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A close friend of mine works with young kids at a daycare/school. Being a problem child himself he has a much more understanding take on the experience of being a kid than most teachers I've known and in a very realistic perspective (where most 'understanding' teachers are the lovey-dovey type). Hearing about his kids and how he teaches them, I have realized just how much we underestimate children in this society.
Most people treat kids like expensive pets, pampering them and never asking much from them. "Homework" for these children is usually circling which shape is a square or triangle. Well this tends to bring up children who only want to do the absolute bare minimum of work, a trend that is practically an epidemic in this country from what I've seen since I started going to school myself.
My friend has a different approach to teaching kids. My favorite so far has been the following:
The children are given a string of math problems, things they've been learning over the past few weeks. This includes addition, subtraction and a few really simple multiplication problems (keeping in mind these kids are 5 years old or so). Each of these problems churns out a number. This number goes to a combination lock that holds a ring of keys to a stationary object in the room (I think it was a cabinet handle).
Once they have gotten the number and gotten the keys they must figure out which key goes to a locked box on the opposite side of the room. All of the keys are dummies but one. Inside the locked box is an alarm clock. Their goal is to get to the clock before the alarm goes off. They have 15 minutes.
I wish I had a teacher like him when I was a wee larvae. It really is disappointing that, though kids are fully capable of completing a task like this, most teachers only try to lower the standards and pass kids along through the public school system, turning our adult society into a useless mass of overly-sensitive, selfish and lazy louts but for those few of us lucky enough to get a private education or simply have a knack for independent thought.