Saturday , April 13 2024

Summer Vacation – Why Kids (and Parents) Still Need It

The parent complaints about summer vacation started in early June. While most teachers drag themselves through the June heat to get to the end of the school year, some parents and other critics slam the idea of summer break as “antiquated” and “disruptive” (these are words I’ve heard them using). They don’t want to hear about studies that show summer vacation is an important part of their children’s learning process. They just want all year round school.

The antiquated part comes from the notion that kids get summers off from schools because of the “agrarian calendar” that was designed to let them be free to work on family farms. This concept goes back to the 1800s when there were a great many more students who lived on farms. However, many more students lived in hot, sweaty cities. 

With no air conditioning at the time, city schools would be sweltering hot boxes where learning would be difficult if not impossible. This included children of wealthy families who wanted to get out of town and to their breezy seaside estates. The school calendar’s summer break is the way it is due to the insufferable city schools just as much as it is based on the agrarian factor.

Whatever the reason our children have this time off, it is important to realize that the kids need this time off just as much as their teachers who worked so hard to teach them for ten months of the year. Kids are very adaptable, but ten months is a long time to be in a building that is not home six or more hours a day. 

Children reach a breaking point, and my son definitely reached this point seemingly earlier this year. Ten months of wearing a mask all day in school – with brief times outside for mask breaks – became too much for him. He tried so hard to be with the program, to study hard and participate and even give presentations wearing a frigging mask. But these last few days of June were tough on him.

Kids need time to be free to run, jump, play, participate in sports, swim, and just lay on the grass and stare up at the sky with no time limits. Yes, there should be time to read and keep math skills sharp, His school gives him a summer packet which includes reading a book, and I’m happy about that, but I also want him to have free time in which he is truly free.

Still, the parents who said summer vacation is disruptive are thinking about their schedules more than anything else. Because most people have to work and many are now going into work instead of working from home, the disruption is not knowing what to do with the kids when they’re home.

Hence we have all sorts of camps – full day camps, half day camps, sleep away camps, educational classes and more. While these are necessary options for some, a number of parents who are able to take vacation days decide to spend more quality time with their kids. This is the best aspect of summer vacation for us.

I am an educator and have been observing teachers and students for many years. I can tell you that teachers reach the end of the educational rope by the last weeks of June. Good teachers pour so much of their hearts and souls into their work, they truly become exhausted by the end of the year and deserve time off. After all, they have been in the classroom with your kids for ten months. Now they need time to spend time with their own children. 

As a parent I do understand the other side and realize that not everyone has the good fortune to have summer free like I do. Some parents cannot get the time off or, because of the pandemic, lost jobs and have new ones that require them to be there in person. For these people, camps and programs are indispensable. 

If you can work from home, there is still a factor of not wanting the kids to interrupt meetings and work. Depending on the age levels of their children, this can be ideal or a disaster. Those who have an older child hopefully can count on that child to engage their younger siblings and keep them out of view of the Zoom meeting. I know someone who pays the older child like a babysitter. It’s not such a bad idea at all. 

If you have the ability to be off with your children, take advantage of this time to be with them. Take day trips to the beach, parks, and museums. If possible, take a vacation. Things are opening up again  and it is a marvelous opportunity to learn about other places and people in person instead of online or in books. 

We have taken our children on trips domestically and internationally. Even during the summer of 2020 we took trips to get out of the city to see different domestic places. These experiences are so rewarding and allow you to get to know your children in a different way. You are experiencing these places – their history, their cuisine, and culture –together! We are still planning for this summer, but we are definitely going to get away again this year.

Summer vacation provides so many chances for kids to forget about school rules, time restrictions, and assignment deadlines. They are only young for a short time. Our oldest child got a job this summer, so it is not the same summer for us this year, but we are dealing with it as best as we can. We are still going to spend time together and do things that cannot be done during the school year.  

Remember it will never be summer 2021 ever again. Try to enjoy every minute of it!     

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His new novel, 'Unicorn: A Love Story,' is available as an e-book and in print.

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