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Let’s abolish summer vacation

Categories: Push my Button, Wanna Fight About It?


As a kid, I loved summer vacation. Who wouldn’t? No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks, don’t let the school doors hit you on the way out. Summer vacation was great.

Then I became a parent. Suddenly as a working parent I’m juggling summer day care, extra costs of all-day care versus after-school care, kids with nothing to do all day, me trying to come up with new! fun! activities! and I’m hating summer vacation. Hate. Hate. Hate. Even later as a stay-at-home mom I hated it. The days stretched on forever to a chorus of “What are we doing today, Mama?” as if someone had suddenly appointed me Entertainment Director and I’d be expected to wander the Lido Deck with my perky Julie McCoy clipboard and hat. No thanks. I’ll go back to hating summer vacation.

Let’s get rid of it.

Summer vacation is bad for kids anyway.

Did you know that U.S. kids have fewer school days than kids in other Western countries and even kids in the home of the multitudes of desperate Nigerian millionaires who write us pleading for help in disbursing their fortunes if we would only share with them our identifying information and banking details? When even the kids of email scam artists are getting a better education than ours are, you have to wonder what’s wrong here.

And you remember what the first few weeks of school are like in September, right? Two weeks of reviewing whatever you did last year, that’s what. What a monumental waste of time. Kids forget things over a long summer break. All that book-larnin’ just goes right out them thar purty little heads when they spend 10 weeks doing nothing but sucking on Popsicles and dangling their feet in an inflatable pool. (In fact, you can pretty much tie the rate of loss of brain cells to the number of Popsicles consumed, but understand this is a less than scientific correlation. If you provide a grant, however, I’ll be happy to create a double-blind study about it, but only if we stick to cherry and grape and orange; I can’t stand the lime ones.)

Back to summer vacation. Abolishing it is only one step of my nine-step Program for Complete School Reform (we are also asking for a return to ditto machines — after all, who didn’t get just a little buzz from the smell of warm mimeograph fluid? — and other things like more arts, less lining up and standing around, less busywork homework, and more recess, but I’ll get to those things later, after all, it IS summer…), but it’s an excellent first step that would also save us from the pain of back-to-school sales that crop up as early as the day after the Fourth of July these days. (Do you have all the colored pencils, Trapper Keepers, binder paper, and Hello Kitty erasers that you need this year yet? No? I thought not. So go! Go and consume! Make this land great!)

Sure, I know what you’re going to say to this idea of getting rid of summer vacation. It’s in two words: air conditioning. It’s a sad fact that a lot of schools, even the ones east of that weird vertical line of demarcation that starts in the middle of Kansas and separates the Land of Humidity from the Land of Blessed Dryness, don’t have air conditioning. But have you noticed that kids don’t seem to either notice or mind? It’s a (non-scientific) fact that kids’ heat-sensors are immature until they hit at least 12, maybe 13 depending (which oddly seems to coincide with the need and/or usage of commercial deodorant preparations), saving taxpayers zillions on the need to air-condition elementary schools. Alternatively, hold classes outside. The point being, of course, to simply get kids back. in. school where they belong.


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11 comments so far...

  • You’re forgetting teachers who are well past the age of puberty and therefore will desire the AC if expected to teach in 100 degrees of 90% humidity in August! Even my CAT pants in that weather.

    Work needs to get on board though. Year round means breaks at off peak times. This means that you need more flex in work & child care arrangements as camps use college students who will still, likely, have summer breaks.

    And the horror that some families here face with 3 kids on 3 different tracks if they have a elementary, jr high & sr high student. There is always a child off from school, how are you supposed to deal with that.

    There’s a lot to merit year round, but a LOT more thought needs to go into it to implement it properly. If it were easy to do the pilot experiments that pop up now and again would have more traction.

    Mich  |  July 15th, 2009 at 12:08 pm

  • I agree. We are no longer an agrarian society that needs our children to harvest crops in the summer months. Let’s give our kids something to do and save parents the headache. (But, for us poor teachers, maybe we can do a shift change or something so that we can share the load.)

    Robyn  |  July 16th, 2009 at 12:26 pm

  • Hmm, I wrote a long response yesterday. Wonder what happened to it.

    I do think summers need to be different for kids. I have known many kids who are so stressed out by the end of the school year that they would need a psychologist if they didn’t have a long vacation. 3 months may be longer than necessary, but 3 more months of the regular classroom isn’t the answer either, in my opinion.

    In most of the US, the summer is best spent mostly outdoors. There is much to be learned outdoors without the “structure” of a classroom. If kids didn’t have these experiences outside of school, then we’d be trying to provide them “in school,” which would be as much a disaster as anything else the government tries to take over.

    I might favor a sort of standardized independent study program. For example, suppose each child is given a booklist, a notebook, and periodic access to a computer; each child selects from several elective courses of nature, literature, and economic study appropriate for his/her grade level. Day cares, day camps, private tutoring companies, libraries, churches, community centers, schools operating traditional “summer school,” and home school parents could qualify to perform weekly group or individual debriefs (which could be optional for kids who check in on the computer). Parents would still have to figure out who should supervise their young kids throughout the day, but if all kids had to do this sort of semi-standardized thing, private service providers would rise to the occasion.

    SKL  |  July 16th, 2009 at 2:23 pm

  • Not all kids waste their summer. At least, not all of the teenage kids waste their summer. When I was in high school, I used the summer break to work full time and saved that money for a car and then college.

    I didn’t work during the school year so I could focus on school work and my extra-curricular activites, such as theatre. Theatre helped me get scholarships and reccomendations for other activities, such as other jobs. I was able to be truly focused on school and theatre because I wasn’t overwhelmed with too much on my plate.

    When I was too young to work, I stayed at home and wasted time. I played with friends and got to be a KID. I stayed on top of my education by reading books, thanks to a mother who took me to the library every weekend. However, this was not forced on me. I read because I enjoyed it and I enjoyed it because it wasn’t forced on me.

    Kids don’t need to be burdened with constant responsibilites. They will have more than enough of that when they become adults.

    Cheryl  |  July 16th, 2009 at 2:28 pm

  • Children in other countries may get a longer school year, but when they get a vacation, they get a real vacation with their families who often take the entire month of July or August away from work.

    When I work full-time, I get at most, three weeks of vacation. One covers the February school vacation, one the Easter/Spring break, and the third is for the week between Christmas and New Years. I have no summer, and for the amount of work that I do, it’s completely ridiculous!

    Our school schedule may be archaic, but our work schedule is inhumane!

    Lisse  |  July 17th, 2009 at 11:39 am

  • Mich and Robyn - Good point about the teachers. My mom was a teacher, so 30 swats with a chalk-laden eraser for me!

    SKL - Hmm, this as the first comment that appeared for me, although who knows what evil comment-eating trolls exist in the back of the site somewhere, ugh. I did wonder why you hadn’t commented yet, though! :) Kids do need breaks, absolutely. The stress of school, especially in the upper grades, is appalling. But I could write about 20 more posts on homework and the school system in general…

    Cheryl - I agree, kids need time to be kids. This post was an attempt at being tongue-in-cheek. It’s obviously an incomplete solution to simply put kids back in school over the summer, and I am all for a complete overhaul of not only our school system but also our work system. Somehow these should go hand in hand, acknowledge ALL the forms of work being done (including raising children and giving that equal importance to, say, cancer research), but my utopian community society is still a few years away.

    Lisse - and you can count yourself lucky for having as many as 3 weeks a year! I know, totally inhumane, isn’t it? Most other western-type countries have 30 days or so, and they still manage to get things done. Again we’re back to priorities, work-life balance, doing things as a community rather than inefficiently as individuals, I could go on and on…. But the system we have clearly isn’t working. Sigh.

    Great comments, everyone! Thanks so much for adding to the conversation.

    Karen Murphy  |  July 17th, 2009 at 12:00 pm

  • Oh, I know, I know–all these points are good ones–but as a mom who works part-time in the evenings or on weekends (so I don’t have the child-care challenges of working moms during summer months), I love love love summer with my kids! I would shed tears if forced to give it up! The lazy summer mornings with nothing on our schedule, the picnics for lunch, long walks and splash pools and flower-watering and hopscotch….I love hanging out with my little girls on a lovely summer day. The quality time feels invaluable to me–such rare time away, for the most part, from the larger culture of school and peers and media and structured activities. But, I can definitely see how summer must be super hard for moms who work during the days.

    Shannon  |  July 20th, 2009 at 7:25 am

  • Everyone needs a break. I would not advocate getting rid of summer break without significantly changing the entire “school” paradigm. I do think that summer “vacation” is unnecessary. But I think that if we lengthened either the school day or the school year, it would provide time to add back in things such as art, music, sports, field trips, clubs, other extracurriculars, etc. All the things that our school districts have now completely cut in order to raise test scores. And because of budget cuts, our local school districts have COMPLETELY cancelled art and music classes, gotten rid of band, and a couple of schools have cancelled freshmand and junior varsity sports. Great.

    The big problem is, where would the money come from? We don’t even have money right now to pay the salaries of the teachers who weren’t laid off since the state owes our district over 6 million dollars… and isn’t planning on paying it until October at least.

    I truly, deeply fear for the futures of our children.

    Robyn  |  July 20th, 2009 at 10:25 am

  • I don’t really understand.
    As the non-custodial parent, they would be expecting Dad to be the cruise director, yes?

    Beyond that, yes, I would imagine it’s incredibly taxing to go from them being in school to not (my little one is a baby in day care, so I’m not dealing with that yet), but in terms of who appointed us the entertainment director? Well, it’s true what the signs on every Septa bus say: “having a baby changes everything.” I think we appointed ourselves as the entertainment directors.

    Maybe my perspective will change when Chloe is older, but I like the idea of summer vacation. I like the idea of a change in the routine, of camp or days at the pool or taking vacations.

    Heather  |  July 24th, 2009 at 1:24 pm

  • Get rid of summer vacation if that happens. Then how are school custdioans gonna deep clean the school buiding ? I know I’ve been a school custdioan for almost three years.

    fred  |  January 18th, 2012 at 2:00 am

  • Schools around the world have had year-round school for a long time. I imagine their custodians have found a way to keep the schools clean. From what I understand, most year-round school systems work in longish (2-3 weeks) vacations several times a year instead of one long summer break. I would think that their custodians adopt a schedule that keeps the building in good order.

    Talyaa Liera  |  January 19th, 2012 at 12:17 pm