One reason Aidan is glad he left traditional school?  Too many rules. He’s an old soul and, while he’s no trouble maker, he has little patience with ridiculous rules.  We’ve promised him this post for over a year… 

Imagine you are 10 years old. You’ve returned to 4th grade after touring around the UK for three weeks with just a backpack. While away, you’ve traveled via plane, bus, train, subway, ferry, and foot.  You navigated the London Tube on your own, initiated an unscheduled meeting with an intern at the Scottish Parliament, and scaled the centuries-old castle walls in Conwy, Wales. After returning to school and showing your class a comprehensive PowerPoint summary of your travels, you go to your first recess and see…

The Geodome! The Geodome has arrived!

You’d been awaiting the arrival of the new playground equipment, which was purchased with money raised through cookie dough, frozen pizza, and McDonald’s fundraisers. Despite being a kid, the irony in this fact doesn’t escape you.

Just as you attempt to tackle the hemispherical-shaped climbing structure, your best friend says, “Oh, sorry Aidan, our class can’t play on it yet. We haven’t been trained.

Gulp. Trained? To play?

Two weeks later, and four weeks after the equipment has arrived, you receive the necessary Geodome “training”, which is actually a list of “do’s” and “do not’s”, a.k.a. Rules. For example:

  • Three body parts (arms or legs) must be touching the equipment at all times.
  • No hanging upside down or flipping/swinging on it.
  • No going under the Geodome.

These rules were in addition to the general playground rules including, but not limited to:

  • No balls on the playground.
  • No playing tag.
  • No twisting on the swings.
  • No pushing on the swings.
  • No getting on top of the bars.
  • No hanging your rear end through the tire swing.
  • No going under the monkey bars/swings.
  • No standing on the swings.
  • No swinging from the bars holding the swing set.
  • No climbing up the corkscrew, or sliding down the support poles.
  • No climbing up, or jumping from, the slide.

Other than that…have a great time!


Later that summer, while at the school for a local farmer’s market, Aidan saw the playground and said, “Awesome! We can actually play on the playground since school isn’t in session!” After a few minutes of luscious rebellion, Aidan asked me to photograph his escapades and do a blog post on it. So, here you are. These are all pictures of what NOT to do at his former school. Hopefully the statute of limitations has run for these infractions.

Warning – While no children were harmed in the creation of this blog post, the following photos are not for the faint of heart. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!

In all seriousness, we started homeschooling, in part, because we felt both boys losing their zest for learning. In conferences, teachers lauded the fact they boys we so “easy to have in class” and seemed surprised by, and unprepared to answer, our questions about how the boys were progressing academically. It seemed the school’s purpose was to spread conformity through the imposition of rules – learning was secondary.

Though we planned on homeschooling, we decided to attend the middle school orientation to make sure we were making the right decision.  At the orientation, we were dismayed to see that the facility was proudly run more like a prison than a school, with strict schedules meant to minimize any free-time which might lead to…I guess…bad stuff? Meanwhile, I don’t recall the word “learn” mentioned – not even once. School was becoming a place for our children to be deposited – not developed.

Homeschooling is not perfect; we’re figuring it out as we go.  But the boys actually seem to function better, and learn more efficiently, in this setting.  They appreciate the independence and flexibility homeschooling brings and have shown that they do not need rules directing their every activity.  While it’s possible Aidan will encounter some playground equipment that he’s unable to play on without training, for now, we’re willing to take the risk.



  1. I LOVE this!!! I read a case study on a preschool class where the kids were rewarded on complying with the rules and labeled as smart for doing so and every fiber in me was screaming as I read it. It actually made me think of slavery! Ack! (Plus the teacher was very racist.) I applaud that you are on this adventure and love reading every minute. Thanks for sharing! The pics are hilarious!

  2. Love it! This has to be at Rock Creek. My daughter was in 3rd grade when the Geodome arrived. I remember having a very similar conversation with her when I asked her if she got to play on it during recess and she told me it wasn’t her classes turn yet. I was like “what”? And if you fell into the Geodome and landed on the ground or accidentally lost your flip flop under that thing then you were in real trouble. So sad. We said goodbye to public school and are on our 2nd year of homeschooling.

    Go Aidan!!

    • I will neither confirm nor deny what school this was :) Thanks for stopping by Laurie!
      Hope you are enjoying homeschooling too – what a difference it made in our lives!

  3. We are so ready. Especially after the conversation I had with Austin’s teacher yesterday. Basically, “he’s doing fine academically, he’s just not doing what I tell him to do.”

    • Argh! Isn’t that the worst? One of the last conferences we had in the traditional school was similar. We were told “He is a very independent, outspoken young man……” – this by the way, was NOT a compliment. The underlying message was “He is a distraction, and needs to comply.”

  4. I am so glad we are homeschooling! After 2 years of research into our public education system, I felt very certain I wanted my boys to be free. Free to learn, explore and now with your post to play as kids should play. I give enough rules at home and he is a good kid, but what is going on in schools?

  5. Oh gosh. =O Those pictures are pretty intense. I feel quite flustered looking at them. So shocking!

    In all seriousness, I hear you about the rules. My son encountered the same issue–the program he was in (designed for kids on the autism spectrum or with similar learning differences) took the approach of giving instant 2 minute time outs for infractions (such as not paying attention, forgetting to raise their hand, etc) and additional time outs if a child dared to question the fairness or try to explain themselves.

    Sitting in on the tutoring sessions with the tutor the district gave my son was pretty eye opening. Her method of “teaching” was equal parts dominating and asserting her authority to actually making sure he learned the material. In fact, learning the material might actually have been less important considering how hard she insisted he do it HER way instead of whatever way helped him actually understand what he was being taught.

    I get that kids have to listen, do what they’re told and be safe but it feels like balancing the rules and keeping things fun and interesting is an area that needs work in a lot of districts.

    • Wow, that’s too bad Lia.
      One of the best things about homeschooling for us has been honoring how our boys learn best. For example, one son was labeled an “unmotivated reader” in fourth grade. The summer after school ended he read nine novels about WWII, and he hasn’t stopped there. Give the kid an opportunity to read what he wants and BOOM!
      Best of luck with finding what instruction/instructors work best for your son’s situation, and yours. :)

  6. Grace agrees. She did not like all the rules, she just wanted to be safe and have fun at the same time. That post was hilarious; especially the pictures! We are really liking Russell Ridge and homeschooling!

  7. I have so many thoughts and feelings when I read this post… one of the best I’ve come across in long time. Thank you.
    Please tell Aidan hi from ZZ(Michael in Peter Pan) and me… Your old soul comment rings true… Our experience with him is that he is selfless and with a solid core of kindness and genuine concern for everyone around him… Those traits are are priceless…

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