Study after study, summer after summer, reminds us that kids in America lose a good month or two of learning during summer break. Teachers spend weeks – sometimes the entire first month of school – reteaching and reviewing last year’s content to make up for the lost time. Advocates of year-round school rightly use these statistics to push their agenda, but after years of teaching, I have to say that I’m all for continuing our 10-month tradition.
Currently, the school session begins as early as the beginning of August and as late as the day after Labor Day. Most schools conclude around Memorial Day, some as late as a week or two after. Summer, therefore, has been reduced to about two months, which leaves a short amount of time to pack in a lot of family plans.
I happen to believe in the necessity of that time for five reasons:
1. Kids are stressed during the school year. They need time to decompress and recharge for the new school. And they need more time than adults because they’re also growing, changing, and maturing at a much faster rate. Just growing is tiring, and a week’s vacation won’t cut it when it comes to getting a true break.
2. Everyone needs closure. The end of the school year provides this, a chance for students to reflect on their work habits, the consequences of their decisions, their successes and their failures. But it also provides a fresh start, a clean slate, where they can put behind their mistakes and forge ahead. Sure, they could do this at any time of the year, but it’s much easier to visualize when a fresh start is provided for them.
3. As family time becomes less and less available with our increasingly busy schedules, summer slows the pace. Most adults relax a little more during these months and work a little less. They take family vacations, visit faraway relatives, and spend time at the pool and park. This fosters valuable family time that makes memories and bonds the family unit together.
4. Kids need time to work their brains in entirely different ways. What we see as simple playing is actually quite nuanced and multi-layered. Playing with friends or at a favorite activity can improve creative thinking, fine and gross motor skills, cooperation techniques and relationship skills, physical exercise, and problem-solving methods.
5. Kids need time to pursue their interests, unfettered by school schedules and demands. I wonder how many kids have discovered a beloved hobby or a career during these treasured summer months? They attend a camp or workshop, travel to a foreign destination, participate in programs that expose them to different kinds of people, or attend a venue such as a museum or aquarium that opens a new world to them. Real life experiences are crucial in helping kids determine their interests and goals.
I’ll admit summer can be a waste of time if kids do nothing but watch TV and sleep. But that’s where good parenting comes in. Make sure that your kids are spending time on the above activities, that they are exploring and thinking and enriching their lives during these weeks. They may need a brush-up on grammar rules or math formulas come September, but what they discover about themselves and their world during June and July can make all the difference to their futures.