Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Kids Outside...Thoughts on Extended Day

I'm interested in this report on daycare centers and preschools not taking kids outside. Like the first few commenters, my kids went outside every single day in preschool--but my kids also went to high-quality, progressive preschools.

One of the things I love about E's afterschool program is that they go outside for an hour every day and the rules are much looser than at school. They have sleds, and in winter they sled on the hill down to the field. The children are allowed to climb higher, dig deeper, etc. (remember, I'm the parent who doesn't care about safety).

In fact, E's afterschool is a total brief for the extended school day: they have free time to play, both inside and out; they do projects; they eat snack; they do homework. The teachers (four of them men!) are relaxed and loving. The kids have an awesome social dynamic (though they have that throughout the school), and they learn, albeit not the prescribed curriculum (because they don't have to).

I know my opinion is shaded by the fact that I am a working parent (and when I'm home, I'm a lazy parent), but I firmly believe that an extended school day would solve many of our current problems with school: it would provide time for recess, projects, specials; it would allow us to cut out homework, which I think is a scourge (one of the things parents at our middle school complain about is how little homework there is--I always have to disagree: much as I'm happy to complain about our middle school, I think homework is way overrated, until high school when they are ready to do real independent work, not grunt work farmed out to parents to supervise) (and, no, I don't think better homework is the solution--I'd much rather see an extended day with lots of exciting schoolwork, and then late afternoons and evenings reserved for family, sports, etc.) (I don't know why I'm making a central part of my argument in parentheses!).

I suppose you could argue that all the problems I'm saying extended day would solve (aside from the childcare challenges faced by working parents) are caused by No Child Left Behind, to which I would reply, maybe, but for now NCLB is firmly in place, and there is momentum for extended day. Also, if you care about poor kids, which I do, much more than my own kids (of course I love my own kids more, but I care more about the success and school experience of poor kids), then extended day becomes even more obvious. Socioeconomic background is the #1 predictor of school success, and the more time poor kids spend in GOOD school, the better chances they have.


Lauren said...

That parentheses comment made me laugh. My DH and I absolutely agree on the no homework factor. I did my homework because I cared what my teachers thought and wanted good grades for my parents. There were a lot of tears involved in sacrificing my life for homework. My DH did NOT care what anyone thought and didn't do busywork, so his grades were lower, though not bad because he Aced the tests. I substituted for a third grade class yesterday and the school day was anything but relaxed. I didn't even make it to the bathroom once! School is 8 to 2:15, which is NOT long enough. Also, teachers get no breaks except when the kids go to specials. Teachers eat lunch with the kids, clean up the tables after them, take them to recess, it's like being a parent more than a teacher... a really time conscious, stressed-out parent. And we only had two new lessons. I tried to really involve the kids in discussion, but even with that there wasn't much substance to the day. Growing up my school day was 7 hours long and that allowed for more fun, more discussion, and more substance. A longer school day sounds good to me and as a prospective art teacher, not having 45 min. to teach, get out materials, do art (for like 15 min.) and clean up would be wonderful. 1.5 hours would be better for each subject.

jackie said...

Isn't extended day a big part of the KIPP program of schooling? The KIPP schools in our city have been very succesful, with low income populations who need the benefit of education the most. I seem to remember seeing a study or two also about the high incidence of teen sex, teen drinking, smoking, etc that happens between the hours of 3-5.