Thursday, September 14, 2006

more homework

Chris Corrigan passed on to me the link to this great article in Psychology Magazine about the Sudbury Valley Schools. If you want to participate more actively, go to his site and get his "Great Canadian Homework Ban" seal. Further in his article of 2006 09 06, he provides a link to a site where you can create your own seal (adapt it for the U.S., or other countries where kids spend too much time on homework, and too little on playing).

He again provides many links to people who have written or researched this topic. Better yet, he provides links to people who are providing some concrete things parents in the midst of this struggle can actually use.

As the Psychology Magazine article pointed out, many parents would not be comfortable with pulling their kids out of conventional schools to homeschool them/unschool them or to send them to schools such as the Sudbury Valley Schools. The parents that I am acquainted with who have opted out of regular schools for their kids are 1) very well educated themselves so therefore perhaps more open to irregular educational opportunities 2) unconventional or bohemian or eccentric in their lifestyles 3) or very committed religious types. Their children have done quite well and have, on the whole, been happier and more self-motivated in all aspects of their lives as a result.

Perhaps that is why I myself am so open to the idea. My parents immigrated to Canada specifically to be able to take advantage of private religious schools for their kids. Before they had the opportunity to do so, I was already "bucking the system" in Finland by never attending school on Saturdays. Even years later when I was in university in France, I encountered some parents who had been arrested in other European countries and jailed for not sending their children to school on Saturdays. I'm grateful that in my experience, Finland was pretty tolerant. I never felt harassed or belittled by teachers or fellow students for the peculiarities of my parents. In fact, many fellow church-members misunderstood my parents' motivation for emigrating, warning them that it would not turn out to be the "land of milk and honey" they assumed my parents were seeking (ie better opportunites for wealth!).

However, any parents who inform themselves on the issues and the research, are likely to conclude that regular school systems must, at the very least, be more responsive to the actual innate desire of children to learn and take more care to avoid enforcing the "norm" to the point that it squashes the incentive of even the most "studious" type of kid.

The worst thing is that many kids who are "failing" in conventional schools are not stupid or without incredible talent. However, in one way or another, too many of them have been pushed out or failed out or dropped out, because the school system has failed them. A great many of these kids go on to lead productive lives, inventive, problem solving, participating in their communities, but stigmatized because they "failed" out of school. The statistics regarding the drop-out rates are frightening. Schools really, really need to look at what they are doing to kids. Or maybe we should get bolder about pointing the finger at where the trouble actually lies and demand more of those who purport to be able to determine the future of our kids.


Blogger Chris said...

Wouldn't it be something that instead of stigmatizing drop outs, students were given coaching about self-directed learning and introduced to other kids who are doing that. If a kid is "at risk" from dropping out, maybe we could do better by giving him or her the tools to do it well. The chances of success in later life will only be enhanced rather than trying to get them to stay in a system that is clearly not working for them, nor they for it.

10:06 p.m.  
Blogger Kati said...

I agree with you. However, the conventional school system seems, in the minds of many, to have the key (and lock) to entry to better jobs, etc. Many parents and educators believe that we need to train kids to fit "jobs" and many business leaders are dictating the "qualifications" jobs require. Those of us who entered "jobs" we were trained for found out quickly that we were about to do all the real learning on the job! Conventional schools have neatly ensured that they are "necessary" even mandatory in many places, even though it is difficult to prove that they provide adequate "training".

10:16 p.m.  

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