This has been a topic of great debate all over our country for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I was horrified – HORRIFIED!! – at the thought of going to school all year. Who goes to school in the summer? Honestly, that’s for hanging with your friends and going on marathon bike rides, spending all day at the pool, jumping on the trampoline, and taking long road-trip camping vacations with your parents. I thought it would be like that forever, and planned the same for my children.
My, how times have changed. For one, I don’t have child-ren. I have one child. Two, I live in the country, far from other children, so said child must either entertain himself on a daily basis, or I must provide entertainment for him – either in the form of me doing things with him, or bringing playmates into the picture. Which brings us to problem three: the distinct LACK of available children.
Why no children? Daycare. The parents of most of Josh’s friends work full-time, so his friends either go to daycare, or are in the care of family or sitters all day, every day. Arranging a playdate for him is similar in complexity to the NATO talks. If the kids are in Daycare, parents must notify the center, I have to get a password, times must be confirmed, we have to make sure we’re not going on a ‘field trip day’, supplies must be laid in…. it’s crazy. The trouble is similar with kids who have sitters or family. There is no more knocking on the door and asking if Billy can come out and play, because Billy isn’t home. So, sadly, Josh is left with going to the pool, nearly every day, with his mother and father for company. And that can get pretty old for an 8-year old kid.
I’ve been watching him closely. This is a boy with a very active mind, one that needs to be engaged nearly every minute of every day, or his temper flares out of boredom. He loves stories, and therefore LOVES television. I have a hard time keeping him away from it, so he’s restricted (except during the Olympics) to two hours a day of screen-time of any kind. He doesn’t play much outside just because that gets boring when you’re all alone. But he NEEDS stimulation.
So more and more, I think about how he would function with year-round schooling. The basic model is school for 6-8 weeks, with 2-3 weeks off, depending on how it’s structured. Every single teacher I’ve ever made the mistake of discussing this with has told me what a disaster it would be for everyone involved; from kids getting burn-out, to schedules being “too disruptive”, to daycare issues.
But I have to tell you, the issues we’ve had with Josh this summer? I’ve NEVER had them when he had two weeks off at Christmas. By the time New Year’s Day rolls around, he’s getting bored with the downtime, and anxious to get back to his routine and his friends. This summer has been a killer for him, and for a week already (today is July 30), he’s been pining for school. He NEEDS that schedule. He thrives on it.
People will complain about the things they do now that make their summers sacred – baseball games, swim meets, cookouts, vacation. But honestly, during the rest of the year, there are sports schedules that are kept – football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, etc. They work. People take vacations all year round, now, even taking kids out of school for it, which was practically a capital crime when I was a kid.
The more I talk with people about it, the more I find that the biggest argument anyone has against it is… tradition. We didn’t go to school during summer when we were kids, and therefore it shouldn’t be done. Summer is Sacred Time, even though we’re not doing it the way we used to. The other argument is “burnout”. But how can that be when most kids are in Daycare, where they are given learning activities and remain on basically the same schedule as school? The only difference is that they’re at tables instead of desks!
I know this will probably never happen in my lifetime, so I’m working on alternatives for Josh for next summer. But it would be nice if year-round school actually happened for him. I think he’d take to it like a duck to water.
How about you guys? Do you think year round schooling is a good idea? Would your kids do well with it?