. But regardless, complaining about the detriments of school helps people organize their thoughts.

The first step to taking action is seeing the problem and then talking about the problem. I didn’t take my own kids out of school until after I made the agonizing decision to write about the question of taking my kids out of school.

So blogger tirades and flurries of letters to editors make me feel good. I feel a wave of energy from the people who are taking the path I took. And I see myself more clearly, as a reluctant reformer and scared pioneer, watching others come along as well.

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20 replies
  1. Lisa SHARP
    Lisa SHARP says:

    As Dostoevsky says, “It takes more than intelligence to act intelligently.” Penelope, I freaking love this quote.

  2. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Hi! One of my elementary classmates was bullied in school. His son in grade two was also bullied. I told my classmate that if all remedies to stop the bully should fail, he should consider homeschooling. It’s my first recommendation to someone to homeschool. Thanks for the education blog, Penelope!

  3. jennifer wisdom
    jennifer wisdom says:

    It is just easier to do what we’ve always done. Good or bad. I’m making baby steps towards home schooling but I’m not there yet. I guess I need more convincing.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Jennifer Wisdom,

      I’m not one for giving unsolicited advice, but how could homeschool possibly be worse for your chid *and*your home life than school?

      I hear people on the fence about homeschooling and I want to say, ” hink of what you and your child will miss if they stay in school”

    • Jana Miller
      Jana Miller says:

      The thing that helped me was choosing to just do it for a year and then re-evaluate what was best for my kids and for me. I know many people (in the homeschooling community) don’t like this kind of thinking. But that’s the only way I could get there. And it was the best decision ever. I pulled my first son in the middle of 2nd grade and then added his older brother the following year. I had to go slowly and get comfortable with it. Even with all my fears and short comings , they thrived :) No regrets here. My sons are now 22 and 24. They are normal except they don’t have all the school baggage I had and they both graduated from college.

  4. Caitlin Timothy
    Caitlin Timothy says:

    I saw the pedal desk article via facebook, too. It’s ironic that the conclusion to something so stupid (pedal desks…really??) is that kids need a different artificial solution: recess. What’s interesting is that the classroom is something that kids have a demonstrable need to have constant recesses from in order to be healthy and normal….and that’s not normal.

  5. Jennifer wisdom
    Jennifer wisdom says:


    I hear ya loud and clear. I agree that our home life would be better without “school”. My point is that step to withdraw my kid is the toughest. I’m taking steps like visiting home school groups and researching different methods. I will get there.

    I’m also one of those people who don’t want to arguing with all of my family members about it.

    Thanks for taking a moment to give me your perspective.

    • Sunny
      Sunny says:

      I think I am in a similar boat. Plus, my 11 year old loves (it’s all she knows) her Waldorf school AND my ex is a person that likes to follow the status quo. But I totally believe in homeschooling and want to do it and I have full legal custody to make the decision. My two younger kids would love to have their big sister home too. My husband is 100% for it.
      Penelope showed up in a dream a couple weeks ago, my husband said it was sign. ;)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I like hearing about what people on the fence worry about. This is all the stuff I worried about. I remember worrying about my family thinking I’m a nut job. I remember not wanting to deal with change. I remember feeling so tired of the constant change that comes with being a parent even if you don’t homeschool.

      So I am saying thank you – for reminding me of all the stuff I worried about. But I also want you to know that it is so not an issue after the first year that I actually forget, sometimes, all those things that kept me from homeschooling.


  6. Shell Higgs
    Shell Higgs says:

    Some experts are now claiming learning styles don’t matter, so the push to get kids up and about during lessons has tapered off for now :(

    It’s really scary to pull kids out of school. You get the stern talking to from the principal, the before/after school care facility, your family, the neighbors, everyone on the internet, that guy over there….all of them know better than you. It’s always taken courage to be different.

  7. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Thank you Penelope for this post – in fact, thanks for all the posts you write which others are afraid to! I live in France & am the only homeschooler for about 50 km in every direction.

    My children are outside much of the day – we live on a busy road & they are seen by hundreds of people on their way to work & bus loads of children on their way to school (for 11 hours+).

    People tell me all the time how they “wish” they could take their kids out of school & say the only reason I “can” do it is because I’m Canadian.

    My nationality has nothing to do with it – the reason they don’t do it is exactly what you said above – they’re scared. It isn’t easy being the only one doing this homeschool (or as I’m trying to remind myself to say – home-educating) thing. But my children’s bright eyes & rosy cheeks remind me WHY I do it – every day!

    Any plans for translating your posts ? I know of a country in desperate need of hearing your message!

  8. Shelly
    Shelly says:

    I don’t know if it’s my personality or what, but when I made the decision to homeschool, that was that. I found out what I had to do, talked to some homeschooling families, and pulled them out of school. A few homeschoolers did warn me that the elementary school would give me a hard time, but they didn’t. My feeling is that most schools realize that you are actually doing them a favor, as you are reducing class size and saving them money on materials while still being required to pay school taxes. It should be a win-win for them. As for worrying about what people will say, I’ve found in my experience that people were very supportive. The only person who expressed any displeasure was my father-in-law because he wanted the kids to graduate from his alma mater, but he only brought that up once in our now 7 years of homeschooling. I find that with all of the issues with schools these days ranging from violence to “failing standardized test scores,” homeschooling really isn’t a hard sell to most people anymore. I hope this encourages some to lay aside their fears and go for it!

  9. Purva Brown
    Purva Brown says:

    I love this post! Especially that last paragraph because I find many of my friends there – they want to homeschool but are unsure of their own skills. I hold out the hope that once they see how inept the entire system is, they’ll realize they can’t do any worse.

  10. John Yang
    John Yang says:

    To those parents that are on the fence about homeschooling — the more I researched and thought about it, the more it became clear to me that it would take more courage NOT to do it! Traditional schooling (public or private) just did not appeal to me at all – the kids are taught to become automatons, to memorize just to pass the next test. We also tried private and public Montessori, and while these were better choices, there’s just no substitute for the one-on-one you get at home. In any school system, it’s inevitable the teacher must teach to the benefit of the majority, and if your child is advanced or behind it’s always a struggle to get any personal attention. At some point it was just clear that there’s no time to waste and we took out our oldest out of school in the middle of 1st grade.

  11. Judy Sarden
    Judy Sarden says:

    As the parent of a black male, it was a no-brainer for me that I could do better for my son than any school could, even if I was not perfect. Once I made the decision, that was that. There was no waffling and I didn’t care what anyone else thought about it.

    But this idea of more recess is also not a solution in some cases. Where I live, according to moms that I talk to, there is a list of things the kids can’t do at recess. By the time you boil it all down, all the kids can do is stand about. They can’t play running games because someone may fall and hurt themselves and the school will get sued. Boys can’t play with sticks because they may hurt someone else and the school will get sued. Imagination play is discouraged because if they say or do the “wrong thing,” they’ll get suspended. Some schools have banned monkey bars because….a kid may fall off and the school will get sued. No dodgeball, no this, no that. It’s insane. So I get the pedal desks. They are safe and kids can keep studying for The Test without interruption.

    • Jennifa
      Jennifa says:

      My elementary school monkey bars were wrapped in caution tape…that was 1978. We did walk, about a mile, but one of the mom’s threw a fit and half-way through elementary we got bussed. I remember crying horribly.

      Sometimes I wonder if all these things ‘wrong’ with schools are really an accumulation of what parents have been requesting the past 40 years.

      Not that that makes it right, just an observation.

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