attendance

Parenting, Schooling, and Planning the Future For Your Child

It is easy for parents to get caught up in the belief that it is their responsibility to identify a pathway for their child to proceed down en route to a successful life, and then direct them down that pathway. Likewise for educators, it is easy to believe that it is their responsibility to shape children and adolescents into eager students who will go to college, which will lead to success. It is easy to believe that the more we push children, demand of them, direct them, and handhold them, the more likely it is that the child will become a success. That is the narrative that society pushes, oftentimes blaming parents and educators for not doing enough, not doing it earlier, and not doing it with more rigor. 

Parents and educators do not deserve so much of the credit or blame when it comes to shaping children into successful adults. First, the way we define success is problematic in itself (consider what success means to you in light of these 5 deathbed regrets and these 24 regrets). Second, social and economic conditions that children are born into have a far greater impact on their future than proactive parenting or schooling does, and ignoring this most often leads to forms of victim blaming and practices that promote it (e.g., grit). And third, adults overestimate the benefits they provide to young people by way of deliberately trying to guide them down certain pathways, while grossly underestimating the harm they can cause by doing so.

Parents and educators generally want the best for children. They want a world where their children come out ahead, or at least keep pace. And the more that parents and educators try to prevent children from taking full control of their lives; because they fear the children will make suboptimal or wrong choices, or that they won't go down the right path; the more likely it is that they will deter the children from finding out who they are, where they want to take their lives, and how to make the most of it. In an attempt to put them on a right path, they end up moving each child away from an authentic, unique path that best fits each one of them. Some young people find ways to rebound; many do not. As a whole, adults end up doing more harm than good.

A better way forward for parents and educators is to focus on removing the obstacles that prevent young people from taking control of their education and lives. Addressing trauma or psychological distress is an obvious place to start. Next, remove toxic environmental conditions (e.g., bullying), or remove children from such toxic environments. Then, remove structures and practices (e.g., compulsory attendance, mandated curriculum) that undermine self-efficacy and prevent them from taking charge of their lives. Then, step back and breathe. 

Note, removing these obstacles does not mean removing adversity or denying them the opportunity to experience failure. All of the aforementioned obstacles inhibit growth, are not natural, and are unnecessary. When young people are able to focus their time and effort on their interests they will stretch themselves through meaningful challenges that move them further down their own pathways. 

It is time that we adults stop seeing ourselves as authority figures, decision makers, guides, or the ones who will protect children from themselves. It is time that we instead see ourselves as sounding boards, helpers, resource providers, and living examples of people who are leading remarkable lives themselves. 

If you also believe that we need to elevate the role of children and adolescents in their own lives then we encourage you to get involved in what we are doing at Abrome. 

Abrome extends academic calendar to 210 days; attendance still optional

Abrome is uninterested in replicating the practices and structures of schooling. For example, when we launched Abrome this past August, we committed to never subjecting young people to classroom instruction, homework, or testing, because those are oppressive practices that undermine learning. One practice that we felt we could not yet move away from was the 180-day academic year.[1] This coming year, we are introducing a year-round, 210-day academic calendar. 

This year, Abrome operated on an 11-month schedule consisting of 180 days.

The standard American school, public and private, requires students to attend classes for 180 days over a nine-month period. Year-round schools typically stick to the 180-day schedule, but they stretch it out over 11 or 12 months, giving students and teachers more frequent one- or two-week breaks throughout the year in lieu of a three month summer break.[2] A small minority of schools extend the academic year calendar without adding in additional breaks, giving the schools more instructional days.

Within the current schooling system, year-round schooling has palpable benefits in terms of testing and efficiency. Summer learning loss is attributed to long summer vacations, and it requires teachers to spend time each fall reviewing material that the students had supposedly learned the prior year. This eats into instructional time that could be used to move students further into their standardized curriculum. Additionally, there is a maintenance aspect of constantly having students in school and engaged in required academic material, because when there is not intrinsic motivation to master material that is going to be tested, schools are best served by repeatedly drilling students to keep material top of mind.[3]

From the vantage point of traditional schools, because they are typically measured by how their students perform on standardized tests, the aforementioned arguments for year-round schooling are quite compelling.[4][5] However, the benefits of year-round schooling extend to teachers, students, and families, as well. Teachers and students are less likely to experience burn out when there are more frequent breaks throughout the year. And studies show that although only about 50% of parents support year-round schooling before implementation, nearly 80% of parents support it after implementation.[6] Some of the benefits to families include reduced family conflict,  fewer childcare challenges over the summer, and the ability to take family vacations during off-peak travel periods.  

However, the reason Abrome is moving to a year-round, 210-day academic calendar has nothing to do with the benefits that traditional schools would garner from it. We are focused on helping young people lead remarkable lives so they can positively impact society and improve the human condition. In order to lead a remarkable life, one must become a lifelong learner. Meaningful educational experiences cannot be confined to the four walls of a school for 7 hours a day, 180 days and 9 months a year, for 13 years. At Abrome, we want to provide a safe space for Learners to be able to engage in deep, meaningful, and enduring learning experiences throughout the year, including the summer.

Next year, Abrome will operate on a year-round, 210-day schedule.

In order to tear down the notion that learning only happens at school, attendance at Abrome is optional, and we will highly encourage Learners to take at least 30 days off during the academic year to engage in off-site learning experiences. Abrome is a space where Learners can come to engage in self-directed learning, collaborate with other Learners, receive guidance from Learning Coaches, and recharge before their next learning challenge.

This new 210-day, year-round academic calendar also provides significantly more flexibility to Learners and their families. With an additional thirty days per academic year, Abrome Learners and families will not feel conflicted about taking time off for family vacations, summer camps, internships, or community service opportunities. For Learners who have friends in traditional schools, they can take time off when their friends are freed from school. For Abrome parents who have children at multiple schools, they can organize their schedules around the more inflexible academic calendars of traditional schools. And fundamentally in alignment with our educational philosophy, Abrome Learners will be able to take time off as they see fit for any other reasons they may have, without having to provide justification.

1.     We underestimated the extent to which Learners would want to be at Abrome. The most common complaint we hear when Abrome Learners come back from break is that they wish there were less breaks, and that they could not wait to return.

2.     For our first year at Abrome, we stretched 180 academic days over 11 months.

3.     http://www.nayre.org/questions.html

4.     Affluent high schools are also measured by the selectivity of the colleges their students end up matriculating into. Fortunately for the overwhelming majority of affluent high schools that refuse to move away from the traditional model of schooling, college admissions is highly correlated with family income.

5.     For the sake of brevity, we did not list other benefits of a year-round schedule for schools such as higher utilization rates of facilities and the ability to accommodate more students by offsetting the start dates of different groups of students.

6.     Palmer; Bemis (1999). "Alternative Calendars: Extended Learning and Year-Round Programs,". University of Minnesota, Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement.