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Swingin' in the Rain

Publication Date: 2006-12-20

Here's a thought: If children had time to swing, might some of the ADD, anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, and oppositional behavior disappear?

My morning commute to deliver my daughter to high school is agonizingly long. On Braddock Road, a few miles from school, we pass Oakwood School. Oakwood, for those of you not familiar, is a special education school in Northern Virginia, geared mostly to bright kids with learning disabilities and ADHD. It's the Ivy League of Special Education here, with far less spots than eager applicants for whom the price tag is not a deterrent.

As I pass the school, I always see a bevy of children swinging. The light is long at Braddock and Backlick and traffic backs up almost a mile. So as we are stopped for what seems an eternity, I get to stare at those kids.

There is something striking about those children swinging back and forth each morning. My 14-year old child and I marvel at it every day. On a frigid morning, those high energy children are swinging! It must be the only school where children swing and run at 8:10 before school starts. They look happy and carefree as they swing and shout and run. It is a purely beautiful little daily vignette of sunshine and wind and swing.

I'm reminded of how recess is being eliminated all across the country to make more room for standardized test prep. We have NCLB to thank for that. How more and more children are diagnosed with ADD, anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, oppositional behavior, medicated into submission and we know that if they had an hour to swing every day, some of these symptoms would lessen or disappear altogether.

I watch these children. If they are "special ed" they get to swing. If not, they don't. Maybe they're on to something!

I had recess in high school even. We played Baltimore ball, a local version of volley ball. We played on every good day. I'll never forget that little oasis of fun and how I'm sure we were all more attentive by late afternoon because of it! Can you imagine recess in high school today? They scrap it starting in middle school now. And that's for the lucky ones, who still got their precious twenty minutes of playground in elementary.

I am reading that free schools, in the vein of Sudbury, are making a slow comeback. We are a nation of pendulum swings. As public school becomes even more regimented, up will crop a counter revolution. We can only hope. The rise of homeschooling, and unschooling becoming the fastest growing segment is testament to change in the air. It cannot come a moment too soon for all those children who are not allowed to swing.

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