What Students Can’t Learn in School
A good school knows when to quit.
Of course, a good school starts by knowing what to do, how to do it, and who should be doing the job! The problem is that if a school is good enough then the mission can grow too large. The more we succeed, the greater the danger that we will start trying to do other people’s jobs . . . only badly!
A school cannot replace imaginative play, family, church, or social organizations.
Most learning, especially formative learning, does not take place in classrooms with teachers. A proper school will encourage other forms of education by providing the time for students to pursue that education.
Children learn from free play.
Some of my best childhood memories are of summer days when Dan and I were sent out by Mom to do something outside. We were not driven to programmed events that consumed every minute, and at that time elementary school homework was unheard of. As a result, we invented whole worlds (one of which ended up being part of a novel!), rode bikes, and I played entire games of baseball in my mind while throwing strikes at my pitch back.
I know not every family can afford this gift of time (work is required), but my parents gave it to me. Sadly, too many schools pile on the work in younger years. This might make parents and teachers feel like we are doing something valuable, but in reality, we are cheating children of time.
Families learn from each other.
Nobody knows me like my family. Parents, brother, children, wife, they all can dispense with the “getting to know you” or the “prove you love me” phase of a relationship and cut straight to the learning! We argue (about everything from tariffs to television), play (badminton!), and have played through more than one video game together. The running jokes and the time spent together is civilizing, but it means there must be more to life than school.
Children learn by spending time in church.
Any good church blends music, big ideas, and profound experiences in a community. Church time is educational time. I remember looking at the symbols in the stained glass in Dad’s first church and thinking about what the anchor, the Lamb with the flag, or the crown might mean. Whether listening (even as a child) to Dad preach, or the other gifted pastors that would visit, I learned! The songs of the church soaked into my bones. God help every good school to free up the time to be in church with the family of God.
People learn in community through social organizations.
I have an uncle who has devoted a good portion of his life to helping people get eye care through the Lion’s Club. Sadly, such clubs have faded in popularity as too many of us binge watch a Netflix series rather than go out and spend time with our neighbors. If we establish a pattern in children that work should take up all of life, they will follow that pattern or (worst) burn out. There should be time in a student’s life to choose a club, a form of scouting, or some form of community service.
The Saint Constantine School is rigorous—after all we are a kindergarten, elementary, junior, senior high school and a college program. We know what it takes and we do not apologize for making students work hard, whether it is teaching handwriting in the early years or hard discussion in the college.
We know, however, that if we do our job properly we do not need one hundred percent of anybody’s time. While we will keep adding certain opportunities (such as sports), we have no desire to do the jobs churches, communities, families, or even the students themselves can do.
As a result, we have made three tangible decisions:
- Children in the younger grades have little or no homework.
- We have a long Christmas holiday for families at every level.
- We actively support the Church calendar.
Of the making of programs at many schools there is no end, but that is not our goal. We want to be a joyous part of a student’s life, but not all their life. This gift of time may be wasted by some, but if we have done our job well during the hours we have, then most students will learn that there is more to life than school as students. In this way, they will not grow to be adults who think their life and work are defined by the paid work they do.
We will do our bit, while our churches produce piety, families give dignity, and service inculcates charity.