Recently, my local news channel posted the link to an article that was posted on Simplemost. The article was titled “Hey, We Work Until 5–So Why Does School Still Get Out At 3:00?” You can read the article here.
As a public school teacher, this caught my eye. I couldn’t imagine being at school until 5:00 every single day with my students, as much as a I loved them. I know that in a school setting, most students are done by 2:00. They are tired, bored, missing home, hungry, etc. This is why I always scheduled my recess times as late in the day as I could.
The homeschool parent/teacher in me, paid attention to the article, because it has validated what I have been saying for the last several weeks. “Public school is made for every kid, but not every kid is made for public school.” What do I mean by this? The answer may very well get me in hot water from some of my teacher friends.
Public Schools are not allowed to turn any kids away, barring disciplinary actions. If they cannot provide a service for a child, they must provide transportation for that child to receive the service. They cannot turn children away for low test scores, or income, or race. If a child lives in a schools district, they must be allowed to attend. Unless a child goes to a private school, or a charter school, or is homeschooled, they are placed in a public school. Here’s the problem with that. Public school schedules were made at a time when students had to help their parents work the family farm. Therefore, most schools were closed during the summer and harvest season. This is why schools have summer breaks. Now, don’t get me wrong. As a teacher, I loved summer break just like every one else. While I didn’t get the entire summer off, contrary to popular belief, I did get a couple of weeks of much needed rest. The rest of the time, I was attending Professional Development, organizing my room, gathering new materials, etc.
Somewhere, along the way, the government of each state determined the number of days and hours that a school district must be in session. Across the nation, states have set the number of days a student must be in school between 170-185 days a year. There are also a set number of hours each student must be in school each day. These numbers are set by politicians. School districts set their start and end times based on these numbers. There is no magic formula. These numbers are set because politicians in each state came up with them.
I have never been a morning person. Ever. I can remember being little and my dad or sister would have to wake me up multiple times to get me off to school. Even today, I hit snooze on the alarm clock as many times as I can, to get out the door and to where I need to be on time. While this has severely sharpened my math skills, I am not alert or ready for the day until after 9:00. There is no amount of caffeine in the world that can wake me up before then. I am more alert in the afternoon and evenings. It’s just a statement of who I am. So what does that have to do with public school? Everything. Public school asks kids who are not morning people, to be in school by 8:00 every morning, and learn the same as those kids who are morning people. Let’s say that my worse subject was Math, and it’s the first class I had in a day. If I am not a morning person, and I am faced with a subject I am not successful with, I already have two strikes against me. The likelihood of me doing well in that class is not good. I am going to struggle. But what if the class was moved to 10:30? Would I do better? Maybe. Maybe not. However, I stand a better chance of doing better when I am more alert and focused.
If schools did push the time that schools were in session back a couple of hours, it would help parents with child care. The teacher in me cringes at those words. SCHOOLS ARE NOT BABYSITTERS, and they should never be treated as such. However, if schools pushed back their start and end times, it may help those students who are not morning people, be more successful.
In an age of technology, the need for public schools is becoming more and more obsolete. I am not saying that technology could ever replace the need for teachers, and the emotional connection that they make with a student. Teachers are fundamental to students. However, I see the push for technology and distance learning in schools. In colleges, more and more classes are being taught in this manner. Some kids would thrive in this setting. Others, would fail miserably. But isn’t that what happens in the public school setting today? Some students thrive, and others fail miserably.
No two kids learn the same way. No two kids think the same way. Yet, they are placed in a classroom, with a pre-determined schedule, with many other students, and expected to perform and learn the same as their peers. Yet, when they don’t perform well on standardized tests, the blame gets placed on the teacher and the student.
Some students have such anxiety about being in school. They cannot concentrate on the work they are doing because their heart is racing and they are truly scared. Some kids have trouble focusing for many different reasons. Being placed in classrooms where there are a lot of distractions impedes their learning.
This is why homeschool is a viable option for so many parents and children. Our homeschool schedule is flexible. There are days we start at 7:30 in the morning, and days that we don’t start until 10:00. We do the same amount of work, regardless of our start time. Some days we may be working until 4:00 in the afternoon. My kids can do their work however they are comfortable. If they want to lay on the couch and do their spelling they can. If they want to stand while we work on Math, they can. If they are hungry and need a snack, they get it. This flexibility in how they work, and when they work, allows for more success for my kids. They are learning the material. They are being successful.
Imagine if this could be done for every kid in the country. If kids could be schooled in smaller settings, how they feel comfortable, when they were ready. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible. If the goal of school if for students to learn, it shouldn’t matter how it is done. It shouldn’t matter if it is in public school at a desk, or home on their couch. As long as they are truly learning. Saying that homeschool doesn’t work is the same as saying that public school works for every kid. You can’t compare the two. Are there parents that homeschool their children, and aren’t being successful? Are there kids who would not thrive in a homeschool setting? Absolutely. Are there kids in public schools that aren’t being successful? Are there kids who do benefit from homeschooling. Absolutely.
Public school is for every kid, but not every kid is made for public school. This is why homeschool is so important.