An obvious objection to adding nonacademic goals to a school's mission is that the curriculum is already crowded. How is it possible to enlarge existing courses to provide more intellectual, spiritual, and social training and then to add another course, in practical arts? We will suggest two answers.
First, the school day should be lengthened. The trend in public schools is to shorten the school day and lengthen the school year. The opposite would, in my opinion, be better for children. Children need all the enriching experiences afforded by a traditional summer recess. Going places with the family, spending a week at camp, devoting whole days to nothing but spontaneous play, undertaking special projects, reading books for fun, holding a job, just getting away from other people—the novelty and variety of these activities not only make childhood happier, but they give children time to relax and grow. They create space for dreams, for reflecting upon the large questions of life, for weighing futures, for putting everything in perspective. A child whose year includes a release from routine has better resources to meet trouble. But while the school year should not encroach on summer recess, the school day should be longer. Most parents today hold full-time jobs. Therefore, early dismissal from school forces many children to finish the day in an undesirable situation. They must either stay unsupervised at home or kill time in the poor-quality environment of day care. How much better if they finished the day in school, provided the schedule was sensitive to their needs for rest and recreation. Both students and teachers would, I think, welcome a lengthening of the school day if they could leave at 5:00 with hardly any work to do at home.
Second, most courses do not need the time presently allotted them in a typical school day. A half hour is enough for practical arts, music, and even the study of a foreign language (reducing a year's coverage would not greatly reduce the benefit). Forty-five minutes is sufficient for Bible and the remaining academic courses. As I will show, compressing some periods to forty-five minutes and others to half an hour makes it possible to fit eight courses into the daily schedule.
As a math teacher, I am well aware that I must use more than forty-five minutes to teach a math concept only if I am dealing with students who are in water over their heads, either because the subject is too hard for them or because they have fallen behind out of sheer laziness. The key to trimming time from a class period is thus to make sure that every student is working at the right level. I have found that every student well prepared in junior-high math can handle algebra, but teaching the same geometry course to all students is difficult. It is better to divide students into two groups, assigning one to regular geometry, the other to basic geometry. Thereafter, the two groups follow different tracks. One takes college prep math courses. The other moves into consumer math and like courses that reinforce basic skills.
The time-consuming components of English instruction are grammar and spelling. In a curriculum of eight courses, the problem of conserving time is easily solved. The forty-five minutes of regular English instruction can be reserved for literature, vocabulary, and composition. Grammar and spelling can be transferred to a half hour course, taken only by students who cannot pass a test of proficiency in these particular language skills. The better students, who already know grammar and spelling, can use the same period to study a foreign language. A possible foreign-language curriculum starting in the seventh grade might include two years of Spanish (or other modern language), two years of Latin, one year of New Testament Greek, a semester of Hebrew, and a semester of advanced English grammar.
Five forty-five minute courses, three half hour courses, and a half hour lunch would consume a total of five hours and forty-five minutes. The remaining time in the schedule would allow two study halls, with a combined length of ninety minutes, and three periods of physical exercise, one fifteen minutes long in the morning for stretching exercises, another twenty minutes long in the afternoon for more taxing exercises, and another forty minutes long for games. A schedule permitting instruction in all the courses needed to fulfill the broad mandate of a Christian school might look like this:
|9:35-9:50||stretching exercises, snack|
|11:15-11:45||fifth period||foreign language|
|11:50-12:30||sixth period||study hall|
|1:00-1:30||seventh period||practical arts|
|1:35-2:25||eighth period||study hall|
|3:15-3:35||conditioning exercises , snack|
|3:35-4:20||tenth period||social studies|
Notice that the afternoon study hall could be co-opted occasionally for science lab. Although this schedule sets high expectations for students by demanding that they come to class willing to concentrate and work efficiently, it is not inconsiderate of their need for regular breaks. Various kinds of relief throughout the day combat boredom and exhaustion.
If students receive no Bible instruction outside school, the time allotted to it here is not really enough. The home and the church should take up the slack by providing Bible instruction also, preferably of a systematic kind so that it is easy to remember and apply.
The schedule I have proposed can be varied to some extent for different grade levels. English and science can be transposed, for example. Math and social studies can be switched. But the unequal lengths of class periods limit flexibility and therefore prevent a teacher from devoting the whole day to subjects in only one or two fields. The teacher would be obliged to teach subjects in perhaps three different fields. It is my view that a truly educated person should be able to teach any subject at the high school level. If you protest, I would remind you that the only barrier to greater knowledge is time presently wasted.
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved.