Snow days and things unschooling has taught me

Part I

Snow day.   Are there two more magical words for schooled children?  (besides maybe ‘summer break’)   Apparently the 9 inches of snow in New York City Tuesday night had most kids thinking they were going to hear those words Wednesday morning.  But they didn’t.   Let’s be honest, in New York City a snow day is never really necessary.   (Maybe the Christmas storm of 27 inches would have been cause, but everyone was out of school then for the holidays anyway.)   Many kids walk to school and usually the sidewalks are cleared overnight.    And in fact the Times related this morning that in the past 31 years there have only been 3 snow days in the NYC public schools.   Two of those were last winter.    As it was, about half of all enrolled children apparently stayed home anyway and went sledding.   Some of them were with us at Riverside Park yesterday.   But the controversy over the ‘snow day that wasn’t’ was so great that Mayor Bloomberg actually spoke about it in a press conference.   I generally like our Mayor.   I think he’s done a lot of good things for the city, despite his championing of some absurd laws like “it’s illegal to ride your bike in Central Park without holding on to the handlebars.”   Wouldn’t you love to see a cop try to ticket a bike rider for that?     Anyway, at the press conference yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg said that he didn’t call a snow day because “our kids are better off in school.”   Debatable, but I’ll let it slide.   Then the new school Chancellor, Cathleen Black chimed in with , “The last thing we’re going to do is close schools and put 1.1 million children wandering around with nothing to do.”    And the Dumb Comment of the Day award goes to….Ms. Black!    Really Cathleen, how many children have you been around when 9 inches of snow is ready and waiting outside their door?   “Wandering around with nothing to do”?  Yes, because children of all ages find it so difficult to entertain themselves after a snowstorm.  Hey, I know, maybe you should offer a class on how to have fun in snow, and then a snow day could be homework!   Since the administration clearly believes that no child will be able to figure out a way to spend a WHOLE DAY outside of a classroom without some kind of supervised activity….

Whew!  I haven’t ranted in a while and boy did it feel good!   Turns out you can almost always rant about something a politician has said and get away with it. :)

Part II

Got my new issue of Life Learning Magazine last night, and there was a very funny article by a woman named Kimberly Nichols called, “83 Things I Learned from Homeschooling”.    I have a few to add about unschooling, but first, here are my favorites from her list:

Number 3:  Telling other parent that you homeschool is usually construed as a threat to their choices in life; you’re better off telling them that you’re in a religious cult.

Number 6:  Calling yourself an eclectic homeschooler is a fancy way of saying you can’t stick to a schedule and you have a very short attention span; either that or you’re too cheap to spring for a ‘real’ education.

Number 14:  You often don’t know your children were listening until they repeat what you said in public or use it to win a board game.

Number 21:  Super-mom doesn’t exist; everyone’s house is a wreck at some point.

Number 22:  The words “I would never” are words that you will one day eat.

Number 34:  YouTube is addictive.

Number 36:  Sitcoms and video games can be educational.

Number 62:  Sometimes when a child asks where he came from, he only wants to know the city in which he was born.

Number 66:  You can get an entire education without ever taking a test.

Number 67:  It takes longer to supervise a child cleaning than to do it yourself; teaching a child how to clean is important for some reason.

[And my two favorites]

Number 73:  If you try to drill something into your child’s head, they will eventually hear it from someone else and say, “Why didn’t you ever tell me that?”

Number 82:  Being shy is not something parents need to cure their children of.

As unschoolers, I would add the following 5 items:

1)  There is no ‘right way’ to unschool.   If there were, someone would package it and call it a curriculum.

2)  The decision to unschool is only difficult for the parent.   For the kid it’s just the way things should be.

3)  The Wii is a great source of exercise and education.

4)  There is no such thing as ‘doing nothing’.

5)  For unschooled children, the world really is their classroom.  The parent just needs to remember that doesn’t mean they are required to make everything a ‘lesson’.

Kimberly Nichols writes the Happy Homeschooling Blog at

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