"The School I Would Run"

The title is in quotes because I utter that phrase frequently, mostly when complaining about something that has happened in one of my kids’ schools or when reading about the latest stupid educational fad.  (I also sometimes say “If I ran the world” but that is another post for another day!)
This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in any particular order.
AT MY SCHOOL WE . . .

  • Would have Mass EVERY MORNING.  My parochial-schooled kids only went twice a week.  For most of my childhood it was every day, then later switched to three days.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate and it doesn’t have to take more than thirty minutes.  I did not realize what a blessing and a privilege it was at the time, but I do now.
  • Would have gym EVERY DAY.  Physical exercise is important.  Kids are getting fatter.  Some kids don’t play sports and they need the exercise.  Taking breaks to move around aids in learning as well.  We had gym every day when I was a kid and I bet you did too, but my kids go twice a week, and sometimes it’s two days in a row!
  • Would have thirty minutes of recess EVERY DAY.  I don’t honestly know how much kids get these days but I’m sure it’s not that much.  They don’t have the freedom we did to rush through lunch to try to get as much playtime is possible, and half the time recess isn’t after lunch anyway. And my middle school child doesn’t get recess AT ALL.  Not only do kids need exercise, they also need nature.
  • Would not have a technology/computer class AT ALL.  I’m not saying that computers might not be available, maybe for enrichment activities of some kind, but the idea that we need to “prepare our kids for the future” by teaching them computer is laughable.  Were we in any way prepared for the digital age?  Are we doing okay anyway?  My kids get plenty of screen time at home and they don’t need anyone at school to teach them how computers work.  Besides, what we teach kids about today’s technology in kindergarten will be obsolete within a few years anyway.  Let’s use that time for things that really matter.
  • Would have regular art and music classes.  Because these things are fun and enhance academic learning besides.  HOWEVER, and I know the teachers of these subjects won’t like this, for the most part these subjects should be taught in the regular classroom, with the teacher rolling her materials in on a cart.  Why?  Because the “specials” schedule, with kids traveling to different rooms on different days, is confusing and disruptive and wastes huge amounts of instructional time because of the transition required, both for the movement of bodies and the settling down of them afterward.
  • Would treat Spanish as a serious academic subject or omit it all together.  My big kids had Spanish for nine years in grade school.  Now ask me if they are fluent.  Kids in Europe attain fluency in English so we know it’s possible.  Our schools teach kids colors and body parts and songs in Spanish year after year after year so they can show it off when they are applying for accreditation.  If the kids aren’t coming out fluent, it’s a waste of instructional time.
  • Would emphasize grammar and diagram sentences.  There is no better way to understand the structure of the English language.  And you can’t learn a foreign language later if you don’t understand the grammar of your own.
  • Would teach cursive and practice it daily.  Some studies have shown that learning cursive improves academic performance.  But it’s also close to becoming a lost art and it’s a civilized skill that an adult should possess, if only for writing thank you notes.
  • Would use a math book that is full of math problems, not distracting color photographs.  For homeschooling, we used the Saxon program.  Seriously, y’all, have you looked at your kids’ math books?  Why do we think we need to entertain kids constantly?  When it’s time for math, let’s do math,
  • Would teach spelling the old-fashioned way.  Because it works.  We used a speller from the 1940s at home.  You have a weekly list of words, you write sentences, you do activities with them, you take a pretest, you copy over the ones you miss, you do a post-test.  Over the years I have seen some incredibly stupid methods of teaching spelling.  I will write a whole post (rant) about that some time.
  • Would encourage creative writing.  My sister’s third-grade teacher gave them a writing prompt every morning in the form of a magazine photo she hung on the board.  They could write anything they wanted to.  Betsy brought home wonderful stories every day.
  • Would offer plenty of time for reading, with an engaging reading series like the Keys to Reading series that my classmates and I enjoyed at St. Joseph.
  • Would have no summer homework.  Enough said.
  • Would have, in fact, no homework at all.  Unless you goofed off and didn’t finish what you should have during the day, or with the possible exception of long-term projects.
  • Would require uniforms.
  • Would EXPECT good behavior, not reward it.
  • Would start later in the year, maybe later in the day, and would have a shorter day for kindergartners and first graders.  And don’t tell me we need more instructional time, not less. For one thing, I’m not buying it, and for another, I’ve freed up time by getting ride of Spanish and computers and unnecessary transit time.
  • Would have the option of writing a paper on a scientific subject rather than completing a science fair project.  A corollary:  projects with obvious parental involvement would get a WORSE grade than ones kids obviously did on their own.
  • Would offer every kid an opportunity to shine, whether they are athletes, mathletes, budding scientists, artists, musicians, or writers.  Rather than awarding everyone for everything, my school would instill the concept that everyone is especially good at something and celebrate that.  Yes, that means that some kids would go home ribbonless from Field Day. It’s painful (as I know from experience) but that’s life.

I will stop there for now since I DON’T have my own school and have to spend some time actually earning a living this morning.  But I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Would you like my school?  How would YOUR school be different from mine, or different from the ones you’ve experienced?
7th grade
UPDATE:  For the past few years I have had my own school in that I am homeschooling Lorelei and just want to state for the record that it is sadly missing a lot of the above elements!

13 thoughts on “"The School I Would Run"

  1. I completely agree with no summer homework, Its supposed to be a break and I think they should let it be that way. All these holiday assignments and tough reading is makes me mad cause most of the time, kids cram in all the work only in the last two days of the holidays. I also agree with the need for uniform, I wore uniforms to school and I turned out just fine, I think.Haha! I think if you ran a school, it would be a pretty darn good school.

  2. The Catholic school O & S attend does many of the above listed things – spelling, cursive, grammar, creative writing and is a small enough environment that everyone seems to be able to find a place to shine. It’s also just a really happy place to be – lots of smiling faces. They also eliminated the science fair two years ago in favor of more hands on in class activities (I loathed the science fair). And I loved Ms. Thompson’s creative writing assignments in 3rd grade. She was the first teacher I had who encouraged me to write.

    1. Really, when I read over what I wrote, a lot of it does reflect the way St. Joseph was back in the day. I’m glad your kids have a nice place to go. Lorelei likes SHCS; the homework is my main complaint.

  3. Jane

    I’d keep the technology class and for those of us non-Catholic kids, make Mass optional with the exception of special occasions/holidays. I remember it occured each morning in the chapel, which was nice. Other than that, I’d attend that school! I’ll admit out loud that I’m horrified when I hear that most kids these days can’t read cursive writing. And then there’s the whole “text-speak” nonsense. My texts are composed and delivered as complete sentences, thankyouverymuch!

    1. I’d love to have you in my school. 🙂 These days, they still have daily Mass at KCHS, but school starts at 8, and Mass is around 9:30. Anyone can cut class to go, but that means missing class. They have monthly school and class masses, but my kids only went to daily Mass if they had a religion class or a class taught by a nun at that time, when they would all go. Re: cursive–there are adults who can’t read it!

  4. Clisby

    I’d agree with a lot of it. In my school, there would be no Mass, no uniforms, no pledge of allegiance to the flag.
    Gym (I assume you mean PE class? Not every school has a gym) – once a week is plenty; that’s all I had. On the other hand, I’d have at least an hour of recess every day. My son had an hour a day in grades 1-3; unfortunately, grades 4-6 get only 30 minutes and the middle-schoolers get recess only twice a week. When I was my son’s age (11) we got 3 recess periods a day: morning, lunchtime, afternoon. Granted, the morning/afternoon recesses were only about 20 minutes each, but we got more than an hour a day total, every single day.
    I’d eliminate computer/technology classes entirely for grades 1-3. Once they got to 4th grade, they’d get enough computer instruction to be able to type a paper. MS Word is fine. If they can demonstrate they know how to type, they can skip that.
    Classes would be multi-age – none of this putting all the 6-year-olds in first grade, all the 7-year-olds in 2nd grade, etc. If there were more than 10-12 kids in a class, the class would have 2 teachers, or a teacher and an aide.
    My kids have never been at a school with a science-fair requirement – I definitely wouldn’t have that.
    In general, I agree with no homework, but in addition to long-term projects I’d make an exception for work that can’t feasibly be done in school. I remember my 4th-grade daughter getting an assignment, over the course of a couple of weeks, to go star-gazing and identify as many constellations as possible from a star chart. Another time, she had to find 10 round items in our home, and record the circumference and diameter of each. The next day in her math group, everybody got a calculator, divided C by D, and realized: Hey! The answer is always a little more than 3! How could that be? I think my son was in 2nd grade when he was assigned to help cook something for dinner. He had to write down the recipe; and then write the instructions for how to make it. (Both my husband and I think kids should start learning how to write algorithms about as soon as they learn to write, and a recipe is a good start.)
    Homework (aside from finishing up leftovers from the day’s class work) should almost never be due the next day. My son’s is assigned weekly. He can sit down for 2-3 hours and get it all out of the way in one night, or he can drag it out over the week (the normal course of events). I don’t like homework, but I can’t honestly argue that 2-3 hours a week is a huge burden for an 11-year-old, especially since he can pick and choose when he does it.
    In my school, standardized testing would be nonexistent or entirely optional.
    Oh, I’m sure I could go on and on, but it’s your blog.

    1. Clisby, I can see you have thought about this before too! I agree about the standardized testing. I didn’t even think of that. Practical and fun homework like you describe would probably be fine, especially with plenty of time to complete it. Yes, I did mean P.E., and if we had an hour of recess we could do without that–either one would do; it’s fun and exercise I am after.

  5. Cindy McLaughlin

    Homework is the root of all evil. Well according to my kids. SHCS has a rep for giving massive amounts to “prepare” them for high school. Well I finally have one in high school and guess what, she actually likes school now because she doesn’t have so much homework. Eighth grade at SHCS is he…… Because of the homework and the research paper they start at the beginning of school and then require the student to keep every single thing they have done for it until the end of the year and a big part of their grade is all the crap that should be in the folder. Now have any of you seen a kid that can keep up with a folder full of notes, etc for an entire school year. My good friend has a straight A student who received a bad English grade because he left his folder at school one day and someone had to have picked it up so he couldn’t turn it in. Even though he wrote a great paper it didn’t matter. Okay enough, you can see where my sore spot is.

    1. I totally agree with you and you are right about the homework. My kids said the same thing–they were constantly being told how hard high school was in middle school. (I will say, though, that it will be harder later, if she takes a lot of AP classes!) The whole notebook thing kills me. Teddy once got marked down in Math (in which he’s pretty much an actual genius) because his binder (the purpose of which, supposedly, is to help you prepare for tests and get good grades) was not up to par. He argued with the teacher that since he got straight as on tests the binder shouldn’t matter and the teacher did not care. So stupid.

      1. Clisby

        My high-school senior daughter is already hearing from college freshman friends about how college is easier than high school. I found that was true also. Or maybe “easier” isn’t the right word. The work often was harder, but if you consider that in college I was generally in class for about 3.5 hours per day, and usually didn’t have much trouble arranging a schedule I liked – it felt easier. .

        1. We told Teddy that–that he would have more free time that he has ever had before. He was attended school all day, at football every afternoon, taking four AP classes at a time, so that was a lot! I remember myself being astonished by the amount of free time in college, especially since my work study job was in the library so almost all my homework could be completed while I was working. Gosh, it was wonderful. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Summer Is No Time for Homework | Life in Every Limb

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.