2016-08-01 / Family Matters

Year-Round Schooling: A Kid's Perspective

David Rockower

Many years ago, one of my college professors argued for year-round schooling. Six weeks on, two weeks off, he said, would provide more stability for students and prevent the academic losses incurred over the traditional summer break while still offering extended vacations from school. His argument made sense, and I’ve thought about it quite a bit throughout the years. I wonder, though, what the long-term effect would be — how would losing the long summer impact the well-being of our children? After six, seven, eight years of school without the traditional summer break, would our already overly stressed children be even worse off? And how about educators? Teacher burnout is at an all-time high. Would this change push even more teachers from the profession?

Throughout elementary school, I’ve watched my own children relax and recharge over the summer. But I’ve also watched them ignore traditional academic endeavors. Maddie reads consistently throughout the year, but Nathan does not. I wonder: What does this do to his growth as a learner? Does it set him back, or does it enable him to regroup and come back with more energy in September? Aside from the sporadic math review initiated by Mom or Dad, Maddie has banned all mathematical endeavors during June and July. Are Maddie’s math boycotts really that harmful? Will the quality of Nathan’s future be threatened because he doesn’t read much over the summer? I doubt it.

I’ve read plenty of articles about “summer learning loss,” where academic skills are lost over the break. But what these reports don’t measure is how free play, camps and relaxation help nurture healthy human beings. Though I was raised by educationally forward-thinking parents, and much of my teaching has been workshop and project based, I still find myself worrying about summer learning loss. Why? I decided to ask the kids for their perspective. Maybe getting their opinions would help ease my worry.

What do you think of replacing the traditional summer break with year-round schooling — six weeks on, two weeks off?

Maddie: It would be good and bad. We get enough education during the week, and a nice two-day break every weekend, and then an awesome long summer break. On the positive side… Well, I’ve got nothing. It’s nice having a break between the years of school. It’s good to have that separation.

Nathan: I don’t like that idea. That defeats the purpose of summer. I can see the good side and the bad sides, but there are more bad things about it. I’d rather have a complete year and a long summer break.

Do you think kids should be required to do any reading, writing or math over the summer?

Maddie: Yeah, I think it’s fair to do 30 minutes of something each day. The kids should get to choose which one you do that day.

Nathan: No, because it’s summer. Even I think it’s important, but it should definitely be up to the kids. If it’s forced on them, it’s just like more school, and that defeats the purpose of summer.

What suggestions do you have for parents/teachers who worry about summer learning loss?

Maddie: If you’re worried about it, just do a little bit of review each day. Some people might, but I don’t forget how to read over the summer, and I don’t forget any of my multiplication facts. I still know them all when I go back in the fall.

Nathan: You have to make a decision as a parent. You either make them do it, or remind the kids how important it is to read and write — but in my opinion, it has to be the kid’s choice.

I work in a small, democratic school, where students serve on advisory council, form committees, lead school meetings, and suggest new courses and projects. During the school day, I’m regularly impressed by their ability to listen, articulate their beliefs, and argue for change. As a teacher, I’ve learned to hear my students in a way that facilitates growth and change. I need to remember to do the same with my own children at home. •SCM

With a sports-obsessed 11-year-old son, a spirited 10-year-old daughter and a goldendoodle who looks like a muppet, teacher David Rockower has a lot to write about.

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