Like most mothers, I love my children. I do. Honest. (OK, the one that's arguing (via Facebook messages) about a Mohawk hairdo for school is trying my patience but whatever.) Anyway, as I was saying, I love my kids - but three months off in the summer? Seriously?
For our non US readers, most American schools are closed for three whole calendar months during the summer. In the south, they tend to break up earlier (some time in May) and go back in August, although our school (like many in the mid-west) let out on June 8th and goes back September 10th. Aarrgghh! Even for the most maternal of us, that's a lot of child-time. It's also a bit ironic given that many working adults get a paltry two or three weeks off for the entire year.
Apparently it harkens back to the days when children were expected to help on the farm and thus were needed for the summer, but the last time I checked, that wasn't the case in most communities these days. Many schools here get scant time off during the year, compared with schools in England. We don't get a fall/autumn half term and only have a week at Easter. I would far rather have my kids
The long summer off isn't just exhausting, it's inconvenient and downright expensive for many families. Where both parents work, it means that children inevitably get booked into the infamous "summer camp", (which incidentally, doesn't always involve tents or indeed, overnights sleeps anywhere.) Although some cities run heavily subsidised programs, the spots are limited and you end up paying through the nose for somewhere to park your child for a few weeks.
Granted, the British school hols are on the short side, although from the age of 11 I got 9 weeks which was just about perfect. I think the two school systems should have a chat and come up with something half way between the two models. ( 9 weeks in the summer, 2 weeks at Xmas and Easter and little breaks in between.)
The summer school holidays are coming to an end here in Britain, and if it seems as if they have just begun, that is because they have.
Compared to their colonial cousins, British school kids get a paltry amount of time off for the summer. Granted, they make up for it during the rest of the year—the British school year seems to consist of a few weeks of classes, a few weeks off, a few weeks of classes, etc. I’m sure there must be some advantage to this system, but I can’t find any.
In the States, when school is on, it’s ON. They call it the school year because that’s what you do during it—School. In September and October you’re settling into your new life (you used to be a 5th Grader, now you’re a 6th Grader, and at the top of the Elementary School food chain) and making do with Columbus Day and Halloween for diversion. In November you look forward to the mini-break (not to mention the turkey) at Thanksgiving and then it’s Christmas, with a full week off. Spring is its own reward and by the time the flowers are out you are already anticipating the coming of summer. And finally, in the second week of June, after sitting in sweltering classrooms taking end-of-school tests for five days, you are free.
There is nothing to compare that day to, when you step out of school and see the whole of the sweet, sunny, sultry summer unfolding in front of you.
In summer, my friends as I would swim at the creek, ride our bikes, camp out in the woods or just enjoy lazing around in the hot, humid afternoons. We had no Internet, X-Box, iPods, but we were never bored.
I consider myself especially fortunate, as this long and languid period, for me, was punctuated by the Chatham Fair—the annual agricultural event held over the Labor Day weekend. We would go to the fair, look at the animals and exhibits, eat fried dough, cotton candy, candies apples, and then head for the main event—the rides. The Tilt-A-Whirl, the Ferris Wheel, the Scrambler, the Octopus—we would ride them all, repeatedly. Mostly without throwing up.
There would be car rallies, horse races and some has-been celebrity would put on a show in the grand stand and we would notice, as dusk settled around us, an autumnal chill in the air. Then the fair would pack up and leave town. We would have the next day—the first Tuesday in September—to find what clothes still fit us, get new hand-me-downs and steel ourselves for the coming year, where we would be back on the bottom of the food chain in the Junior High School.
Summer, to me back then, was a marvellous and magical time. I can’t imagine it being just a few short weeks off between semesters.
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