Mr Elkind, in his excellent piece in the NY Times, makes a correlation between excessive television & computer usage, the decline in peer-to-peer socialization, and the increase in bullying in schools. Thus the case for Recess Coaches. "Critics have suggested," he writes, "that such coaching is yet another example of the over-scheduling and over-programming of our children...I'd probably have been opposed to recess coaches in the past. But childhood has changed so radically in recent years, that I think the trend makes sense, at least at some schools and with some students."
Granted, this is a very good point. If kids are getting up to no good in playgrounds during recess, or having trouble getting along, or - gasp - figuring out how to play, then having an adult out there probably is a sensible solution. Television and computers have moved kids indoors, he goes on to say, and this is largely why they are having trouble socializing with their peers: they are spending inordinate amounts of their spare time with electronic devices and not with the outside world. They have become, and this is in my words here, like dogs that aren't trained properly. You know, the dogs that lunge at you when you walk past them and growl. Dogs that bite other dogs or even people. Dogs that bark all day. Dogs that aren't properly socialized.
The issue of socialization is one of the top 2 albatrosses for most of us homeschooling parents. The other one is "if you aren't a teacher how can you teach?" I hear about socialization all the time, although certainly less these days than in the past. People felt no shame at all in asking me how I expected my children to be "socialized" if they weren't at school. There were many times when I wanted to ask them something extremely personal but I've been taught to keep my nose in my own business - and to be polite even if I was seething. Oh sure, there have been times when I've responded testily: "That's WHY we're homeschooling - it's Lord of the Flies in some of those schools! You think THAT'S socialization?" On the homeschool lists I'm on, it's certainly one of the first 'problems' new homeschoolers deal with, and everyone wants the perfect answer to "Well, how are your kids going to learn how to get along with other kids?" For what it's worth, there isn't a perfect answer, just your own good sense in knowing how to respond. And, as one homeschooler to another, please don't make us look bad by being rude, ungracious, or worse, cryptic. People can be really really stupid about asking questions, I agree, but you give us all a bad name if you act like an unsocial creature yourself.
Anyhow, after reading about Recess Coaches, and Last Child Left in the Woods, and that article at Brain, Child, I was left with one thing I didn't think had been properly addressed by anyone, including myself. You know, the proverbial elephant in the room. I'll give you three guesses what it is:
1. Computers? Television? Wiis?
2. Bad schools?
3. Not being out in nature?
Nope, although I'm sure it doesn't help
No, the elephant in the room is this: the parent. Where are all the parents in this? If kids are spending too much time inside with their various electronic devices, who's allowing them to do this? Who's buying these items for them? Who's leaving them to their own devices? Who's putting those things in their bedrooms, where they can access them day and night? Who's not hanging out with them, mentoring them, talking to them, making sure they are growing up as strong, responsible people the world will be glad to have around? Who's leaving them in day cares, after school programs, alone, without guidance?
That's what some of these articles should explore: why we aren't such great parents anymore. Why our kids are growing up so anti-social, so into bullying other kids, so hooked on devices that aren't giving them anything but instant gratification second by useless second. The answer isn't Nature: the answer is spending more time being families. Or else you have to ask yourself why we had them in the first place.