Why I Chose to go Traditional When it Comes to School
By Chelsea Hain, Freedom Traditional Academy Parent
Similar to many parents, when my children were ready to start school we enrolled them in a school based on proximity to our home and didn’t think much of it. By the time my oldest daughter was in second grade, she was struggling academically and the learning environment didn’t seem to be meeting her needs. I started exploring other educational options which led me to “Traditional” education, essentially the complete opposite of how my daughters were being taught. In researching a traditional education model, the key aspects I was attracted to were a highly structured environment with high behavioral expectations, rigorous instruction with a curriculum that is not computer based, and high parent involvement.
Reading was the academic area I was most concerned with for my children and researched when considering a traditional school. A hallmark of traditional schools is a reading curriculum that is rooted in explicit phonics instruction, that also includes spelling and handwriting instruction. The National Reading panel identified five key elements that contribute to effective reading instruction, two of which are phonemic awareness and phonics. The panel concluded that “growth in word-reading skills is strongly enhanced by systematic phonics instruction when compared to non-phonics instruction for kindergartners and 1st graders as well as for older struggling readers.” (National Reading Panel, p. 2-94) Traditional schools frequently adopt the Spalding program. The Spalding method utilizes instruction that is explicit, interactive, diagnostic, sequential and integrated (spaldingeducation.org). There is an emphasis on systematically teaching all 75 basic phonograms in the English language and applying them to reading, writing and spelling. This approach, which focuses on core elements known to improve reading outcomes, was one of the key reasons we chose a traditional school.
The other key element of a traditional school model that I was drawn to was the high academic and behavioral expectations. Students are expected to maintain good grades and have an exceptional behavior record. There has been significant research (starting with the seminal Pygmalion in the Classroom research) on the improvement of student outcomes when they have high (yet obtainable) expectations. It was really important to us that our children felt supported and knew they could be successful. Behavioral issues in the classroom are incredibly disruptive to learning and something I desired to be proactively addressed in my children’s classroom. Expectations such as working in a learning position (i.e. facing forward in desk with feet on ground), maintaining appropriate behavior in common areas, and demonstrating respect to peers and adults are essential elements that not only foster learning but are also critical life skills that will promote continued success outside of school as well.
Once our children started in a traditional school, the difference in the quality and type of instruction was evident immediately. The content is challenging, but intentional and easy to understand. And while it is fast paced, there is also repetition and on-going review; previously taught information is reinforced and not forgotten which promotes skill mastery. All of my children have flourished academically since attending a traditional school. I appreciate that parent involvement is an expectation; it has a significant positive impact on the culture and collaboration on a traditional campus. The encouragement to volunteer creates a partnership between home and school. It also provides a more integrated learning experience for my children since we frequently participate in school activities and events as a family.
There are also aspects of a traditional school that I did not anticipate I would really like. For instance, nightly homework is a requirement of a traditional school model. At my children’s previous school, homework was inconsistent, frustrating and did not always seem meaningful. At the traditional school, homework is consistent, predictable and always directly relates to what was taught that day at school. In general, my children are able to complete their homework independently since it is skill reinforcement of what they learned that day and evidence of the quality instruction they received. Additionally, homework has enabled me to know exactly what my children are learning which allows me to reinforce their learning in the world around them. For instance, when I know that my child is learning fractions, I can ask them what fraction of the pizza they ate that night for dinner making their learning applicable to the real world.
My family is incredibly grateful that we made the move to a traditional school program, especially at Freedom Traditional Academy (FTA). While FTA has all the qualities of a traditional school mentioned above, they go above and beyond by implementing additional elements to make their traditional school model truly exceptional. Some of these additional elements include small group instruction, communication, and robust elective and extra curricular offerings. There is strong evidence, including that outlined in the National Reading Panel, about the positive impact small group instruction has on student learning outcomes. I highly value that FTA provides targeted small group instruction that focuses on specific skill deficits to further facilitate student progress and growth. Freedom Traditional also has exceptional communication. We are regularly made aware of not only potential concerns, but also receive phone calls and emails to inform us of all the great things our children are doing! Lastly, FTA provides phenomenal opportunities through their electives and extracurriculars that provide my children a fun and well rounded educational experience. Options such as Spanish instruction, orchestra, band, Lego club, and choir have been highlights for my children and provide an extension of their learning through fun, interactive experiences. My children are enthusiastic about school and excelling in their learning, which I directly attribute to Freedom Traditional Academy and the traditional school model. I strongly encourage you to consider a traditional school if you’re looking for school options. Freedom Traditional Academy has made a world of difference for my family!
References: National Reading Panel, & National Institute of Child Health Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel : teaching children to read : an evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction : reports of the subgroups. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health. Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom: teacher expectation and pupils' intellectual development. New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston.