Do We Need Summer Break?

6660001925_2a62581136_zI 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

Study of StudyI 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.

Originally posted 6/1/2015
Photo from Jeffrey – Flickr.com – edited – CC
Photo from Brad Flickinger – Flickr.com – CC
Photo from Randen Pederson – Flickr.com – CC

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Bryan Alkire

Bryan is a Stay at Home Dad from Kalamazoo MI. Every day he is lucky enough to experience the joys and struggles of raising his two young girls. His older daughter, a brain tumor survivor, has just started school. His younger daughter is a ball of energy that always keeps him on his toes. He chronicles his adventures with his girls and beautiful wife on his blog www.kzoodad.com. When not watching the girls he plays golf (badly), enjoys craft beer, and working on that book he keeps promising to get done.

3 thoughts on “Do We Need Summer Break?

  • June 16, 2015 at 12:17 pm
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    Well, you’re starting with the assumption that 1) Time spent in school is more valuable than time spent out of school, and that 2) Parents should not be inconvenienced by having to find summer care.

    While I do sympathize with parents who need both spouses to work, and understand the dilema of daycare, I do not believe that parenting is about convenience. Nor do I believe that it would be easier to find care during numerous short periods throughout the year than for one long break. Having been a day care provider, and having been a working Mom, I can tell you that part-time care is extremely difficult to find, and is often more expensive than full time care.

    But, to the more important point, what about their educations? You’re assuming that every child benefits from being in school, and from the education they recieve there. You’re also assuming that the education is more important than whatever they do over the summer that results in the time away.

    Yes, it would be more convenient to have kids in school year-round, but I, for one, don’t like the idea of a nanny state, in which my kids spend more waking hours in school than they do at home. Summer has, traditonally, been a time for us to reconnect, to experience things they can’t get while in school, like overnight camp. Even if there were multiple breaks during the summer, leaving time for things like that, it would be far too disruptive to let my son, for example, do an overnight camp, then expect him to come home and go back to school. He needs time to decompress and adjust back into the normal routine. He wouldn’t get that.

    Kids need downtme, and I honestly don’t believe it should be a school’s responsibility to provide what boils down to year-round daycare. Yes, education is valuable. So is free, unstructured time, and so are the many experiences summer allows our kids to partake in. A child’s mind is more than how many facts can be stuffed into it.

    Reply
    • June 16, 2015 at 12:51 pm
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      To address the assumptions.

      1, I’m sorry but I think you missed my point. it isn’t that school is more important than family time. It is that grouping all of the breaks together is not beneficial. Shorter, more frequent breaks would still get a chance to unwind, and experience those other things you mentioned.

      I am not supporting a “any state” there wouldn’t be more school it would just be spaced out differently. Over night camp was for me a week long. I think a two week break in July could easily accommodate that. Maybe another week in August can handle the family vacation.

      2, This assumption that I am making is not one of connivance it is of ability. I know my daughters teachers are significantly better at teaching my child then I am. They have been trained in techniques and have skills I don’t.

      As for the daycare question, you are correct it isn’t the schools responsibility, but what is wrong with them helping shoulder the burden, especially for lower income families.

      Overall, I don’t hate summer, I just see more of an advantage to kids not being away for as long at one time. I believe that every benefit gained from summer break can still be achieved with more frequent shorter breaks.

      Thanks for reading and for caring enough to have and politely share an opinion. It is though discussion that great things happen.

      Reply
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