Here are 13 things for little kids to worry about instead of college and test preparation

Since I wrote about homeschooling last week, I’ve been fielding tons of email messages from people sharing their public education horror stories.

This one jumped out at me because it seems to echo the news about an elementary school that canceled its kindergarten play so that the kindergartens could focus on college preparation. I don’t know that this woman’s kid goes to that school (she didn’t mention it, so I assume he doesn’t), but she is dealing with a similar problem.

Honestly, I hesitated to share this with you because, to me, in my little bubble of innocence and naivety, this is almost too horrendous to believe. A kid in FIRST GRADE already giving up his hobbies and passions because he’s concerned about what his college application will look like?

Is it that bad out there? I guess it is. At least, this seems to be an indication:

 

Dear Matt,

I read your post about home schooling and decided to finally email you, even if I’m not expecting a response. My son, Peter, is in first grade in a public school. Recently, with a combination of Common Core and just bad educational strategies on the part of the school, my kiddo seems to have lost his interest and motivation. I don’t blame his teachers but I blame the system, as you pointed out. He used to love to learn and read, but now he comes home stressed out and anxious. He is reduced to tears when he’s doing his homework! The math work is INSANE! I don’t think I had the amount of tests and homework that he has even when I was in COLLEGE!

I’m writing to you because my heart was broken last week when my son, who has always been very creative, playful, and loved arts and crafts, came home and announced that he doesn’t want to draw or play with Legos anymore. I asked him why and he said that it’s a waste of time. When I asked him why it’s a waste of time, he said it won’t help him get into college! I’m not kidding! Yesterday he told me he “hates school more than anything.” I told him that school is good because it’s where you go to learn. He literally responded that he “hates learning.”

This is crazy! I feel like the school is crushing my poor kid’s spirit and now he doesn’t even want to draw or do arts and crafts with mom anymore. It’s all about testing and grades and “useful knowledge”, and I’m afraid that his childhood is being taken from him. I don’t know why I’m writing this to you. I just enjoy your opinion, and the funny thing is that my son likes you, too. He hears mom and dad talk about your blog at the dinner table, so now “Mr. Matt” has become kind of a mythological hero to him, lol. I showed him the picture of you trying to kill a spider and he laughed his head off!

What do you think about this, Matt? I just want to know your perspective.

Sincerely,

Anne

 

Dear Anne,

I think you chose the right words. If I’m a hero, it’s only in a mythological sense. In the real world, I’m noticeably lacking any heroic qualities at all. Still, I appreciate that you’ve opened up to me about your issue with your son. You know that I’m a homeschool proponent, so the first thing that comes to mind is that maybe you should consider other options outside of public school.

Of course, I don’t know your situation, so I can’t make that judgment call. It isn’t my business, anyway.

I thought that I’d write an email back to you, ranting about how kids are having their creativity and zest for life sucked out of them, but I changed my mind. I’ve ranted plenty on that subject, and I’m sure I’ll rant again in the future.

Right now, I’d like to address Peter directly, if you don’t mind. I wrote him a letter, and I’m hoping you’ll read it to him, or help him read it.

Here it is:

 

Hi Peter,

It’s Mr. Matt. I’m really worried, because your mom tells me that you think it’s a waste of time to draw pictures and play with Legos. I’m sad that you feel that way, because I bet you could draw an awesome picture of a dinosaur or a spaceship, but now the world will never get to see it.

Here’s the question, though:

Can you draw a picture of a dinosaur IN a spaceship? Check out the doodle I sketched this morning:

photo (1)

OK, maybe that looks more like a big hat with a picture of a lizard on it, but I tried my best.

I’ll admit that a few people in the history of the world have made cooler pictures. Has your mom told you about the Sistine Chapel? Look at this:

Sistina-interno

A guy named Michelangelo painted those pictures on the ceiling 500 years ago. It took him FOUR YEARS to paint all of them. If arts and crafts are a waste of time, then Michelangelo wasted A LOT of it.

Your mom also tells me that you hate learning. That’s too bad, Peter, because I love to learn, and I bet there are tons of things you’d love to learn about, too.

Did you know that there’s a type of cat called a cheetah, and it can run as fast as a car or a motorcycle?

Did you know that the temperature on the Sun is 27 MILLION degrees?

Did you know that your brain is smarter and more powerful than every computer on the planet?

These are really exciting facts. My life is more fun and enjoyable because I know them. This is what happens when you learn. You discover more about the world and yourself. Learning is like going on a journey over an ocean, or through a jungle, except you can do it in your home or at school.

There are a bunch of things I haven’t learned yet, but I hope I will one day. For example, I’ve always wanted to know why people yawn, or why it’s impossible to tickle yourself. Maybe you can find those things out and teach me about them. Or maybe nobody knows, and you can be the first person to ever answer the question.

Also, can you figure out what this weird animal is supposed to be:

untitled (57)

I think it lives in the rainforest, but I’m not sure. I need help investigating this mystery.

See, I’m not even in school or college, but I’m always trying to feed my brain and increase my understanding of the world around me.

You should learn, and draw, and paint, and read, and play with Legos, Peter. I still play with Legos. You wouldn’t believe the huge tower I built last week. It literally touched the ceiling. Seriously.

Don’t worry about college and grown up stuff right now. You’ve got more important things to do. Things like:

-Running outside

-Rolling down a grassy hill

-Using your imagination

-Jumping through a sprinkler

-Jumping in a puddle

-Jumping on the couch (don’t tell your mom)

-Deciding what you’ll say if aliens land and you’re the first person to make contact with them. (I already decided what I’ll say. I’ll probably just tell them “hello,” and then I’ll ask them if they want some iced tea.)

-Painting and drawing pictures

-Writing poems and stories

-Reading books

-Playing games

-Daydreaming

-Eating ice cream

That’s at least 13 things that you should definitely fit into your schedule, especially playing, reading, and daydreaming. And ice cream, obviously.

My kids are just babies, but I hope they’re as artistic and creative as you one day. It’s a great power — a superpower — to be able to dream things in your head and then put them on paper. Sometimes it’s fun to dream something in your head, and just keep it there, and revisit your dream from time to time. It’s like you’re building a new world for yourself, out of nothing but your mind and your imagination.

I have a homework assignment for you: think of a story. Just make up a story. Any story at all. You don’t have to tell anyone, or write it down, or do anything with it. Just think of it. That’s all. Put yourself in your story — pretend you’re the main character. Think about it, just for the sake of thinking about it.

That’s the assignment.

When I was a kid, I liked to think that I was a time traveling ninja.

Actually, I still like to imagine that I’m a time traveling ninja.

My wife doesn’t enjoy it when I wear my ninja costume to the grocery store, or to dinner at her mother’s house, but I’m not sure why.

Anyway, I hope you continue to play, and draw, and learn, Peter. You’re a kid, and that’s your job right now.

Sincerely,

Mr. Matt

P.S. I know what you’re thinking, but just because I’m afraid of spiders doesn’t mean I can’t be a ninja.

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285 Responses to Here are 13 things for little kids to worry about instead of college and test preparation

  1. Julie Jeanne says:

    Reblogged this on Just, You Know… and commented:
    I love this so much.

  2. Your letter made me laugh… and then cry. Thank you for such a beautiful response. Every parent in America needs to sit down and read these words to their own children.

  3. Home schooled mine for 25 years and am so glad. Thanks for this. You made a veteran feel blessed, tear up. Good job.

  4. Reblogged this on Home's Cool! and commented:
    Yes. A tonic. You need this.

  5. Becca says:

    Aw. (teary) this is beautiful! What a response, I hope it heals his little first grade heart (& his sweet Mama’s heart too) . Today I’ve been stressing about our home school and now after reading this post I see we are doing wonderfully! My kids play hard and follow their passions. Thanks for your unique voice in a maddening educational world.

  6. Gail says:

    I am a homeschooler to an 8yo and a 3yo because of the freedom it allows me to create an environment to pursue personal interests and introduce a lot of interesting things in a more fun or hands-on way.. I can’t speak about what it is like in the schools, but what I do know is that if all the parents banded together and demanded something different, change would happen. When we say “kids should be kids” but we sit by and do not advocate for change in our own communities, nothing will change. When we let time pass by and do not overflow our legislators with letters, emails, and calls to change things, they will continue to do what THEY think is best for OUR kids…or better yet, they will think of the “common good” and not give the individual a second thought.

  7. Bob Dailey says:

    I loved this post! Especially: “It’s a great power — a superpower — to be able to dream things in your head and then put them on paper.” I happened to post something yesterday that used the same imagery: http://encuruj.com/2014/04/29/dreaming-on-paper/

  8. Abby says:

    “Sometimes it’s fun to dream something in your head, and just keep it there, and revisit your dream from time to time. It’s like you’re building a new world for yourself, out of nothing but your mind and your imagination.”

    This, right here, is the key to almost all of our scientific, artistic, and literary acheivements. We have to dream it before we can do it, write it, or create it. I’ve been building worlds in my own imagination for as long as I can remember. Perhaps nothing will ever come of them, but then again perhaps I will go on to write a best-selling novel or series based on one or more of those worlds. Who can say? It’s worth the risk of “wasting” my time.

    Let children think and dream and imagine. Let them explore the world from their own perspective. Children are naturally inquisitive; it would be beyond a shame to squash that instict in the name of measuring knowledge.

  9. catenoel7 says:

    That was a wonderful and I’m sure encouraging letter to Peter. Thank you for taking the time to touch a little boy’s heart and all of ours as well! I hope the future gets brighter for Peter and all the kids that are putting up with the Common Core crap right now!

  10. Shallen says:

    Love this! If you don’t like your school, find a new one! If you can’t homeschool, look for an Expeditionary Learning School near you! My children attend one, and it is amazing! They learn everything they need to for the common core and have so much fun doing it! They are out in the real world A LOT learning, exploring, and thinking for themselves. Expeditionary Learning is growing like a weed. Many charter schools do it, and even some regular public schools. Both options are free and totally worth the drive if you live near one! No, I don’t work for EL, I’m just a happy parent.

    • Audrey says:

      I second this. Expeditionary Learning (or any kind of project-based learning, done well) encourages kids to think through real problems in the real world, using their creativity. A lot better than sitting at a desk all the time.

  11. Heather Underhill says:

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to this mom since she is not alone out there in the scary world of school.Your response to her son was brilliant too. I really enjoyed hearing you speak at the Cincy homeschool convention and I hope you keep it up. Homeschoolers can always use a louder cheering section to combat the constant negative noise they hear from the world.

  12. KarenTrina says:

    I hope that the laughter I think I hear is Peter. I hope he is playing with Legos and making up stories and remembering to be a kid. I think Matt just blessed a family.

  13. Sarah says:

    You’re a good dude matt Walsh. I thought so before and ever more so now. Thanks for addressing Peter directly. I hope you make a world of difference for this young boy.

  14. Jeffrey Carl Hart says:

    I can tickle myself on the bottom of my foot. the creature is an Aye-Aye. and don’t kill spiders!! Slip a piece of paper under a glass and release them outside, unless they are exceptionally unruley and display aggressive tactics such as raising on thier hind legs waving their forelegs at you or bite you in which case, send them to The Cosmic Spirit, but in a sporting way, and tell them first.

  15. This was so sweet. Kids need to be kids, and do kid stuff. There are plenty of years ahead to worry about grownup things.

  16. There are exceptions, my dears! I teach kindergarten in a public school and just today we read several versions of Little Red Hen with the kiddos. They created their own characters during rest time while our “homemade” bread baked in the bread machine while we painted our farm animals. The aroma was delightful! Tomorrow all 19 kids will make their own mini pizzas. We play and sing and dance and create and paint EVERYDAY! We play outside daily in the fresh air. We also learn how to read and rhyme, how to count to 100 along with place value…we learn big words like ‘onamotapea’ and ‘meteorologist’ just because we can! We do science experiments and focus on taking care of the team, the Earth, and ourselves. We find joy in learning! We are not all bad!

  17. Pingback: Matt Walsh’s response to kindergartens that make kids focus on college preparation is AMAZING | Young Conservatives

  18. Lizelle Merkus says:

    What a blessing this letter is to this little boy! I will share it with my girls, whom I am homeschooling now too! What an awesome priviledge to be with each other, to continue to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our awesome Creator, his creation and our Saviour. God bless you all.

  19. KLMN says:

    Loved this response to him! Matt, I was going to reply to your post on FB about elementary kids being forced to think about college. But, I knew I better just reply on here anonymously. I’m a public school teacher who just took my 2nd grade class on a day’s field trip to visit a college. Every grade in our school went to visit a different college. In my opinion, it was one of the biggest wasted days we’ve ever had. You wouldn’t believe the hoopla attached to this line of thinking that says “Everyone is going to college!” It’s unreal, sickening, and just dumb! But so many things are sickening right now in public ed! With the messed up learning standards called “Common Core” that we have to teach, the horrific amounts of testing, the demeaning of the professionalism of teachers, the “no-grades” concept of grading–just a watered down “mastery” for all, and the tolerance teachers are supposed to have for anything and everything————–I’m getting out this year! Don’t know what I’m going to do, but I just can’t stomach it any longer.

  20. LakeCountry says:

    Beautiful. Just perfect. Could not have been handled any better.

  21. Jessica says:

    Fantastic advice Mr. Matt! I will be forwarding. Btw, I believe the animal is an Aye-Aye…. Which I first learned about whilst reading “Magyk” by Angie Sage. Thank you again, for your inspiring words.

  22. Queen Gorgo. says:

    Thank you for your kindness.

  23. Kristin says:

    Anne, if you get to my comment, I would recommend reading “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Also, stay strong, and keep up the good work. Good parenting is not for wimps. Never has been.

  24. Evan says:

    Don’t listen to Jeffrey Hart, Peter! It’s not an aye aye, it’s a tarsier. I know this because I used a reverse image search on google. Reverse image searching is a pretty nifty trick. Also, you should ask your mom to homeschool you. I was homeschooled, and all the other kids were jealous because homeschooling is the bee’s knees.

  25. Elizabeth Zirkle says:

    Love this.
    I have to say I have my doubts about the homework load. I can only speak for our experience, but over the years it has been obvious to me that parents exaggerate the amount of homework kids have. Either that, or they’re cramming a week’s worth into one night. My daughter is in 9th grade at a private Christian school. I keep hearing how their kids had “3 to 4 hours” of math last night, or that their family has been ruined by a science fair project. My daughter is in the same classes so I know it can’t be as much as they claim. Yes, it is more than I had in the elementary years, but our school is always asking us about how we feel about the amount of homework. My daughter gets a lot of it done at school, other kids choose to talk and goof around instead of getting a good jump on that night’s work.

  26. Dedrianne says:

    Loved what you had to say and it reminded me to not get so grumpy when my son flies onto the couch. I homeschool and am glad I do.

  27. Kathy Soria says:

    That was your best post ever!

  28. Great post. Loved reading it.
    I would be obliged if you could also check out my blog DoubleThink. I’ll drop its link below!

    DoubleThink is an up and coming blog that is extremely satisfying for every kind of a person, be it the thinker, the optimist, the pessimist, the poet, the musician, the couch-potato, the bookworm or the photographer.We are a bunch of people with different backgrounds, contradictory opinions but one voice. And this blog is our voice.
    Come hear us at :
    http://doublethinkhub.wordpress.com/

  29. Stephany Robinson says:

    I don’t like the Public School is a nightmare approach. Why base your opinions off the horror stories you’ve read? My kids love art, Lego’s and reading and go to public schools from 5th grade through Junior year. One is quite the advanced artist and loves her HS art program and all 4 of them are well above grade level in reading. I take credit for much of that since I teach and have constantly fed their interests there. Parents will always be the true teachers. While I agree that many teachers and schools are killing the fun, school should focus on a valuable education and college. I can share horror stories about those who were homeschooled too, but I will refrain. American parents should find 13 things/ activities that show learning is fun and do them with their kids…

  30. Michelle C. says:

    That was sweet and beautiful, Matt. One of the wonderful things about homeschooling is that our kids can be kids. My teen is in no rush to be an adult, let alone a 6-year-old. I’ve homeschooled five kids (working with the last two now – ages 15 and 11). Homeschooling allows a kid to be the age they are.

    One of the biggest benefits is the ability to let them be WHO they are and do what they like. I have 5 kids ranging in age from 11 to 28. Four artists and a math genius. They are who they are and it’s because no one ever told them it was a waste of time.

  31. Emily says:

    The day my kid said those words to me would be my kid’s last day in that school.

  32. Melissa says:

    Loved this one! thx!

  33. debbi says:

    wonderful…just wonderful. as a homeschool mom, who’s older kids all attended public school before they started going down hill…I applaud you Matt. And I also reposted this on my blog. The first time I ever reposted someone else’s blog. But I just had to….
    http://www.yankeeburrowcreations.com/2014/05/this-deserves-sharing.html
    Debbi
    YankeeBurrow

  34. Ryan Wiersma says:

    Well at least I know who the guy dressed like a ninja in the grocery store is now….it’s been really bothering me. ……

  35. Assuming this isn’t another one of your made up emails, and assuming the writer isn’t a dram queen, and assuming the details happened exactly as described, and assuming the child doesn’t have other emotional or developmental problems, then all the email proves is there is at least one really bad teacher in the school system. One has to wonder why she wrote an anonymous blogger about her child’s emotional problems with school instead of finding her answers from the school administrators, teachers, and board members. Now, if the email had shown all the letters written and podcasts of phone conversations and meetings held, then this article would’ve meant something.

    • Becca says:

      So she has to disclose ALL correspondence with the school for you to take her claim seriously? And I love how you assume it’s “another made up email” Which other emails are you assuming are made up? Just because you find it hard to believe, he must have made it up? A stupid amount of unbelievable stuff is happening in our world today. And maybe she DID try to sort it out with the school and maybe it really is a school-wide issue. Rather than take her kid to a psychologist who could invent a million problems to stick her kid on, she chose to reach out to someone her child looks up to. I’m at a loss for what could possibly be wrong with that.

      • Becca, the poster’s name, Five Drunk Rednecks, pretty much says it all….

      • Natalie says:

        Unfortunately, the ’emails’ Matt posts tend to come off as slightly contrived, in a number of subtle ways that I think someone who is seeing what they want to see might not be inclined to spot. This one may be genuine, I have no way of knowing, but it doesn’t change the fact that he posted something either way that supports his agenda and makes him look good. His blog, his right, I guess.

      • The problem is that a well-adjusted kid suddenly becomes withdrawn when he is sent to a public school. The implication, of course, is “Public schools are bad. Look what happened to this kid.” Sorry. Public schools, in general, don’t do this nor do public schools act as described in the letter.

        If this email is genuine in all respects, a proper response would be to encourage Mom and Dad to intervene and figure out what is going on with their child instead of making public schools a boogey man and ignoring possible developmental and/or emotional troubles with the child. It’s better to intervene now than in another ten years when the kid is shooting up his school or stabbing his friends.

      • edebock says:

        And maybe pigs fly! I’m so glad to see that at least one other reader questioned the authenticity of the email and recognized that even if it isn’t a work of fiction, it doesn’t accurately describe the entire public school system.

    • Aaron says:

      Assuming that you’re not actually drunk, and assuming that you have a brain, and assuming that you actually read the blog, then all your post proves is that you have a pathological hatred of Matt Walsh.

      One has to wonder why you wrote an anonymous blogger about your emotional problems with his blog, instead of finding the answers with a psychiatrist or someone else trained in helping depressed, hate-filled people. Now, if your post had shown all the letters and medical transcripts of all your therapy sessions, your post would’ve meant something.

      But keep your chin up, mate, there’s more to life than trolling! You’ve got a lot going for you, and I’m sure you’ll make it through this rough patch.

    • OneNotDrunkGuy says:

      I don’t read the comments section very often… but when I do I see you make yourself a complete fool every time (Ps. and the name is just the cherry on top). Well done.

  36. Heather says:

    Well said! Your response to mom was great. You responding to Peter was phenomenal and you have just changed this child’s life!!

  37. C says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! What a wonderful way to respond to a heart cry.

  38. MW says:

    Anne – we love our experience at a Classical school. I also have a child in 1st grade and am amazed at how they really instill a love for learning. My child loves reading and when multiplication and division were recently introduced, I was told how fun it was. Academically, they are way ahead of public schools, so no need to worry about college! Everything is taught in a logical way which makes it easy and we have very little homework. They incorporate a lot of songs and chants that help kids remember things. Creativity is encouraged. I know there is classical education home school material if private school is not an option. Don’t keep your child in a system that isn’t working! It will involve a sacrifice to choose another option, but it’s totally worth it!

  39. Steve Berman says:

    Matt, I know you love writing and it’s really awesome that you’re doing it well, but I think your calling may be as a teacher. If you have this much impact just writing a letter to a little boy, think of the lives you can change by teaching them. Maybe a ministry like Fred Rogers had. You would make a fine Mr. Walsh’s Neighborhood. God bless.

    • Steve. Take a look at all these replies and comments. Matt IS a teacher. Only things that most of his students are adults.

    • TheApostlePaul says:

      In order to do that, he’d have to go to college.

      And, please don’t sully the reputation of Fred Rogers (a bona-fide education icon who HAD a college degree, along with being an accomplished musician) by comparing him to this turd.

  40. Amy says:

    Homeschooling restored the love of learning and the creativity that my children had lost during their time in public school. I hope Peter’s mom will try it.

  41. Rosemary says:

    I took my son out of school in Kindergarten because he was starting to give up and told me he hated learning. He also started to bite and when the teacher told me this was “normal” I decided not my normal. Both my boys are well adjusted men and they do not bite! So I guess being abnormal is OK. Great post!

  42. Rene Yoshi says:

    Laughing and crying at the same time. What a wonderful response!

  43. Rosayn Warwick says:

    Thanks Matt! That was great!

  44. rose says:

    let kids be kids my little girl plays outside. loves to be outside and not on the computer or watching tv. school is hard on little ones. ive been blessed with some great teachers for my little one. let them enjoy childhood one day they’ll be grown before you know it. proud mom of a 29 year old, 23 year old and my little 7 year old. I know I started all over again and I love it but theres a big difference between the school sysrem back when my other 2 was young and now.

  45. Billy says:

    That animal is a Tarsier!!! Matt, you should write a children’s book. 🙂

  46. Christine says:

    Matt Walsh is AWESOME. Seriously.

  47. beth b says:

    Thank you Matt, for awesome letter to a child. I have a 9 year old girl whom I end up sending to German school ( We live in Germany) instead of Dodds American school, because In German School system they still have idea, that you can learn through playing.

  48. Elizabeth says:

    We primarily home educated our children. I have to tell you that there is always that one kid who is the exception and in this case she is our child. At the ripe old age of 9, she was upset to the point of tears because she hadn’t saved $37,000 to go to culinary school. (She was obsessed with cooking and had seen an ad on a web site while she was looking at recipes to try.) We had talked about college, she has an older brother. Her dad was taking some classes at a college, but we hadn’t talked about her going to college. We reassured her that there are ways to have enough money for school without having to pay for it herself. She learned about grants, scholarships and the dreaded student loans. She has always been academically motivated. She is graduating high school at 16, and will be starting college in the fall.

  49. Lonnie says:

    Public school was destroying my kids so I got them out, one way or another, in their teen years. I cobbled together some sort of homeschooling which involved them working with adults doing what they were interested in. They both eventually got GEDs. One is now a chef in San Francisco, after getting two degrees from the Culinary Institute of America. The other, having started and “failed” at several businesses, is now a senior software engineer at a medical instruments company. She has about ten patents to her name at that company. Kids MUST have their passion fueled at an early age. Most schools just beat down their passions. Get your kids out! Sell the house, lose the job that causes you to need school as a babysitter. Live more simply, do without. But rescue your kids. Un-school them. You will never regret it.

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