Jun 20, 2013

Perpetuating the Norm - Why do you stop learning in the summer?

This time of year the homeschool world seems to be all abuzz with end of the year parties, burnt out rants and thinking ahead to next year's school plans. As the weather gets warmer threads like - "What are you doing this summer?", "Join us for the annual end of year picnic." and "Looking for science curriculum for next fall." suddenly overtake the corner of the web that home ed families connect in. Each year I get more and more bothered by this cycle which perpetuates the norm of public school. 

"Short school years with long vacations are not the norm in Europe, Asia, or South America either. Children in most industrialized countries go to school more days per year and more hours per day than in America. While just sitting in a classroom longer does not necessarily ensure children will learn more, many American teachers spend weeks every fall just reminding kids of what they forgot over the summer." quote from Rachael Stark 

The American school calendar is based on antiquated nonsense - check herehere and here for some history lessons on the topic - and is thought to be one of the greatest impediments to successful education in the United States. So why is it that a significant group of people who realize that the public school system is lacking in so many ways can't seem to recognize one of it's largest faults.

I think for many it is childhood memories of all the fun and freedom they had during the summer and failure to recognize that in reality their kids could actually have that fun and freedom ALL year, rather than containing it to a small allotment of their schedule. I completely understand the wealth of activities that summertime brings which suit a child being a child, however I struggle with seeing how the other seasons don't.  This was not a realization that I came to only after removing KM from public school, infact she quite often says that it is my fault that she was so bored in school because I gave her "summer school" work every year. Previously I used the time off in the summer to cover things that I thought were seriously lacking in school. I just couldn't see the point in wasting all that time - 11-14 weeks - doing nothing. Once she was no longer going to public school, I developed a schedule that fit our lifestyle - more on that here and here - rather than sticking to something that we had no connection to and I couldn't see the logic in. At what other time in your life do you get a 3 month vacation every year? How is that preparing kids for the "real world"?

If your child shows interest in the budding plants, chirping baby birds and salamanders they found under the logs in the backyard, why would you make them wait until fall to start a biology curriculum that you think they will enjoy? Carpe diem!!! Take advantage of the seasons, make learning part of your life, rather than something separate and subjugated.  - more on my thought on this here

If you find a balance within your own family each and every season, you will find that learning happens all the time. I am not saying this in a "don't use curriculum" or "don't have a schedule" sort of way, but with the intention to encourage you to find the routine that works for your family! Home education's biggest asset is the flexibility and customization it allows. If you space out your lesson plans to fit your family, rather than fitting your family into someone else's timetable you will start to see the rewards quite quickly and you will be helping to end the ridiculous notion that school is the almighty NORM! 
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