My son Owen returns to school this week to begin 4th grade. It has been an amazing summer full of baseball, swimming and sleeping in. Alas, the clock has struck fall so it is time again to line up in rows and do as you are told. Everybody says, "Summer went too fast" and while it certainly feels this way, the fact is, summer is actually a little too long. We would all be much better served to chop it down to size a bit. There are two reasons why this is the right call. One, it is better for the kids and two, it is better for the parents.
Let's start with the kids. I'm not going to go all Malcolm Gladwell on you, but the fact is that long breaks from school have an adverse effect on a student's ability to retain and build on previously learned information. This isn't an opinion open to discussion, it is a stone cold fact supported by all kinds of nerdy types wearing white lab coats.
Or put another way, imagine school as a treadmill for your brain. Is it better to workout hard for nine months and then spend three months not breaking a sweat, or take more numerous, smaller breaks through out the year? Pretty simple answer huh? By taking such a long break, you basically have to start over instead of picking up closer to the progress when you left off. After such a long layoff, you hit the treadmill and run out of breathe very quickly. The first month is spent just getting back to where you were when you stopped.
But enough about the educational benefits of a shorter summer, when was the last time anybody in America made decisions based on educational benefits anyway? That's like taking somebody out for a salad. Just doesn't happen. Let's get down to brass tacks..
A shorter summer would allow parents more flexibility when planning vacations throughout the rest of the year. Also, we wouldn't spent the last two weeks of August getting on each other's nerves waiting for school to start. Summer ends long before it "ends" if you know what I mean. Let's just get back after it sooner and save those days for later in the school year when when they have more value.
I'm not about to propose some wacky, probably highly effective year round school schedule used by Sweden or somewhere like that. No sir. If i know one thing about us human types, it is that change scares the shit out of us. Remember how terrified we used to be of freed slaves, heavy metal lyrics and gay marriage? Turns out they were no big deal after all. But just to be on the safe side, let's start slow by only knocking seven days off the summer and see where that gets us? Just seven days.
For starters we have a no brainer. Thanksgiving week the kids have three days off: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Let's throw two days down so now everybody has the full Thanksgiving week off. Want to visit family but find it stressful to jam all that traveling into a long weekend? Not anymore. Now you will have Nov23-Dec 1st free to make your plans. Why do we even bother to have school on Monday and Tuesday of that week anyway? Just concede nothing is getting done and make it a full week off.
Ok, that leaves us with 5 days to throw around. It seems to me that different schools having different spring breaks is a source of aggravation. Or it sounds that way at the coffee shop anyway. Maybe we put a week in around that time? People who work/study at Ohio State have different schedule than their kids/family so maybe we spend the five days there? Or.. I can tell you in our family, we like to take our niece with us somewhere over spring break but because she attends a Catholic School, our break time doesn't match up and it makes for a difficult situation. Maybe that would be a good spot? So to summarize:
Owen has spring break Mar31st-April4th. We could use our five days to add an extra week of spring break . We could choose to line-up with Ohio State's break which is Mar11-15th or with the Catholic school schedule which is the week of Easter April21-25th. Either is cool with me.
So by just knocking off seven days of summer, families can have a full week of Thanksgiving travel time and an extra week of spring break for travel flexibility. Wouldn't this be a better use of time than the wasted, lazy days of the summertime blues?
Oh, and it's better for the kids.
Just a thought anyway.
Colin Gawel plays in Watershed and writes things for Pencilstorm when business is slow at Colin's Coffee. His son Owen goes to Upper Arlington Schools and is damn lucky he does. To learn more about Colin and other contributors to Pencilstorm please click here