and how we can improve public schooling in America.
I will start this by saying that the parents that I know that send their children to public schools are often the ones who do get involved, and whose children do very well. They are part of the solution. This is not a tirade against public schools and those involved, it is the product of reading I have been doing on learning and successful schools.
Schools in Finland assign little homework, start school later, don’t have SOL’s and have the highest PISA scores in the world. Their teachers are the cream of the crop, and have total freedom in what they teach and how they help their students learn. They do very little testing, but instead rely on their close daily knowledge of the students to asses them. Students in Finland spend a good amount of time outside and learn things like Handicrafts and Religion (Lutheran) in early grades. Young children have time to play.
Schools in America have a longer school day, more homework, and more intensive academics at earlier grades. We are more test centered, but our scores don’t measure up to those of children in other countries.
Homeschoolers, even when taking into account socioeconomics and parental education (or lack thereof) score higher on standardized tests then public school students in America. A home-schooled child whose parents have no college education and only make minimum wage can still be expected to perform better then 83% of publicly schooled students on standardized tests.
Is the answer to require more SOL type tests for public school? Spend more money? The average homeschooler spends less then $600 per child, wheras the public schools spend much more.
I believe we need to look at the problem from a neurological standpoint. How does a child best learn? How is a child wired to learn? A child is wired to learn in a nurturing, low- stress environment. They are wired to learn the most from a primary caregiver. Stress hormones interfere with the brains ability to store information in its reasoning centers . They also need down time to play–for it often through play that young children process and store information, solidifying it in their memories.
I have friends that are very dedicated public school teachers. They contend with classes that are too big, with SOL’s -giving little freedom to actually teach, and with behavior problems. They are among the most stressed out people I know.
Parents in our country have become disenfranchised. Some have given up the rearing of children to the schools. We have made it someone else’ s problem. Rather then joining with a school system to help us educate our young, we treat the schools like extended day care.
The children come to school stressed out (often after bus rides that could be likened to pages from Lord of the Flies), are penned up for 6 hours, and sent home with hours of homework. In all, we have a negative feedback loop of stressed children, stressed teachers, and parents who are at a loss to help.
What if kids in this country started school a little later, if they had a shorter day, if they had more recess? What if parents made the sacrifices necessary to be more involved, and there was a way for one caregiver to be with the child during non-school hours? Would there be the behavior problems we see now? What if we focused on the 3 R’s in early grades, and left Social Studies and Science till Middle School? What if there was no homework, but instead children were encouraged to help with household chores, read, and explore their world (all three activities nurture true, long-term brain development). The system we have now ignores overall cognitive development in favor of certain scores on a standardized test.
Children that excel in the public schools have always been the children whose parents took the most interest at home. It’s our job to raise our children, and if we are utilizing public schools, it is also our job to see that they become environments conductive to true learning.