When Less School is More Effective

A shorter school week improves student achievement

Making the Case for Three-Day Weekends Every Weekend By Sarah D. Sparks

Lower transportation costs. Less money spent on facilities and overhead. Increased teacher and student attendance. And...higher test scores? New research suggests, perhaps counter-intuitively, that the four-day school week not only doesn't hurt student achievement, but seems to help.

It is certainly an interesting thought, based on a study by D. Mark Anderson, Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University, and Mary Beth Walker, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.

There could be many reasons why student achievement was improved by a four day school week, but one thing it does bring to the forefront--the mistaken notion that more school is always better.

How do you bring that idea into your homeschool? Most homeschoolers I know worry about not doing enough, so the concept of doing less, especially on purpose, is scary and counter-intuitive. 

 A lesson in physics, perhaps?

A lesson in physics, perhaps?

 It's difficult to shake off the belief that in order to keep up with their pubic schools counterparts, our kids need to take more classes, spend more time reading, sign up for music lessons--more-more-more. It's not surprising; we base our ideas about what 'school' should be on the traditional classroom we experienced, as well as our parents and grandparents.

But then--why do we homeschool if we still believe that traditional learning methods are best?  

Dr. Peter Gray states the facts without reservation: 

"The main problem with a coercive role played by government or anyone else is that coercion interferes with children’s natural instincts to learn through play and exploration.  Coercion is antithetical to these natural ways of learning. " 

Giving our children more freedom is actually helpful in the learning process. Time to imagine, invent, and read for pleasure energizes a child's mind. An unfettered learning environment is the ultimate "Less is More" scenario. 

Why? Because, as Dr. Gray states, the kind of pressure and intimidation that is usually employed in classrooms contradicts the way children naturally learn--through curiosity, exploration, and discovery.

This doesn't mean core skills aren't taught and practiced. Reading, writing, and math are the most basic tools of learning, and without them, no learning environment will matter. But more textbooks, workbooks, classes, and assigned projects are not the answer to the question of how to provide our children with a quality education. 

Don't fall into the trap of believing that the classroom model is the unrivaled educational method of choice. If you and your kids enjoy three-day weekends, remember that less school can mean more learning.

Share your questions and comments!