Year ‘Round School

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?

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20 Responses to Year ‘Round School

  1. SKL says:

    I’m like you – I used to think it sounded horrible. But when I was a school kid, I had a bunch of siblings, and we generally had the run of the neighborhood with no paid supervision. It was normal for kids to walk to the library, pool, zoo, etc. without an adult in attendance. It was also normal for kids to hang out with friendly neighborhood adults. I’m not even sure there was such a thing as summer daycare or school-age kids in those days. Kids could have paper routes and such in those days, and they had hobbies that parents didn’t get involved in. So yeah, a lot has changed and it’s probably a lot easier to get bored nowadays.

    So in the summer, I have to figure out where to park my kids until they are old enough to entertain themselves all day. There are all kinds of “day camps” around here. The one they go to is run by the daycare they have been attending full-time for years. Other options that come to mind are the rec center day camp and the science museum week-long day camps. There’s a week or two of theatre day camp in the next town. And the zoo has a summer day camp. So there are all kinds of options, but would sending them to school be better? Maybe. There is something to be said for consistency, especially if they are going to be in a structured program either way.

    Some cons do come to mind. The cost. Do all the schools have adequate climate control for the hot summer? What about the disruptions of every family’s vacations? And working parents still have to park their kids somewhere during the quarterly breaks. (Though I’m sure “day camps” would spring up to help with that.) What about the kids who don’t do much exercise during the school year, and need summer to make up for it? What about kids who stress out in school and really need a mental health break for more than a couple of weeks? What about the value of completely independent pursuits?

    I think what might be ideal would be a longer school year for the younger kids, but status quo for kids who are old enough to pursue their own interests without supervision during the summer days.

    • Laura says:

      I have to agree with the climate control situation. We still have “heat days” now, even into September, because the HS doesn’t have A/C. But family vacations disrupted? Like I said, they’d just reschedule vacations for a different time. If parents are working, what difference does it make to them if they take their vacation in July or August? And the daycare thing would just be spread through the year, rather than clumped during the three months of summer.

      • SKL says:

        It might be harder to staff a day camp that is just 2-3 weeks at a time versus a nice chunk of time in the summer.

        And the family vacation comment – what if the plan is to visit extended family in a foreign country, for example? Or to make a cross-country car trip? Would these become impossible to do without penalties/hassles at school? Is the benefit of what’s going on in the classroom worth the opportunity cost? (When I said disruptions, I meant disruption of the classroom by varying family vacations. Because I don’t think everyone in an area can or will take vacations at exactly the same time.)

        Another question. Would they have to make special allowances for kids who live/work on farms or in families that travel for work during the summer (e.g., carneys)? How would that work?

        • Laura says:

          Don’t know about the carney thing, but living in a heavily agricultural area, I can tell you, the “farm chores” thing doesn’t really start to apply until the high school years, and even then, it’s only a handful of kids. Farming has become so technology-heavy, the kids aren’t needed nearly as much as they used to be, which is why we have the long summer break in the first place. It used to be so kids could help with harvest.

          I agree that there are tons of questions that need to be answered, schedules would need to be adjusted, etc. But to completely dismiss it out of hand (not saying that you are, but many I’ve talked to have) because “that’s not how WE did it”, I think, is ridiculous. We will never know if we don’t try.

          I guess this is why I’m such a staunch advocate for School Choice – for each district to be allowed to decide what is going to work best for them, rather than being dictated to by the federal government. And also why I’m sending Josh to a private school… one that I wish would go to year-round, because I think it would benefit him, specifically.

  2. Joy says:

    I would have been mortified also to learn of year round school. We rented a cabin every year for a week and then went to our grandparents farm in Canada for over 2 months. I can’t imagine growing up any other way. Had I not gone anywhere, times were different as SKL and Laura already brought up. We could hop on our bikes and just go. Adults didn’t follow our every move. Poor kids now can’t even take off and go to the park alone.

    Part of me thinks we’ve ruined a big part of “playing” for kids. Had my mom or dad always gone to the park with me, or ridden their bike with me to the drug store for a cherry coke, I wouldn’t have even wanted to go. I think that is so sad. Even “in town” kids can’t just take off like we used to.

    I don’t know if there are just more people in the world because I don’t think there are more bad people. There were always those bad people. Is it helicopter parenting or what is it that makes us watch our kids every move? Are kids kidnapped more now? Are there more perverts in the world than there were before? Is it the car traffic? Just what is it that makes parents, me included, not let our kids out of our sight????? OR is it that we hear more about it now? Nothing waits now for the evening news or the next mornings newspaper. We know IMMEDIATELY when something bad happens.

    When my boys were small, I loved summer vacation. I worked in the school district so I got my summers off so that was my vacation and I loved it too. But I also lived in a city where the kids could go on their bikes to play with friends for the day. It’s not like out here. I know what you mean Laura about having a child in the country when nobody else is around. I see it happen to Trinity and Christopher. It’s hard for Sue to have “play dates” even though she does a really good job of seeing to it they play with friends and stay active in sports and whatnot. It’s just a lot harder. They also have each other and aren’t alone. Kids don’t want a parent to be their playmate after a certain age. They need their peers and summer does get long. Our kids are out of school the beginning of June and don’t go back until after Labor Day. That’s 3 full months of NOTHING TO DO.

    I think year round school in the long run would be a good thing given today’s times. Both parents almost always work and once kids get a little older, babysitting is hard too. It’s one thing for kids to get off the bus and be alone for an hour but it’s different than going to work for the day and leaving them alone but at what age can you just up and do that? It’s not good to leave kids alone but what else is a person supposed to do? Laura’s right. There used to be neighbors at home. Houses now sit empty all day long.

    Aren’t schools now that are building putting in the a/c and stuff? I do think one day they are going to do this. I also think there will be more “day camps” and more sitters, nannies or what have you to go around. This could be a win win but it has to get by people first. I know for me, as a kid, it would have been better for me to have had school like this. I lost too much during the summer and spent the first few months of school not knowing how to do ANY math.

  3. starlaschat says:

    When I was a kid honestly I did get bored from the long summer break I hate to admit that but it’s the truth. I think I would have done better with all year round schooling. As far as Navar being a teacher I actually think he likes the stucture so I think he would do well with a year round schooling with a reasonable break or two along the way. Having the whole summer off is nice with plenty of time to take care of things, do fun summer activities, and summer work. So I guess in a way I’m torn.

    • Joy says:

      I have to admit that I got bored by the very end too Starla. I didn’t miss the school work but I missed the sports and activities and I did miss seeing my friends because I was gone all summer. I also missed the structure.

  4. Just a Mom says:

    My nephew goes to a year round school in California and my brother really likes it. My nephew doesn’t get bored and he doesn’t have to spend a month trying to readjust to school like most kids. My brothers’s only problem is he has 2 step-kids and that are in upper grades and they do not have year round school. So if a district wants to do it they should do it for everyone, not just a few schools.
    For me personally, I don’t think I would like it. My daughter has had plenty of things to do this summer.

  5. Sue says:

    It would be a change, but I think I’d welcome year round school. It would be nice to be able to schedule things throughout the year without having to wait for that one day off of school that every other district has so you’re contending with multiple people for a few open appointment times. It would also be nice for vacations I think. To be able to go somewhere any time of the year and not have to worry about missing a test or just the homework would be wonderful. We were talking about doing a ‘beach’ vacation during the colder months, but with Trin going into high school (we have no middle school) how can she afford to be gone for a week let alone one day? It just won’t work. As far as having the summer off, I think a lot of year round schools have a longer break than normal during this time. I have a girlfriend that has worked at year round schools over seas and now one on the East coast, I should ask her how they work it.

    It would definitely be a change, but change isn’t always bad. I don’t know though…I don’t do change as well as I thought I did!

  6. navarblog says:

    Just finished first year of teaching. I say, “Please say no to year around school.” My mom did teach at a year around school and seemed to be ok with it.

    • Laura says:

      But WHY “say no to year round school”? This is what frustrates me about many teachers – they say that we shouldn’t do it, but I never get a valid reason as to WHY, except that they like the long summer break to “recover”.

      • navarblog says:

        Year around school probably won’t fly in farm areas, because students are needed to work the farms. As it is, during the regular school year, students take time off for: planting, harvesting, calving, fall cattle round up, branding, butchering, etc.
        Also if schools went year round it would make it difficult for maintenance and upgrades.
        Lastly it costs more and schools are struggling as it is, most teachers have to buy supplies themselves. Many schools are going to a 4 day week to cut costs.

  7. Nikki says:

    I actually think year round school would be good. Especially for my son. I think he’d retain what he is learning a lot more. For his sake, and his education, I’d welcome it. For selfish reasons, I personally wouldn’t. I love having him home for a long period of time. He’s had one of the best summers, so far. He’s had so much freedom, and he’s always with friends. It’s been really good for him. For where we live, a long summer vacation is good. We only get 3 months out of the year, and even then it may not be decent weather. But on the other hand, I nice break every so often would be good too. So, I’m on the fence. I’d be happy if we were to go year round, but okay with not, also.

    I’d like to know, academically, how kids do-year round, and not.

  8. SKL says:

    Sounds like some of the above comments are not inconsistent with having a year round for the younger kids but more time off for the older kids. I do think there’s something to be said for being free to make one’s own plans and mistakes over a period of time.

    As for losing academics, that hasn’t been an issue for us because we read and do other stuff daily. When I was a kid, it was not an issue for me – not that that proves anything. Well actually, it was an issue in the sense that I hated the “review” phase of the beginning of school. It seemed like we went back to the ABCs every fall for years and years. By the time we had gotten into “new” stuff, I’d already zoned out. So maybe more academic learning would be done on a year-round schedule, at least for the young kids.

    • Nikki says:

      Bailey does online school work, and he reads (a lot) but he learns better in a classroom, with structure, and it coming from his teachers, not me or a computer. I agree that in the fall, they spend a lot of time going over what they learned the previous year. Year round would eliminate that need.

    • Joy says:

      I was one of “those” kids who really needed that time at the beginning of the year to review EVERYTHING. I think I’m like Bailey. I was always a reader but reading wasn’t math or the sciences. I really struggled with math and still have a hard time doing it.

      I guess I’m just one of those people who don’t just jump off the diving boards. I go slowly in step by step.

  9. Laura says:

    Another thing that has occurred to me is all of the teacher “administrative time” that our kids have to endure. We have regularly scheduled “early out” days every other week. Every other Wednesday, the kids are released at 1:00. And there are a bunch of days off and late starts in addition to regular days off, like Labor Day. I think, with a Year-Round Schedule, they could eliminate that. Teachers would be able to utilize some of that break time to do their planning for the next block of classes, and the school wouldn’t have to cut into student learning time for it.

  10. Dina says:

    Several districts here have moved to the balanced schedule. It is an adjustment, but in my opinion it makes sense. Many of my friends are teachers on the new schedule and I have not heard any complaints. Volunteered at school today in prep of “opening day” Wednesday and learned from a teacher our district is discussing it, too. I asked her about the teacher’s opinion and she says most are in favor. The kids tend to like the regularity, the breaks are long enough to schedule vacations and it cuts down on the “ramp up” (read wasted) time at the beginning of the school year. I believe in these times we need the competitive edge and consistency is key. The long breaks never worked well for me and I am in favor of the new schedule. Bring it!

    • Laura says:

      “balanced schedule”. I like that term. I’m going to have to remember it. I’m hoping that it starts to really catch on, and that Iowa will jump on the bandwagon. Yeah, it’s purely mercenary, but I think Josh would really thrive with it.

    • Joy says:

      I like the consistency of it too.

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