The Hierarchy of the Prison Yard

My family will be homeschooling after mid-winter vacation.  It might seem surprising that one of the biggest reasons is recess.

When my son shares his thoughts about recess, it sounds like survival in a prison yard.

My TBP describes in details the well-known hierarchy; the most popular, the most athletic, the most physically intimidating.  He talks about the numbers of kids and the impossibility for the adults to really know what is going on.  He tells that there are places that the adults can’t see.  He talks about those certain kids that hang out in those certain places and give unwelcoming looks to those that attempt to visit there for a while.  He says that this is one of the important things that you have to learn about school. Really? How sad!

He says that you have to watch your back…always.

I know these words seem dramatic for my local elementary playground.  Our school is in a nice suburban neighborhood with well-kept houses and a good reputation. Maybe that’s the biggest disguise about what goes on for kids like mine, maybe that is what makes it all so misleading.

For most students, the playground is probably the setting of fun games with friends and a lot of four square; but for my kid, it feels like a flat, paved hell.

Month after month, we have been searching for answers.  Why is he SO worried and anxious?  Why is school SO hard?  Why is he retreating into himself and only wants to be with us? After relentless parental detective work, we discovered that recess is one of my TBP’s biggest sources of anxiety and stress.

The truth began to unfold while I helped my son with his valentine cards.  There was a particular name on the list that my son wanted to skip.  In the beginning, he gave lame excuses about not being able to find the perfect card or just the right clever saying; then he grew tired of the excuses and shared that this boy has been bothering him all year.

I had heard this boy’s name earlier, but was assured by the school after my inquires that they didn’t see anything strange or out of the ordinary.  They added that this boy was much smaller and “more passive” than my son so they “found it hard to believe that he was bullying” my son.  My TBP said that this boy constantly follows him and calls him names, names that he wouldn’t tell me.  He says that he is like an annoying gnat that won’t go away no matter what, he is everywhere.

He begged me not get involved so I encouraged (lectured) him to tell the school counselor that he trusts.  He said that he might.  I asked him if this boy was the reason that he didn’t want to go to school. “He isn’t the only reason, but he makes it even harder for me.”  He then turned and looked at me as if he needed to remind me one more time who he was, “It is all of it, Mama.  All of it is really hard for a very sensitive kid like me.”

As a parent, you don’t expect your child to dread, even fear, recess.  The sad reality is that I know he is not the only one.

Have you ever asked your kid about the recess hierarchy at his school?

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “The Hierarchy of the Prison Yard

  1. My 9 year old son suffered from stomach aches, sleep disturbances and headaches from September until December. He too, complained about one boy in particular, and we were also told that nothing untoward was happening. After the first week of Christmas break I realized – he had not had one stomach ache, not one headache, and he had slept through the night every night. We made the decision to move him then.

  2. It’s not reasonable to expect a school to monitor your child every single second of every single day.

    You’re certainly entitled to pull TBP out of school but what, exactly, is that teaching him? That the appropriate way to deal with adversity is to remove yourself from the situation?

    Your precious, darling snowflake of a kid has zero coping skills – and you are depriving him of the opportunity to develop them.

    Have you considered that indulging his whims makes your life easier I. The short-term, but his life much harder in the medium to long term?

    My heart breaks for your kid with no friends, no social skills and mommies who are 100% down with ensuring he stays that way.

    • You are assuming that we haven’t taught many strategies to try first…like walking away, asking for help, or seeking out other kids that share similar interests. I’m sure you know that schools do have bullying policies that they are supposed to be followed and that educational assistants are supposed to circulate instead of congregate in one area.

      Although we do not agree, I appreciate your comments. That’s what makes these discussions and our world more colorful.

  3. It’s not reasonable to expect a school to monitor your child every single second of every single day. That is the parents’ job. Unfortunately, the system is set up to make it easy for bullies, among other dangers. Drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, and gang recruitment have been known to start in the elementary schools. Private schools are not immune to these appalling minefields that have become all to commonplace. My knowledge comes from my family’s background in law enforcement.

    You’re certainly entitled to pull TBP out of school but what, exactly, is that teaching him? That is teaching him that he has parents that love him, believe in him, and are willing to protect him and provide security for him. There is plenty of time for him to be out on his own, but there is also a time when a child needs the security of a safe environment to learn and grow in.

    That the appropriate way to deal with adversity is to remove yourself from the situation? Yes, sometimes you need to walk away. Learn to deal with adversity one baby step at a time.

    Your precious, darling snowflake of a kid has zero coping skills – and you are depriving him of the opportunity to develop them. Actually, it is the bullies that have a lack of coping skills… your “precious, darling, snowflake” can develop better communication skills in a more positive environment. They don’t need to be thrown to wolves to survive on their own without any training! And, yes, your child is a precious, unique individual… to suggest otherwise or in a derogatory tone shows arrogance and ignorance of basic psychology.

    Have you considered that indulging his whims makes your life easier I. The short-term, but his life much harder in the medium to long term? Offering a safe place to learn and grown is not a whim. Nurturing your child now will provide many benefits in the short, medium, and long term!

    My heart breaks for your kid with no friends, no social skills and mommies who are 100% down with ensuring he stays that way. My heart breaks for the “adults” that lack compassion and assume that they know best. You, as the parent, are the best person to decide what is best for your child.

    The homeschool communities provide a far better environment for building social skills, teamwork skills and debate skills. A homeschooling mom in my community just took a team of students to Legoland for the World Championships in Lego robotics… and then won the world title! That type of team building and leadership is not the exception… their are countless opportunities to meet the needs of homeschooled children. Congrats on your decision… and let the adventure begin!!

    Sincerely,
    Larisa Palazzolo
    Director – Challenge B
    Classical Conversations

      • I am a member of several local homeschool groups. One is a social group that plans co-ops, field trips, park days, etc. Another is an “umbrella” school that helps me me take care of my legal requirements. Finally, and my favorite, is Classical Conversations… which helps me with my long term plans of homeschooling (using the tools of classical education) through high school while providing accountability and community. I believe that there are communities in every state. If you have interest you can check out http://www.classicalconversations.com — Also, they offer free 3-day homeschooling conferences (called “practicums”). These practicums are open to all parents that are homeschooling or just thinking about homeschooling. I would encourage you to check it out and try to visit a community in your area to see if it is a good fit for your family… if it isn’t you still may get some great ideas about what will work!

  4. I think your son would greatly benefit from weight training. Once his body starts filling out with muscle…99% of the bullies automatically stay away. For $300.00 – $400.00 a good start at a home gym can be had. A Olympic trap bar delivered goes for under $200.00. And some olympic free weights go for under $200.00 at a local sports store. One trap bar deadlift and twice weekly Farmer’s Walks would soon build his overall body strength.

  5. It’s been about 8 months since this thread began… mytwicebakedpotato, are you homeschooling? How is that going? Have you found local support groups? Feel free to PM me if you like… or not. I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking of you and hoping that all is well! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s