anthropology · creativity · culture · learning

Slow school movement

lutin waldorfThe holidays are a time to reflect on our lives, our jobs, and what we want for the new year. It might also be a good time to think about ways to cut back on our obligations and “must dos”. Especially for our children at school.

I appreciated this op-ed piece questioning the value of play versus academic work in kindergarten, pre-k, and the lower grades. The piece is US-oriented but it does refer to data from elsewhere, and to the ‘ethnographic record’ :0)

While the U.S. pushes their kids to excel earlier and earlier, science is finding it might not be the most efficient way to learn:

Students from countries where reading is not taught until age six actually do better on standardized reading tests than those from countries that begin at five or earlier, as in the USA. Children who start even later catch up quickly: Suggate collected extensive data from about 400 students in New Zealand – some in public schools and some in private “Waldorf” schools, where reading teaching doesn’t even begin until age seven. Difference in reading achievement between the two groups disappeared by age 10.

Research comparing Waldorf school students’ academic skills to those of public school students shows even more encouraging results. In a report exploring the value of the Waldorf approach for public school reform, Ida Oberman found that second-graders from four Waldorf-style schools underperformed in comparison to 10 “peer-alike sites.” Yet by eighth grade, these students could match and even outperform comparison sites on state school achievement tests.

If nothing is lost from academic achievement when training starts later, and some competencies even may be gained, why then the rush to begin it? Why buy toddler flash-cards, fund pre-K academies, and start kindergartners on reading and math when children could be otherwise engaged, developing other kinds of skills and dispositions, such as empathy and creativity?

more at: What can slow schools teach us?

There is also great research coming out of Denmark vs. the U.S. that find kids that aren’t taught to read until 6 or 7 (Denmark) vs. 4 or 5 (U.S.) do better overall, similar to the study in New Zealand.

Interesting to see how taking it easy can sometimes be better for learning.