Deb Adamson: Problems with proposal for extended school day

Deb Adamson

Since taking office in January, President Barack Obama has been on a whirlwind.

His efforts mostly have been focused on rekindling the battered economy. But surprisingly and energetically, he’s also tackled many of his other campaign promises with a verve that is admirable and at times astounding. Take for instance, public education.

While campaigning, he vowed to undertake that weighty issue and didn’t waste time. Just recently he proposed more stringent education guidelines for earlier grades and pay incentives for teachers. He then went on to suggest an extended school day. Up until the last part, I was sold. I had been caught up in this new administration’s encompassing wave of optimism, but after this announcement I find myself asking, “What am I missing?”

Why would parents agree to keep their children in school up to the dinner hour or beyond? As it is, on my way home from this or that, I often get stuck behind big yellow vehicles depositing elementary-age students to their front yards at exactly 4 p.m. And I don’t believe these are the late buses. This, after kids have been been at school since about 8 a.m. 

How much longer can a young child sit in a classroom and actually absorb any information? I know from my own childhood that by afternoon I was spent, and little went in other than my sincere wish to join the free birds outside the classroom window.

It seems counterintuitive to try to force education when the day is done. And what about homework? Would students be awake at 10p.m. putting finishing touches on their assignments?

I hope I don’t appear cynical, but this is yet another reason there is a home-school movement in this country. I had sincerely hoped no child would be left behind and that our new president would develop a structure that could attend to at least some of the current weaknesses that embattle our education system. I’m unclear about what the answer should be, but clearly it’s not a longer day.

From a home-schoolers perspective, there are a multitude of academic reasons the later-day option seems peculiar. But mostly its oddity pertains to family bonds and forging a lasting quality relationship with our children.

How can we as a society possibly imprint our family values and really know our kids if they spend all their daylight hours with others in school? How do we show them that we deeply love, understand and sincerely know them? And that we are the ones they can depend on and turn to as they grow and struggle with more complicated issues? It’s impossible if they aren’t around us enough.

Maybe I do have a suggestion. It seems parent/guardian accountability should be at the top of the list. I’m no expert public-education official and I won’t even attempt at implying how it would possibly be overseen, but maybe it’s a great place to start.

Deb Adamson, who lives in Connecticut, is a home-school mom who writes about the joys, trials and adventures of days teaching and learning with her 7-year-old son. She can be reached at debadamson@comcast.net.