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Prison Break!

Dear Friend,

My kids, like most kids, are thrilled when they get a day off of school. Today, my youngest had a fever, and my oldest asked to stay home to act as babysitter. He’s very good at this and it’s cheaper than hiring one. But then he would miss a day of school.

My kids attend a non-traditional school where they advance at their own pace. As a result, most of the kids are way ahead of their public school counterparts. My oldest is several grades ahead of other kids his age, and, because he works at his own pace, missing a day here or there really doesn’t matter.

My wife came from a strictly traditional background. She nixed the idea right off the bat. I was open to it. Is either of us right?

Kids are forced to go to school on a strict and routine schedule for several reasons.

First, if they are following a traditional curriculum, they will miss that day’s lesson, and the information they miss may be critical to their score on an upcoming test. As I said, this factor does not apply for my son.

Second, they are being taught an important lesson – that you just have to force yourself sometimes to get out of bed and go to school, because if you learn that it’s OK to let yourself start missing time whenever you feel like it, such behavior in the future job market will just get you fired.

Third, schools often act as babysitting services for working parents. No one will be home, and the children are too young or too potentially irresponsible to be left home alone. And the parents sure aren’t going to spend good money on a babysitter, assuming that they could find one at the last minute which is doubtful, when free babysitting is available at the local public school.

Well, since in this case mom and dad work at home, and others are also here to help, the third reason doesn’t hold up.

So it’s down to number two.

I think that learning the discipline to get out of bed in the morning is a critical skill for any young person to learn. When they grow, they will set their eyes on a future target that is important to them, and they will need to achieve many intermediate steps along the way, some of which may not be much fun. If they fail to have the discipline to stick to their effort they will never achieve their greater goals.

In my son’s case, and I think for most “tweeners” and teens, it is hard to see any greater goal that they are working towards. College seems so far away that it is almost impossible to contemplate. If he were in a traditional school and knew that, no matter what he did, he would probably have to wait until he was at least seventeen before he could get out with a diploma, school would look much more like a prison sentence with a fixed term to serve, rather than a goal to be achieved. The question would be, should I be a Trustee, always on my best behavior, and score points with the guards (get good grades), or just resent the fact that I’m being kept here for the heinous crime of being a kid at the start of the 21st Century?

Anyway, it doesn’t matter much, ’cause his mom said he had to go and that’s that.

Oh well. I feel for ya kid.

All the best,

Hugh

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