Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What If Kids Didn't Have to Wear Shoes at School? -- A Barefoot Mom's Point of View

by Susan Milton, Clearwater parent
Barefoot Zoe with Jackie and Johnna

One thing that makes me feel happy every time I arrive at The Clearwater School is that I don't have to put on shoes to go and find my kids, and that I often see at least one or two barefoot kids right away as I walk through the parking lot. 
Maddy's walking feet

Shoes are required at most schools, because many people believe that bad things would happen if students didn't wear them.

  • They could  be injured by broken glass or other sharp items.
  • Germs could spread.
  • People would sue each other.
  • It must be a violation of health codes.
  • Kids who are allowed to go barefoot at school won't be successful in the real world, where shoes are required.
  • Bare feet are a distraction in class.
  • Bare feet are indecent.
  • Chaos would break out without a rule requiring shoes.
I didn't make any of these up, and have heard or read all of them.

Jacy in the office

On the other hand, there is a small but growing number of people, myself included, who are convinced that none of these fears are based on reality, and instead believe that going barefoot as much as possible is actually much healthier and safer than wearing shoes. If you are interested in learning more, this website is a great place to start. And here's one specifically for parents which mentions Sudbury schools.

Reading the information about the many joys and benefits of bare feet, I would be tempted to think that if kids weren't required to wear shoes at school, none of them would. And they would all grow up happier, healthier, stronger, and safer as a result. Pretty soon the whole world would be better place.


Since shoes are not required at Clearwater, I have had the chance to find out what actually happens if kids don't have to wear shoes at school. The truth is that nothing very dramatic happens at all. In fact, most of the people choose to wear shoes most of time. I guess they want to keep their feet warm or to avoid stepping on sharp things. But I always see a few barefoot kids indoors and out, and if you see a barefoot mom walking around Clearwater, that's probably me.

Sometimes people are mildly curious, but mostly no one really cares. I've never witnessed or heard about anyone with a foot injury at Clearwater, but if someone did hurt their foot, I imagine that they would sit down for while and put a bandage or ice pack on it, just like with a scraped knee or hurt finger.

Lily rehearsing barefoot

I am always impressed by how fair and sensible the rules are at this school where kids vote on the rules. There are many rules at Clearwater, but the rules are almost never based on knee-jerk reactions to things or fear about extremely unlikely occurrences. The fact that there is no rule against bare feet is a great example of that.

The best thing about all of this, in my opinion, is that individuals are accepted and respected whether they are choosing to wear shoes at the moment or not.  And we all get to see that just because something is a little bit unusual doesn't mean that it's a problem.


Dana Ortegón said...

My two children have been attending Sudbury Valley School all of their school-lives. I, too, love the fact that shoes are optional, though there comes a point about two weeks after the first thaw when I wonder if their feet will ever be clean again...

Nice post!

Sarah D. said...

This is indeed an excellent example of what I love so much about Clearwater and other Sudbury schools: the lack of arbitrary rules based on some perceived lowest common denominator of expectation.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the article. The barefoot lifestyle is a healthier choice in regards to preventing future problems down the road such as back, knee, and foot pains to name a few.

julianne said...

In New Zealand it is common to see barefoot kids, many go barefoot to school in the summer. When in the USA years ago on a holiday, I was kicked out of a supermarket because of my bare feet, something that would never be a problem in NZ

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised the kids wear shoes as much as they do at Clearwater school. They probably don't all realize how unique it is to have that option at school. I don't see any problem with it at all, as it is healthy and fun. Obviously, in life there will be times when they will need to wear shoes, and they can when they need to. With the warmer weather, it is definitely a good time to encourage your kids to take advantage of this and to leave their shoes and socks at home :)

Anonymous said...

My kids can't even wear SANDALS. Closed-toe shoes only, along with the mandated uniforms. Hate it. :(

Anonymous said...

Love this post. I also grew up in South Africa where wearing shoes, especially for kids, is optional. Barefoot children are much happier and they grow up without any of the modern hang-ups connected with bare feet. Going barefoot is healthy and it looks good too!

tbk said...

Obviously none of the concerns are true, as the footwear-optional schools show. If bare feet are a regularly seen option they won't be a distraction, rather it's better for concentration if you aren't bothered by enclosed and sweaty feet. Schools are a safe environment or can easily be made so, school rooms are cleaned daily so germs are not a problem. It's certainly much healthier. So schools should encourage bare feet (not just in school, also on the way to school and back) and provide places to leave your footwear during the day, together with jackets etc. I'm all for pointing out the advantages of going barefoot, but it shouldn't be mandatory: If you're forced to do anything you will sooner or later hate to do it.

Lindsey said...

My teacher at my school told me to put on my shoes WHEN I WAS SITTING ON MY SEAT!

Anonymous said...

My kids (3 girls, ages 8, 10, and 11) have always attended a "footwear optional" school and have NEVER worn shoes to school. And guess what? They are happier, healthier, and better adjusted. I wouldn't have it any other way!

Anonymous said...

I love very see children barefoot because i love very their feet with all my soul and heart
Children are for me little brothers

Unknown said...

Susan, do you know of any state laws mandating shoes in public schools as well as private schools?

Susan said...

There are no state laws requiring shoes in public or private schools, but schools can set their own policy. The situation is similar at restaurants and other businesses - there are no laws or "health codes" requiring shoes for customers, but business owners may have a policy if they wish.

Anonymous said...

My kids go to Clearview Sudbury School in Austin and often go barefoot. My son did learn a hard lesson one day when he stepped on a tack. But he still choses to go barefoot sometimes anyway.

Susan said...

Great post on this topic from Fairhaven School:

ROB said...

Peace and Good!
Blessed schools which accept barefeet among its pupils!
Br. Alberto Guimaraes OFS
Braga ─ Portugal said...

It's natural to be barefoot your feet become tough as a result and of course the bottom will be dirty that too is natural and it's much more healthier for your feet to be barefoot.

Antony said...

So you were sitting barefoot? A had a similar situation

Antony said...

I wish I had attended a school like that. Unfortunately we had shoe police

Unknown said...

I've always been embarrassed to go anywhere in public barefoot ever since I was 12 years old

Unknown said...

Meanwhile, in my high school for the graduation ceremony, there was an extreme double standard dress code, where males were mandated to wear the kind of dressy shoes that fully covers the foot and dressy socks on top of that! ŠMH! And this also applies for office jobs, like literally! #DumpAllTheBiasedDoubleGenderStandards4OnceAndAll