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I Don't Want Homeschool, I Want Change

Photograph by Twenty20

When mom Mandy Barr Lipham discovered her 5-year-old son would not have daily recess in Kindergarten, she was shocked. And very disturbed. She took those feelings and turned them into action.

She started a petition and a Facebook group, forced a meeting with her county's school board and has initiated a discussion on not only the topic of recess but the many aspects of today's education system parents and educators alike find troubling.

Across the state and the country, a much needed revolution is beginning.

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Fellow Florida mom Wendy Bradshaw's story went viral when she resigned from her position as a special education teacher in Polk County. She said having her own child made her think very seriously about the state of education in our country. And she could no longer stand to make students cry.

Her letter is a scathing inside account of the state of public education in the United States:

"Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place, which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective, but actively harmful to child development and the learning process."

Above all, research repeatedly demonstrates there is no benefit to homework at the elementary level.

She went on to say she could not in good conscious subject her own child to the, "disordered system" she had been part of.

Bradshaw is also part of the Opt Out Florida Network, a group advocating change in the standardized testing system. Even President Obama has weighed in on the topic, calling on schools to reduce the amount of standardized testing taking place in the classroom.

I am thrilled to see a robust and vital conversation we need to be having nationally about our public education system. Both women are encouraging parents to get involved and advocate for change.

Like these moms, I live in Florida and my child attends public school. Quite frankly, if she weren't in the gifted program, I believe we would be researching other options (and I would be going back to work outside the home full time to pay for them).

In gifted, there are no grades. No tests. The students learn through exploration and experimentation. They have recess, lunch and snack time. They work on social skills. My daughter has so much fun she doesn't even realize she is learning.

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I wish it was more than one day a week. And that all young children could have the opportunity to be in such an environment. It aligns with all that is known about early childhood development.

For her regular education class, we have opted out of homework. It is not graded, takes time away from other things I feel are more important and is busy work she personally does not benefit from. Above all, research repeatedly demonstrates there is no benefit to homework at the elementary level. And while she is too young at this point to take the state's assessment, we have already decided we will be opting out when the time comes, unless there are significant changes made to the test and the process.

I've joined the mission and am working to build support in my county for a recess bill being drafted for introduction to the state legislature.

Many times when something is written about issues in our public schools, people respond with comments like, "Homeschool!" or "Put your kids in private school!"

But those options are for those with the means to make them. They are not options for many other families. The fact is. most American children—49.8 million in 2014—are educated in the public school system. Compare that to the approximately 5 million attending private schools and the around 2 million being homeschooled.

If there are issues in the public schools, the answer is to address them. Because if we don't? There is no doubt the nation's children will suffer the consequences.

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I am so happy to see these two Florida moms leading the charge to make the education system better for all children. I've joined the mission and am working to build support in my county for a recess bill being drafted for introduction to the state legislature. And it is only the beginning. I plan to do much more to advocate for education reform in a number of areas.

For my child. For every child.

We have to do what is right. Our children need us to speak up and speak out. Before it is too late.

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