Montessori Earth School has several reason for requiring students to come to school during the months of July and August. Equity, Skill Recovery, Community and Connections to the Natural World are the four most important.
Equity in Academic Success: Although some students don't lose academic skills during the summer months, there are great disparities between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Students with fewer opportunities to participate in extra-curricular academic programs often fall back in vital skills, particularly in Math, English and World Languages. Studies have shown that the loss of some skills may be as much as one month of learning from the previous academic year. What a waste. For those students who do have some amazing summer opportunities we provide the flexibility to take advantage of these. But for those who don't, we provide them at no extra charge.
Post-Covid Academic and Social Skill Recovery: Teachers and researchers alike have documented a significant decline in both Academic and Social preparedness in students due to the pandemic. Although, our year-round schedule does not significantly increase the number of school days or hours for our students over other schools (we only attend three days of school per week during summer terms), research shows that for acquisition of many skills which require memorization and automaticity (use without having to actively think about it) shorter more spread out periods of repetition work better than the equivalent time spent "cramming." By spreading out our school year, we provide a more relaxed pace for student learning. In addition, giving more time to acquisition and maintenance of core rote skills in the summer allows students more time to deeply explore our integrated curriculum and group projects during Autumn, Winter and Spring terms. These opportunities benefit student social skills (and workplace soft skills) as well as academic achievement.
Community Connections: A core value of the Earth School learning community is our social connectivity. Montessorians have always seen that at the start of a traditional school year, it takes our students a great deal of time to settle in, get to know each other and develop strong learning habits. Montessori's term for the well tuned learning community and the students who show the characteristic attention, cooperation and problem-solving that this leads to translates as "normalized." This is because Montessorians believe that children are natural learners. Instead of forcing students to fit into an unnatural factory-like learning environment, the Montessori method seeks to create a learning environment which brings out the natural tendencies of our adolescents to discover and create. This means strong social connections to their classmates. Just as students can loose academic skills over the summer, they can loose academic habits and social connections. Again, by spreading out our school year, we spend less time trying to recover from losses.
Connecting to the Rhythms of the Natural World: Connecting to nature also means connecting to the annual cycles of the natural world. In addition to our core academic studies during the summer, we also take the opportunity to complete more long term observations and studies which we could not do if we were gone for 10 weeks straight. Summer is a wonderful time to be outside for gardening, stream studies, astronomy, geology or wildlife observation. In addition, these learning opportunities can be combined with summer activities like hiking, biking, camping, swimming, fishing and kayaking. These can all be done either within our immediate urban environment or on day or overnight trips which students can plan themselves. What a great way to earn credits in physical education!
So as you can see, we've thought about this a lot, and we strongly believe that our unconventional school schedule has many benefits.