The Idle Parent: Down With School

This is the sixteenth part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

Down With School


Idle Parent Manifesto: Down With School

Well, well, well … isn’t this a timely topic?  I promise, I didn’t plan for this particular nugget in the Idle Parent Manifesto to fall right at the time when most of us are headed back to school.  Funny how things work sometimes.

The author’s biggest complaints about school center around the rigidity of both the curriculum and the schedule.  He encourages parents to reject clock time and schedules whenever possible.  This make school, with all of its pesky enforced start times and attendance a bit of a thorn in a laid-back family’s side, and for that reason he’s not a fan.

We’ve had experience with two very different methods of schooling.  For the last seven years, I’ve had at least one child in Montessori.  Elena attended Montessori through 3rd grade and Eli through pre-K.  Now both children are attending our local public schools.

We definitely had a lazier life under Montessori.  Sometimes (okay, lots of times) we were late … and while it was frowned upon, we never received tardies on our permanent  records or were punished in any way.  If something came up that seemed like fun, or if we were just having one of those days, we might not go to school that day.  That was cool, too.  In the classroom, things were structured.  However the Montessori method allows and encourages choice and self-regulation, and so my kids never felt as if they were in a rigid environment.

We are at the very beginning of our public school career with Eli, but from our experience with Elena, we’ve not found public school to be smothering or rigid to the point where we loathe it.  Yes, we have set times, and yes, attendance is mandatory.  The school police have yet to come knocking.  Within the classroom I’ve found that the curriculum is a good mix of learning the standards and filling in with projects and discussions that are sparked by the students’ interests.  We’ve been blessed with teachers who don’t see the benefit of assigning hours of homework.  The nights when Elena has more than 30 minutes of homework are rare, and many nights she doesn’t bring any home at all.

For us, school has been a positive thing in our children’s lives … a place to make friends, to learn, and to practice life skills they’ll need in the real world.  We follow the rules 99% of the time and then do our own thing if I think it benefits our family, whether it’s to take a mental health day, leave the spelling words for another day, or skip town for Disney in the middle of the school year.  It works for us and keeps the balance between being responsible students and not losing our minds in check.  And if this outlook didn’t work for us?  Then we would do as many of you have done with great success, and homeschool to the beat of our own drum.

How do you feel about your school situation?  If it’s good, how to you balance the rigidity of school with the needs of your family?  And if it was sucking the life out of your family, how did you solve the problem?




  1. Check out for some (radical?) ideas about homeschooling.

    • You weren’t kidding. I have absolutely zero inclination to homeschool, and yet I just spent 30 minutes getting lost in her homeschooling site. Fascinating stuff.