Freestyle School….

As the new school year approaches, teachers have come to expect that many of their students will have forgotten some of what they learned earlier. It’s called summer learning loss, and some teachers believe it’s inevitable. Are they right?… The traditional educator’s remedy for summer learning loss is more of the same, more hours and more days of classes and, of course, summer school.  What if schools enlisted family members as partners to help teach the children? But suppose there is another solution.  That’s what’s happening here at Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia. For five weeks this summer, Sarah Pisano helps 6- and 7-year-olds get better at reading. SOURCE: Turning parents into teachers to fight the ‘summer slide’.

A recent episode on the PBS NewsHour got me to thinking about summer vacation. It is a known fact that students in the U.S. spend less than half the year in classrooms whereas other developed nations spend much more time than that. The reason we have not kept up with increasing our school hours and days is partly because of the resistance from teacher’s unions and partly because we don’t want to spend the extra tax dollars to make it happen.

Summer vacation was born in the early 19th century when most of America was agriculturally based. The family needed all hand available to plant, tend, and harvest the crops during the growing season.  Fast forward to today and that reason for summer school is totally archaic but the tradition of a three-month vacation in summer continues.

One solution to prevent us from falling further behind the rest of the world in the primary education of our youths is to simply extend the current school year beyond its current boundaries. But what are the alternatives? One was mentioned in this report and shown above.  But I kind of got a different approach to it. What if we made the summer session of school freestyle?

By freestyle I mean what if it were used to broaden education or at least help students overcome barriers? What if it emphasized the arts rather than the three “R”s? I think it is generally recognized that creativity will be a driving force that will keep our country a front-runner in the future. But by drowning out creative thinking and concentration only on the mechanics will we be able to keep up our lead in this area?

Just a thought….

3 thoughts on “Freestyle School….

  • I think you have a wonderful idea there, R.J. Summer school could be focused on art, music, phy ed, creative activities of all kinds. Maybe giving the kids choices of subjects. These areas get short shrift during the school year due to shortage of time and funding. In addition, there are many students who do not excel at the 3 R’s but would shine in the Arts or creative areas. This could do wonders for the self esteem of these kids. And maybe a small dose of reading & math could be included to keep those skills up until fall. I love it! Kids get bored by mid-summer and parents have to scramble for day care when they’re working, so it would be a win-win scenario.
    As you said tho, the issue is as always…money. In Minnesota the tourism industry and the huge state fair have counted on kids being free to travel with parents and for teens to work in those service jobs until after Labor Day. And of course the big stumbling block….Teachers. They would surely resist. It would be a battle between those who would like to earn more money and those who prefer their 9 month schedule (and there are a lot who do).
    But, with some good leadership and enough persistence and planning something like your idea “could” happen. It is indeed time for change.

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  • Just another comment on the article suggesting parents as teachers during the summer. While on the surface this may sound like a good idea, it comes with a whole host of issues that would make that undesirable. Altho, they could be used as assistants to a certified teacher. It’s one thing to instruct your own children but it’s something else entirely to take on a group of other peoples’ children. To be safe and valuable summer school should be taught by professionals …. in my opinion.

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    • Thanks for the comments Jane. I agree with you on almost all accounts. I know some parents who I would definitely not want to teach my kids.

      I am not directly involved in any education issues but from what I have read it seems we are stifling the things that make us creative in our current education system. Too much of the 3 Rs makes Jack a dull boy and it also makes him too much of a conformist. Going against the current trend is one of the elements in creating new and innovative things.

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