Neighborhood school

James Lileks wants to send his daughter to kindergarten at the neighborhood public school.

There’s something about walking home on a spring day — or, for that matter, one of those wonderful autumn afternoons where is damp and misty and somehow very private, as though your only friend in the world is the world itself, the hidden mysterious world that revealed itself at times like this. It’s an integral part of childhood, at least as it was defined for me. I used to come home for lunch, too; is that even an option anymore? I came home to soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, Noonday on the B&W TV. No cartoons on that show. No hope of cartoons. Farm reports and LBJ; a dog from the pound if you were lucky. Then back to school.

I walked home for lunch from elementary school too, though we weren’t allowed to watch TV. Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, definitely.

Lileks discovered the school offers all-day kindergarten, but only to non-English speaking children who are bused in from elsewhere. The extra time is used to teach “concepts” — like colors and shapes — in their native language. Lileks is dubious, but there are children who come to school without the basic knowledge that middle-class parents take for granted. Whether they’re incapable of learning “green” but capable of “verde” is another issue. Generally, more learning time for poor kids is a good idea.

He’s got a great anecdote about his daughter.

This morning she was painting, and what had been a portrait of her and her friend turned into a self-portrait, with the friend morphed into a house. And then she said something that’s stayed with me all day: “All of my mistakes are giving me ideas.”


About Joanne


  1. Last year I was the ONLY parent who let my kids walk home from school alone. We lived a mere 3 blocks from the school and there was a crossing guard who always had the kids in her view. The first week I let them walk alone, the crossing guard told me the most horrific stories. She said that quite a few parents had stopped (in their cars) and told them how terrible it was to see them. One lady said that she wanted to pick my kids up and take them right back to the school. Later that spring I was walking down the hallway at the school and overheard two women talking behind me. “That’s the woman who let’s her kids walk to school!” Oh the drama!

    Well, I moved to a different city and now the kids walk 3 blocks home again and nobody is surprised at all. There are still quite a few parents who insist on driving to pick up their kids even though we live on the same street. We usually beat them home.

  2. Unfortunately for Lileks though, I don’t think he is going to find that mythical neighborhood school. State and federal busybodies have pretty much beaten the neighborhood out of school system everywhere.

  3. Maybe it’s just because I am an old fart but when I went to school, if you lived within 2 miles of the school, you walked to school and kids weren’t allowed to drive. There was no parking available for the students.

    Reminds me of when I lived in Maryland. There was a big gym close by. The next door neighbor used to drive to the gym, then drive across the street from the gym to pick up something to eat for dinner and then drive home. It was 2 blocks away. Then he told me I needed to get more exercise!

    They talk about how the kids are getting fat. Let them walk it off going to school and then walking home. Do them good and the parents too.

  4. It is not fair that someone who can write that well should have a child that perceptive.