Archives for category: Childhood

During the last Trump-Biden debate, the moderator asked about the children separated from their parents. Trump said they were brought across the border by “coyotes,” and that they had never experienced such clean and pleasant surroundings. Biden expressed great remorse for the children who were wrenched from the arms of their parents (not “coyotes”) and left alone.

In my view, this cruel policy of separating parents from their children at the border should be prosecuted as a crime against humanity. International courts should press charges against Trump, Pence, Sessions, and anyone else who was responsible. The parents were deported, and the children were locked up, some of them in cages. Some of them were infants. Contrary to Trump’s claim in the debate, the Obama administration deported families; it did not separate the children from their parents and keep the children while the parents were deported.

The purpose of Trump’s inhumane policy was to discourage immigration by frightening them. The children were separated 2-3 years ago; private groups have been searching for their parents. The Trump administration has stood in their way and claims the parents don’t want the children they lost by force.

Now we know that 545 children are stranded here, and no one knows who or where their parents are. Some of these children are babies who do not know their names. Biden said it: this was “criminal.” Biden was right. The criminals should be prosecuted.


A reader who is a scientist wrote to ask why I posted the views of an economist about children and COVID instead of those of a medical researcher. She sent me this interview of Angela Rasmussen that appeared in Science Friday. Rasmussen is a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

In the interview, she says:

ANGELA RASMUSSEN: Well, teachers and parents should definitely not think that children are immune or more resistant to the virus. Just because they don’t develop a severe of disease [sic], that doesn’t mean that they can’t be infected and it doesn’t mean that they can’t bring the virus home with them to transmit to other people in their household. It also doesn’t mean that they would be incapable of transmitting it to faculty and staff in schools.

And in general, we– I think a lot of the discussion about schools has assumed that schools are an isolated bubble that is separate from the rest of the community, and they’re really not. If children are getting infected, whether outside of school or in school, those children are still part of the same community and they’re capable of spreading the virus within that community.

So we need to stop thinking of schools as a separate space or children as a special population of people who are less susceptible. We need to take the same precautions with preventing transmission in schools as we do within the rest of the community.

The full interview is worth reading.

UNICEF released a ranking of nations in terms of child wellness. The United States is one of the lowest ranking among the advanced nations of the world. The rankings do not include test scores. It’s important to understand that the test scores are the result of child wellness, not a cause. If we expect to improve children’s academic performance, we should focus on their well-being, which is a summary of causal factors. I have often said that when we are comparing students from different nations, we should look at child poverty, access to healthcare, food security, access to high-quality pre-K, and other indicators of child wellness, not test scores. This important report does that.

See the report here.

Catherine Pearson writes at Huffington Post that children are depressed and miserable because of distance learning. The fun of remote learning is gone.

They miss their friends and activities.

In the past month, my 5-year-old has gone from being excited about video calls for school and virtual “play dates” to basically hating it all. Sometimes he’s into it — like yesterday, when he was totally engrossed in a 30-minute math class with his teacher and six friends. More often, he whines and mopes beforehand, then immediately after slips into a funk. That goes for official school meetings and for more casual digital hangouts with family and friends.

Zoom fatigue (or whatever your preferred video call platform) is a real issue for both adults and kids, which is, of course, a problem. Millions of children across America are doing the bulk of their schooling online right now, a scenario that could well continue into the next academic year. But lots of them are feeling, just, meh about the whole thing.

Are your kids completely over Zoom? Here’s what that is all about — and what you can do to help them through it.

Pearson has advice for parents about talking to their children and helping them get through this trying experience.

I recently had a discussion with Dr. Michael Hynes, the district superintendent in Port Washington, New York.

Our ZOOM discussion was sponsored by the Network for Public Education.

Mike Hynes is unusual because he believes in whole-child education. He is a revolutionary. He doesn’t think that test scores are important. He thinks schools should be places of joy. He believes in collaboration with staff. He shadows children to learn how their days are spent.

He is a different kind of superintendent.

Is he the wave of the future?

Author William Doyle and Superintendent Michael Hynes—both known for supporting whole-child education—-say that they would welcome Bill Gates to New York if he agrees to meet three conditions.

They suggest that Gates has a chance to redeem his reputation after 20 years of failure in education.

They write:

The Gates Foundation has been a driving force behind nearly 20 years of consistently failed federal and state attempts at education reform, including the widely reviled “Common Core” state standards. In that time, little-to-no system improvement has occurred, despite the squandering of vast sums of money by the Gates Foundation and by taxpayers. In a blog post noting the flaws of Common Core and announcing plans to re-focus their funding, Gates announced, “As we have reflected on our work and spoken with educators over the last few years, we have identified a few key insights that will shape our work and investments going forward.”

The Gates Foundation now has a historic chance to redeem and distinguish itself as a world leader in education as it has in the field of public health. In fact, we believe that the educators, parents and children of New York should welcome the Gates Foundation to New York with open arms and marching brass bands — but with three ironclad conditions.

Open their post to learn what their “ironclad conditions” are.

Do you think Gates might agree?

Do you think New York needs him, with or without the conditions?

Lenore Skenazy wrote this article in the Washington Post. Her advice to helicopter parents: Give up! Relax! Let the children play and figure things out. It is a welcome antidote to the policy wonks who are predicting that American children need constant academic pressure, more testing, more worksheets, held back a grade, or face a life of failure.

Skenazy is an advocate of “Free-Range Parenting.”

She writes:

The idea that parents have to enrich every second of their kids’ lives was a crazy lie even before the coronavirus. Kids never needed all that parental stimulation and all those teachable moments.

You know how Einstein spent much of his time as a kid? He made houses of cards.
Just imagine young Albert, the little loser, balancing cards and learning absolutely nothing. Except … well … patience … and concentration … and physics.


The point being not that you should run out and get your offspring a deck of cards so they can win the Nobel Prize before school starts up again. (Don’t run out for anything!) The point being that kids have always been bored, and they’ve always come up with things that seem like a total waste of time to adults — I’m looking at you, slime! — but maybe aren’t.


Many are the parents right now who are worried their kids are turning into “Call of Duty” fanatics. Okay, perhaps I am worried one of my sons is turning into a “Call of Duty” fanatic now that his college classes have switched to pass/fail.

But is that terrible? Nothing is interesting to kids — or any of us — if it’s not at least a little challenging. So even if a kid is working on his “kill/death ratio” (sigh), he is learning focus, frustration tolerance and how to make alliances. Those are transferable skills — not wasted hours. Video games are absorbing because they turn kids on, not off.



Coronavirus has parents and families self-quarantining with their children. So don’t worry about those.
Don’t worry, either, if a child seems to be slacking off in the homework department. Think back on how much you loved summer vacation. Wasn’t it a huge relief to finally not worry about grades and tests?


Before covid-19, childhood anxiety levels were going through the roof. In a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 70 percent of teens said anxiety and depression were “major problems among their peers.”
Now children have, basically, a long, strange, twisted vacation. Yes, for many, school is continuing, but it’s not taking the same number of hours, and all their after-school activities are off, too. This opens up a vast swath of free time that many children and teens have never had before. It can turn into a period of growth — mentally and emotionally.


Though not every youngster will become an Einstein while quarantining, many seem to be turning into the kids they would have been if they’d grown up a generation or two earlier, with more time to discover their real interests and hobbies (remember those days?), before childhood got so structured and busy.




So, don’t worry that everyone else’s children are making fabulous “Les Misérables” parodies while yours is hitting his brother with the webcam. You can shower your child with construction paper and glue sticks, but if she hates arts and crafts, she probably won’t emerge from quarantine an artistic genius. (Just like I stocked up on lentils. Why? I am not suddenly a vegan. I should have stocked up on chicken thighs.)


What I mean is: It’s all okay. Our kids are not going to seed even if they are sleeping, gaming and bingeing on YouTube. In fact, they’re growing, simply because kids are always growing and learning from everything — houses of cards, Nerf guns, Barbies, baths, videos, but most of all from that vital resource more rare and precious than toilet paper: free time.
My advice for would-be coronavirus helicopters? Think of the quarantine as an AP class in chilling. You can help your kids ace it by stepping back.

This article was written by Jennifer Weiner, an education professor at the University of Connecticut. She explains why she refuses to follow the worksheets and detailed instructions for her twin sons. She recognizes that she is privileged as a person who has economic security, healthcare and is white. But there’s no reason to believe that children who lack her privileges need to be subjected to dull routine.

I read her article with pleasure, a welcome respite from the dire warnings issued by the test-and-punish crowd, by various bureaucrats, by think-tanks underwritten by the Gates Foundation, and many others who are certain that children’s brains will wither if they are not subjected daily to worksheets, test prep, and the holy tests themselves.

What happens if there is a respite in our academic Hunger Games? How will we know who will win and who will lose? This mother wants her children to have a timeout. I’m a grandmother now, but I suspect if my children were still in school, I would be in her camp. School is not a global race to the top. It should be a time to learn and explore and to find joy in reading, writing, thinking, and growing. What children miss most now is the personal contact with their teachers and the social interactions with other students. Jennifer Weiner reminds us that the NCLB pressure-cooker is unhealthy for all children, not just her own. When school resumes, we need to rethink the oppressive and pointless regime imposed on children by federal mandates and groupthink. It’s past time to rethink the status quo and place our faith in real education, students, and teachers, not tests and technology.

She writes:

Thanks to the coronavirus, my third-grade twins are home all day for the foreseeable future. I’m not going to recreate school for them.

Judge me all you want.

Out of respect for their amazing teachers, I’m making a good-faith effort to get my kids to do the work that’s been sent home, but that does not come anywhere close to filling what would have been a school day. After accomplishing the bare minimum, the agenda is to survive and watch too much TV. We are eating cookies and carbs and hoping for the best. We are loving one another and trying not to go insane.

When we got the call that our schools were closing, I knew I’d start seeing social media posts with home-schooling schedules and amazing and quite labor-intensive (for adults) activities for children.

My predictions were right: There have been color-coded home school charts with every minute scheduled, online resources on how to lead children through yoga and meditation, French lessons, and building their own rocket ships. Parents are sharing recipes with the right nutritional balance to enhance study productivity. Many have already begun to lament that they’re failing at meeting these new expectations.

I want to send a message to parents, and in particular to working moms, who will inevitably take on most of this home labor along with working remotely: This is going to be messy and that is OK.

I am not an expert in teaching third graders, particularly those like one of my sons, who has special needs and receives numerous services from talented professional educators every day to ensure he can thrive. We are so grateful to them and to our other son’s teachers and their patience, wisdom, and skill. We know that we don’t share these qualities.

I’m also not a parenting expert — a fact that would be clear if you met our wonderful but somewhat feral children. But I do know, from often painful firsthand experiences, that trying to turn mothering into a competitive sport is straight up unhealthy. It’s not a game I want to play.

My husband and I both work full time. Like so many others, we’re attempting to keep our family safe and fed during our state’s Covid-19 shutdown while simultaneously working to convince our boomer parents to practice social distancing, reaching out to other loved ones and friends and trying not to panic. Even when everything in our life is working the way it should, and with all the privileges we have — our solid health care, our economic stability, our whiteness — we often feel overwhelmed. So this pandemic felt like a bridge too far. We had to meet it head on: holding our breath, crossing our fingers. And not judging ourselves.

I’ve heard predictions from other parents about how this time without classroom instruction could lead to my kids (who, remember, are 8) falling behind so far that college will no longer be in their future. I hate to think of how parents who are preoccupied with worry about loss of income and how to provide food and shelter for their families feel.

They must be terrified their children will be unable to keep up as moms and dads with more flexibility, more security, or even full-time help talk about their aggressive at-home enrichment agendas for their little ones. Maybe this is the perfect time to call a timeout on the academic rat-race that was never healthy or fair in the first place.

Yes, we have embraced the need for some schedule, taking turns keeping an eye on the kids as they surf the internet to make sure whatever they are looking at is age-appropriate. (Of course, one of the boys wanted to learn about bombs.)

So far, we’ve seen them digging into mastodons, dwarf planets, the Mars rover and who made Legos and why. They’ve been reading a lot (mostly graphic novels and “Big Nate” books) because my kids were always avid readers and I don’t have to fight with them to do it. But there are no flash cards and no made-up projects to “enrich” them. We do not assign them essays or ensure their explorations are aligned with Common Core standards. There is no official “movement” or music time. We have not set up a makeshift classroom or given our family’s “school” a name.

We bake and have taste tests to see which cookie recipes are the best, because we like cookies and they are among the few things I know how to make. We walk and walk and walk. We eat together. We think about how lucky we are and try to help those who are more vulnerable and without our resources.

So far, the boys have played more video games and watched more television than they did during any given week before schools shut down. It keeps them busy while their dad and I try to finish our meetings before Zoom crashes.

We love each other, we yell, we apologize, we laugh, they punch each other, we yell some more, we make up. We live, we try to be compassionate and we hope this will all be a memory soon. And when it’s over, the schoolwork will be there.

Today is the birthday of Patty Smith Hill, who wrote “Happy Birthday to You.”

I recall that she was a leading advocate for early childhood education and play while a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York.

Garrison Keillor wrote this about her.

It’s the birthday of the woman who wrote “Happy Birthday to You,” Patty Smith Hill, born in Anchorage, Kentucky (1868). Most of her life was spent as a kindergarten teacher. She began teaching in Louisville, Kentucky, and it was there, in 1893, that Hill first wrote the lyrics to the song. But it was originally meant as a welcome to start the school day and was first called “Good Morning to All.” Hill’s sister Mildred, an accomplished musician, provided the melody. Hill was 25 when she wrote the lyrics to the famous song.

But wait? Where is her professional life?

Wikipedia says this:

Hill taught nursery school, kindergarten, and was a “key founder of the National Association for Nursery Education (NANE) which now exists as the National Association For the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).”

Not only was she famous for composing the Happy Birthday song, but she was a prominent advocate for early childhood education.

Hill was an authority and leader in the progressive education movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Patty developed the Patty Hill blocks and in 1924 helped create the Institute of Child Welfare Research at Columbia University Teachers College.[2] The Patty Hill blocks were large blocks with which children could create giant constructions. She was a member, President, and lifetime support of the Association for Childhood Education International.

A letter from a parent:

As a parent of a child with anxiety, the test driven culture of our local school has made my third grader hate school. Every day is a battle to get her to school. Her tardy and absentee record is deplorable. She is sick with stomach and gastrointestinal illness much too frequently for a child with no medical conditions. The crime is this is a bright child who loves learning but hates school and is beginning to believe she is “dumb”. In particular, the time limitations on all of the screening tests are crippling.

Don’t vote for any candidate unless he or she promises to stop the federal testing mandate for annual testing of every child.