by Sarah Wayland
I recently learned that the Maryland State Board of Education is meeting on Tuesday September 1st, 2020 to consider mandating the number of hours that children must spend actively engaged in learning. The graphic is a slide from the presentation that presents the proposal the board is to consider.
All schools must provide 6 hours of instruction per day. And, by implication, all children must engage in 6 hours of instruction per day.
This is not reasonable.
It is not reasonable to mandate that all children must engage in 6 hours per day of electronically-delivered instruction. There are many reasons. Some of the most compelling include:
- Equitable access to the internet and electronic devices that allow for such access. According to EdWeek, a third of K-12 students aren’t adequately connected for remote learning.
- Developmentally appropriate expectations regarding daily engagement and focus with academic content. Parents who homeschool their children regularly find that their children can accomplish their learning goals with 2-3 hours per day of focused learning. Importantly, “time doing academic study was determined by the pace at which we got through the material, rather than how many hours we did.” (quote from the linked article).
- Developmentally appropriate limits on screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get at least one hour of physical activity each day, as well as 8-12 hours of sleep each night. And if ADULTS are having a hard time with Zoom Fatigue, our kids are going to struggle as well.
- Children with disabilities, especially disabilities that impact focus and executive functioning, are going to struggle disproportionately with these demands.
- We are experiencing an extended period of national trauma and ambiguous loss right now, and our kids are experiencing it right along with us. To expect them to act as if everything is normal is unreasonable.
It is not reasonable to expect parents to help their children engage in 6 hours per day of remotely-delivered instruction. Parents cannot both earn a living and monitor their children’s engagement with education. Parents were busy (and often overwhelmed) before the pandemic hit. Asking them to take on even more responsibility now is just not possible for many families.