I know I am going to make a lot of teachers angry when I say this, but I think we should do away with summer break. I don’t see the benefit to it. How does taking 3 months off to not learn benefits our kids? Personally, I would take that time and filter it back into the school year in small increments, but the long three-month break would be a thing of the past.
Why Do We Have Summer Break
Let’s start by looking at what summer break is. Falsely, many people believe that summer break is a hold over from farming. We are blaming the wrong people. Summer Break is in the summer due to a lack of air conditioning. In urban schools before the advent of the air conditioner, it could get incredibly hot. No one, not the students or the teachers, wanted to be there. Now with central air, truly one of the greatest inventions ever, this isn’t as big of a problem.
Also due to the heat, the summer is when many folks fled the urban cities for beaches and cooler areas. This means that much like today, summer break is there because people want to go on vacation. The weather is nice, and we want to be outside. I understand this. Where I live we are buried under snow all winter. I can’t wait to get outside. My girls are the same way. They are itching to go play in the backyard by 7 am.
I know some schools, including my girls school, doesn’t have air yet. But with each new school built the number without air shrinks. Plus to be honest, the cost of retrofitting old schools is, in my opinion, worth it. Why is it worth it? Well let’s move to the next section and I will tell you.
The Bad news about Summer Break
I figured I would start with the big one first. Summer break makes our kids dumber. A study from the American Educational Research Association found that over 39 studies;
“that the summer loss equaled about one month on a grade-level equivalent scale, or one tenth of a standard deviation relative to spring test scores. The effect of summer break was more detrimental for math than for reading and most detrimental for math, computation and spelling.”
This means that the three-month break allowed our kids to forget a month of learning. Now the first month back from break is spent re-learning what they forgot, wasting another month of valuable time.
While it isn’t all bad news;
“Also, middle-class students appeared to gain on grade-level equivalent reading recognition tests over summer,”
Unless you’re poor; “while lower-class students lost on them.”
Basically, unless you have the money and the recourses to work with your kids over the summer they are going to forget something. Or to restate it, since there is no school you have to teach them.
This is bad. With American children already falling behind the world, anything that impedes our kids education is bad. But this isn’t even the only place where parents get hit. Now, with the kids home for three months many have to pay for daycare. Summer care costs can be especially taxing on lower-income families already strained budgets.
A gap in learning and summer care costs is challenging, but there is more. There are children at my daughter’s school that depend on the lunch program and breakfast program to eat. Not out of convenience. Not because their parents are lazy or don’t feel like cooking. They depend on those programs to not be hungry. Those two meals they get at school could be the only substantial food they get each day. Unfortunately this program, like many school programs, stop in early June when school gets out and doesn’t resume until late August.
So why do we still have Summer Break?
To be honest, other than it being the way we have always done things, I don’t know. With more and more schools adding air-conditioning, heat isn’t an issue. Our desire to go on vacation shouldn’t even be figured in. Besides, I am advocating more breaks throughout the year. Use one of those to go on vacation.
The loss of learning and the stress summer vacation puts on lower-income families bother me the most. We all want what is best for our kids. Then why do we stick to this antiquated ritual that only hurts them? I am at a loss. I am sure cost is a factor. But if I can think of one area I want my tax dollars to be spent, this is it.
In study after study, summer break has proved to be more of a detriment than a benefit. What do you think? Should we keep summer break? Maybe there is something I am missing. Leave a comment and let me know. Or if you feel the way I do please leave a comment in support.