At the Vancouver Learning Centre all aspects of the person (child youth or young adult) receives a thoughtful, sensitive response that includes intellectual, academic and emotional factors. These are outlined in detail in a multi-year program.
Each semester is completed with an anecdotal report from each teacher. Consistency and attendance at every session ensures that the journey takes place at a good rate.
In April, at the beginning of the 3rd semester, recommendations for 4th semester participation are prepared by the teachers, reviewed by Dr. Schwartz, and sent to the parents for consideration.
In previous years, students were encouraged to participate in some aspect of our summer offerings. Many students took advantage of this offering.
We found there was such a substantive difference in progress in the fall programs for those who participated and kept up the momentum, or participated in the accelerated learning by subject we call “camp intensives,”* or participated in our school readiness program**, that we needed to make this a regular part of each learner’s experience.
Why We Are on a Four Semester Schedule
A key myth on which the summer holiday in our education system is prescribed needs to be addressed.
According to this myth, young children’s fragile development and mind should not be overextended. Each child should work only five hours a day in school, and each child needs a long summer break to recover from the rigours of their education. Therefore, ten weeks are mandated as summer holidays.
In practical terms this means that June, a winding down month, is not fully utilized, and that teachers coming back from holiday in September need most of that month to organize for the next year. Thus, half of each of these two months can be included in down time for serious education. Considering that long weekends, Christmas, Easter and Spring Break account for another month, students are actively engaged in serious education for at most, 7 to 8 months or 32-35 weeks each year during the most productive and vigorous learning years of their lives.
Research shows that children lose up to 30 percent of core skill progress in these down times, especially between June and September, but students with learning difficulties who are slow starters in September lose the most.
They love the summer holidays, when the pressure of learning in a competitive environment, where they struggle harder than their peers to keep up, disappears. They seem to flourish and become their natural selves in the summer. They find it harder than their classmates to put themselves back into the constraints of an academic classroom. As the teachers review the previous year’s work in the first weeks of school in September, these students are consolidating only part of this review. They are not ready for new learning in early October, and as their classmates take off, they struggle even more.
At this very same moment, their new teacher is building expectations for each student into their mind (albeit probably below awareness). As they watch these children with learning difficulties struggle with new grade content, they (probably also below awareness) lower expectations for these students. This is communicated in subtle but important ways, and is usually expressed at the first parent-teacher’s meeting, or on the first report card.
This dynamic process produces lower expectations for the student and the outcome becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This process is cumulative, so that by Grade 5 at 10 or 11 years old, a child’s future academic outcome (without intervention, change of school, or outstanding personal experience with an excellent teacher) is set.
It is these very expectations that are disrupted by the VLC programs. Different learners specifically benefit from a summer of less pressure but active viable learning that could change this whole dynamic for the long term?