LOG CABIN CHRONICLES

The school calendar of years ago

Posted 06.12.13
FRED RYAN

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | As we unwind with the school year towards summer vacations, do we ever wonder why our schools have the schedules they do? Why two or three months off in a solid block during summer?

Doesn't this big chunk of time create a hole in pupils' memories, so that a good part of each autumn is spent bringing the students back up to speed -- to where they were the prior June? How efficient is that?

The school calendar was set when we were farming communities, and the kids were needed to help out on the farm. So our schools haven't changed their approach since we were all farmers?

Don't we expect schools, in particular, to evolve and respond to current social needs and to the latest research about learning? Why is our school calendar living in the middle of the last century?

Pedagogical experts have proposed changes to ease the burden of learning, and of teaching. There's an idea out there that schools should run all year long, but with one-month breaks between each quarter. This gives the kids and the teachers a break and time to absorb what they've just been through -- and to prepare for what's coming. There would be a month-long break in December, one in March or April, and then another in July or August.

The kids don't lose what they've just learned; teachers have a break but not a disconnection from their careers -- and we don't forget parents.

This is the era of two working parents per family and of single-parent families. It might be much easier and less expensive to arrange household schedules if the longest breaks were no more than a month.

Why are we still using a farm-based model, when so few people farm?

And as with the year, what about the daily schedules? Psychologists and learning researchers tell us that growing kids need extra sleep, that they do not learn well first thing in the morning -- and that daily day-care becomes more like warehousing the kids than helping them explore the world.

There are few scientists who believe so much day care is good for kids -- the common belief is that it has become an unavoidable evil, leading to dysfunctional families.

If growing kids, and especially teens, require more sleep, why does our school system get them up around 6 or 6:30 am to catch a pre-7 am school bus -- only to get out of school in the early afternoon, while most parents are still at work, and the kids are moved on into after-school day care.

What is wrong with coordinating the school day's hours with the common working hours of the students' parents?

The kids don't get any extra time to go outside, be active, or pursue their interests. The parents are rushed in the morning and then after work and they are forced to pay for this extra childcare.

Who is benefiting from this antiquated system? And why is change so incredibly difficult within our various school boards?

john@johnmahoney.com




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