Millions of kids miss out on summer learning
Whole Body Math Games are demonstrated at the National Summer Learning Association's 2010 Summer Changes Everything national conference.
June 21st, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Millions of kids miss out on summer learning

Courtesy National Summer Learning AssociationBy Gary Huggins, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Thursday is Summer Learning Day. Gary Huggins is CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, a national nonprofit organization based in Baltimore that connects and equips schools, providers, communities and families to deliver high-quality summer learning opportunities to our nation’s youth to help close the achievement gap and support healthy development.

There’s a flaw in our summer equation.

Summer break is a treasured American tradition that arose from the need for children to work on farms during the warm-weather months. But while summer is a special time of year, it’s turning into a missed opportunity, at a huge cost.

It seems that for many, summer vacation has now come to equal not just a break from school, but a break from any kind of learning. Summer means freedom for schoolchildren to do absolutely nothing, for three long months.

There is nothing wrong with taking breaks. Everyone needs them. Time off from the regular school routine and curriculum allows students and teachers to recharge their batteries and do things differently.

But we collectively pay a steep bill for our prolonged break from learning. Research shows students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer than they do at the beginning. Most students lose two months’ worth of math skills each summer, and low-income children lose another two to three months in reading, putting them chronically behind their better-off peers. That’s an incredible waste of the resources we pour into the school year.

Here’s the real flaw in the equation. Our attitude toward summer tells young people that summer is for fun and not learning. Therefore, what we’re really telling them is that learning is the opposite of fun.

What a sad message, and what an inaccurate conclusion. Because learning is the most fun you can have. You can have it together, as a family. From birth, children are wired for learning. Their earliest learning experiences arise from play and curiosity, which should be key components of summer learning for all ages – and are an important part of the best summer learning programs in the country today.

At Summer Scholars in Denver, for instance, “Whole Body Math Games” blend physical activity with strategy, teamwork and quick figuring that makes practicing math anything but boring. Harlem RBI marries learning and baseball in New York, and Higher Achievement, a program in several East Coast cities, holds an annual Olympics of the Mind. In California, THINK Together offers a summer curriculum for middle-school students based on “The Hunger Games.” The HIVE Learning Network in New York will hold a “Summer Code Party” for tech-savvy teens and tweens to learn about Tumblr themes and a Web design app from Mozilla. School district summer learning programs not modeled on the old, punitive summer schools of the past can allow teachers to employ innovative instructional techniques to take back to the school-year classroom. That’s happening now in cities such as Baltimore; Pittsburgh; Oakland, California; Jacksonville, Florida and Providence, Rhode Island.

Summer, it turns out, is actually the perfect season for learning.

Many of the same children who say they want to “do nothing” in summer are in fact doing a lot of learning. Parents with the means pay for their children to indulge their passions at robotics camp, drama camp, dance camp or music camp. These are the same middle-class children who have ready access to books and make slight gains in reading during the summer while their lower-income peers, without the same choice of reading material close at hand, fall further and further behind each school year because they have not been reading over the summer. These disparities create a large part of the achievement gap in reading, which, McKinsey & Co. found, costs us all dearly.

According to a national survey by the Afterschool Alliance, 14 million children attend summer learning programs and another 24 million children would if they could. But low-income parents often cannot afford the kinds of programs and experiences that families of means can provide.

If you are spending this summer with your child, it’s easy to make it a learning season by reading as a family, practicing math while cooking, and calculating baseball stats together as you watch your favorite team. If your kids love using the computer, guide them to learning games from PBS KIDS or to find new books to read at BookAdventure.com. And help others by supporting summer learning programs in your school district that provide learning and enrichment for the kids who need those opportunities most.

Let vacation be vacation, but don’t let it be a vacuum. The best kinds of vacations are filled with indelible experiences that help people of any age develop, grow – and, yes, learn.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gary Huggins.

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Filed under: Curriculum • Policy • Practice • Summer learning • Voices
soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Esther

    We're NOT telling them that learning is the opposite of fun...We've just given them a narrow view of what "learning" looks like - many in the country think learning looks like a bunch of kids sitting in desks in rows, listening to a trained teacher talk and completing boring assignments. How appealing is that? The world is full of rich learning opportunities and all people are naturally wired to be curious and to learn. It's the way we school in this that country that tends to destroy that natural curiosity. My home schooled children don't think learning is drudgery and they don't celebrate when we take a school break - they ask when we're going to do school again. My son is appalled to hear his government-schooled friends say they hate to learn. I suggest "Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling" by John Taylor Gatto.

    July 3, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  2. Mastiffs4evr

    Although I understand the frustration of parents having to leave work in order to pick up their children at dismissal time or when they're sick, I don't feel that it's necessarily the school's responsibility to provide child care until all parents have ended their work day. Consider the fact that not all parents work the same hours or shifts. The cafeteria would need to provide another meal, and sleeping arrangements would have to be made for those children who would end up spending the night. Additional staff would need to be added plus each school system's utility bills would by enormous. So....with the government slashing most school's budgets at this time, I cannot see the money being provided to extend the school day by any length whatsoever. If by some chance, it did happen, taxes would soar sky high!!

    The school district in which I live provides many free activities plus free lunch all summer. also, many

    July 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Mastiffs4evr

      Sorry – there wa a malfunction and was unable to finish my sentence. Meant to say that the parks and libraries have many free activities for students. I do understand, however, that if you are rural, it might be a problem.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  3. I Did Nothing Too

    I too did nothing over many of my summer breaks and I'm still pretty darn smart. Summer break is the best time of a child's life and as your article says, it is a treasured American tradition. Sure we could use the time to learn, but what fun is that? Isn't the whole idea of being child to have fun while we still can? Why would we force them to give that up?

    July 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  4. Chris

    In my area many of the public schools (K-6) are going to a year-round schedule in order to accommodate more students. You get 9 weeks on, 3 weeks off and that cycles throughout the year. I actually prefer that for my children since they get more frequent rests (and vacations) and they don't need to spend a month in September getting back into the groove of learning.

    July 2, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  5. El Diablo

    Interesting, so does that mean I've missed 12 years of Math skills since I finished college?

    July 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  6. momtoschoolkids

    Please. My kids learn more about everything when they are home with me. So I guess this means the author thinks himself to be an idiot? Because I'm sure the school he went to had summer break, all that loss of learning must have made him too stupid for life.

    July 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  7. Mei

    It is very true that lower income children miss out on all the summer activities. Camp is expensive and even small day programs can be expensive for those who can barely afford to buy food each month. Summer also costs parents more to feed the children who might get a free meal at school. Summer programs at regular school site would be wonderful, though having no summer vacation at all would be ideal. I also think they should make school as long as work hours, so parents don't have to leave work to bring children to daycare or babysitter. There is a huge need for both and we should follow the lead of other nations with better academic records.

    July 1, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  8. Daniel J.

    Kids attend camps, summer programs at church and in the community. They learn how to swim, they read, and they play sports. Travel and community involvement greatly increase with the free time. As they get older, they start doing yard work and house chores, learning about household maintenance and domestic responsibilities. They mow lawns, water plants, and house/dog/baby sit around the neighborhood, learning the value of labor. Eventually, they get summer jobs that teach them any number of valuable skills for employment, depending on where they work. Some teenagers take on summer internships or become active as volunteers.

    I am pretty young (23 years old), and I cannot remember a summer in which just "did nothing." My older sister used her summers to work and volunteer at day cares, church kid groups, and hospitals. She is currently a pediatrician in New York. Summer is a great, and unique, opportunity for learning. Yes, it also involves fun, but fun is not synonymous with laziness.

    This author is out of touch, presumptuous, and insulting.

    July 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Narine

      My sentiments exactly, well stated!!! A lot of high school students also sign up for college courses or catch up on missed units and travel to spent precious time with relatives that live outside of the country or state. However, it is the responsibility of the parents to make sure that summers are spent productively; unfortunately, some may end up doing nothing, but then again, they can do nothing throughout an entire year, not just in the summer.

      July 1, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Mei

      You were very fortunate then to have all those opportunities. That is not the case with many children in rural areas (where programs are either too costly or too far away to travel to given gas expense). Also, rural areas and even urban areas do not offer the same comfort or security level that middle class neighborhood might for children to do minor jobs (like babysitting or yard work). It really depends where you live and given abuse problems and other issues that parents worry about, I think getting rid of summer vacation would be better.

      July 1, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Eddie

      You had an upbringing like mine, but (and I HATE to say this) you and I were privileged. We had parents that valued learning experiences and building a work ethic. Sadly, not everyone does.

      July 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  9. cc

    I don't think it's possible, politically, to have year-round school. Fortunately that isn't necessary to have year-round education. The best education comes from work-not only do you learn how to do something (hopefully something new) but you also learn how to do things like show up on time, give value for your wages, and deal with possibly unpleasant reality. Unfortunately the government has greatly restricted the opportunities for kids to work-that might be why the new generations expect everything to be given to them, because they've never had to (or been able to) work to get what they want. If all they grow up with is "gimmee, gimmee, gimmee" then how else would you expect them to react once they become 'adults'?

    July 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Chris

      In my area we now have many public schools on a year-round schedule (not at the high school level due to athletic programs and summer jobs) and I think it's much better. 9 weeks in school, 3 weeks off, repeat throughout the year. The kids (and teachers) get more breaks to stay refreshed, and then they don't have to waste a month in September on "getting back into the groove."

      July 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  10. Steve

    Education is not nesessarelly a formal schoolastic endevor. Everything experienced by everyone is information input and process and qualiflies as educational. So we forget some things quickly and some not. Heck, I even forgot this guy's name while writing this. I am not going to try to remember or even look back. Summer is too short at my age and so that makes this weekend even more precious and the time looking back at the top to relearn his name. Well you get my drift. Ta ta...

    June 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • cc

      You're right that education goes beyond formal schooling-but not all experience is educational. Maybe it could be, but education depends on learning-and many people never learn from their experiences, they keep making the same mistakes over and over.

      July 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  11. Willow

    Part of the problem is that too many parents are not being responsible. I'm not saying all parents aren't responsible, but too many arte not. They are using schools as day care during the other 9 months out of the year, and not making sure their kids get educational activities during the summer months. A lot of parents need to do their jobs and actually be parents. Just because you are biologically a child's mother or father doesn't mean you're parenting that child. You need to actually be involved in your child's life.

    June 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Willow

      Sorry, that should be are. They need to give us an edit function.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • AnotherAnnie

      I agree with you – and it is the same parents who treat school as a day care during the school year who do not make their children do their homework, or their required reading in elementary school. They are the same parents who make excuses for their children's poor behavior, and they can always seems to afford expensive sneakers, headphones, game systems, and cell phones for their kids, so why not books? And if cost is really a problem, well good thing there is a public library. You can borrow the books for free! However, the children who most need to read them don't want know, like to (or in some cases even know how to) read. The only time you'd catch them in the library is to stop and use the restroom or ask for directions.

      June 30, 2012 at 2:31 am |
    • Valerie

      Since the dawn of time people have been saying this. Welcome to the world! Hey, remember when Elvis was ruining things because he was getting the girls all excited with his hip shaking? And God forbid, parents actually LET their daughters watch this on television??? OMG! Stop the world!!! THESE YOUTH TODAY! And their God Awful parents! Haha!!

      June 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Fed Up

      Today, kids are seen as profit centers – either from the welfare mothers who have multiple children they cannot afford (but expect tax dollars to fund their free rent, daycare, cell phones, cable, etc.) as well as the school system administrators that want warm bodies in seats just to get funding to line their pockets. It's a shame – a costly, evil shame.

      June 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
      • Mei

        Look up statistics on welfare and the majority on them are parents with only one child. Those who have "multiple children" are actually not in the majority and do not stay on as long as the parents with less children. I could never understand that but it is in the statistics. People like to judge other people by the cover. They see a big family in the store and assume they know it all. But they don't.

        July 1, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • EOK

      These cliche are getting old geeeeez, get a life!

      July 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  12. lee s

    Wow, all of those kids are obese, and probably will be their whole lives, even their teacher is a fatso....What happened? Dies anyone else find it ironic a diet pill was approved the fda the same day as the healthcare reform was upheld by the supreme court? Education is not the only problem in this country, the world is laughing at us. Wouldnt you?

    June 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • pot and kettle

      Lee: Please learn and employ the use of grammar and punctuation. Is it worse to allow oneself to be overweight or to allow oneself to write as if uneducated?

      July 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  13. Title

    Not all learning relates to math or reading or the subjects taught in school. There is nothing wrong with identifying summer as a time to relax and have fun and to stay away from those structured, planned activities that drive formal learning. I learned a lot growing up during the summer by hiking through our local forest with my friends or going down to the lake and seeing what the environment was like there. It's more important kids get outside and experience different things. People like this are just trying to sell their product. Yes, there is learning loss during an extended break, but that should be taken care of as school starts back up by taking a couple weeks to review materials and lead into the next phase of learning.

    June 29, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  14. Jay

    I, myself, am extremely lucky to live in a very rich, liberal area. The people in my district are middle to upper class families, and these are the kids who are pushed to read, study, and do things other than watch tev.

    June 29, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • lee s

      A liberal area has nothing to do with not watching tv and encouraging reading, thats just common sense. Get over yourself. I come from a very conservative area and we did the same. Derp. TBH most of the problems stem from liberal social policies that encourage everyone to "feel good" no matter what etc. This whats dragging our school sysem down, we need to reward the kids that do well instead of holding them back with everyone else. If your kid cant keep up, its on you, as a parent. No one else. The MAIN problem with our education system starts at home with lack of discipline and just " let the tv handle it" In the school systemt he teachers hands are tied while kidss can get away with whatever they want with minimal consequences, one slip up form a teacher and its a lawsuit and kiss your career goodbye/

      June 29, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  15. Neil

    When I went to school you didn't have all the breaks thru the year as you do now. Kids use to be out of school by late May and not back in until Labor day. Now most don't get out until early June and back in by mid August. Now many districts are only out 6 to 8 weeks. Not 12 to 14 weeks like many use to be out. My son was not at school 45 days last year from start to finish because of days taken out of the schedule during the school year. Yes some of those days were holidays and such. But my point is that proponents of shorter summers are mostly people who work for the school system. It has more to do with teachers who want more breaks thru the year than it does with learning. Parents don't have child sitters and can take off 2.5 weeks off anytime they want just to apease the school systems.

    June 29, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  16. Grace

    I work in a school district where about 80% of our students come from low-income homes, receiving free or reduced lunch. While some children are able to retain material from the previous school year, it is clear that most lose A LOT over the summer. It's really sad when I talk to students in the fall. Many children don't do anything at all in the summer except watch TV or play video games. They rarely play outside, don't go on trips to local farms or museums... they are missing out on so many experiences.

    June 28, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Lettie

      It truly is sad when children aren't able to participate in many of those things, and there is no question that getting outdoors is, by far, one of the best ways to keep kids active (and is also a great way to help educate); however, outdoor activities tend to be limited in areas where the heat index is unhealthy for them to be outside for extended periods of time.... (::shakes head::) I know a lot of parents across varying socio-economic degrees that do as much as they can for their kids to be safely entertained and educated indoors – without the use of mindless entertainment. (At home – not necessarily by way of camps and other sources.)

      June 29, 2012 at 2:43 am |
    • nearly70

      Summer is for learning creativity. For spinning out and letting the real mind explore, experiment and learn very valuable lessons in who they are, what they like......it is a healing time. A time for being kids.

      We as kids put on summer 'theatre' for our families in back yards with sheets on the clotheslines for our show curtains. We wrote the plays and squabbled over who was going to be the star. We played hide-n-seek til dusk scarring ourselves silly by jumping out from behind bushes. We got renewed. We were kids. Became stronger kids full of self expression free from the demands of adults to do it a specific way. Just sitting under the pear tree smelling the ripe pears in the summer heat, starring out into space with our own thinking minds developing without canned have-to's from some standardized tests and stiff classroom experiences we have during the rest of the year.

      Why is it such a crime to be able to be a kid in the USA? Do we want to become like Korea and China where children go to school or study for 16 hours a day, all year long and no self expression is ever learned? Where the child suicide rate and depression is very high? Why do we want that for our kids?

      June 29, 2012 at 9:52 am |
      • always learning

        Nearly70: take a look around you. Highly educated Koreans and Chinese and Indians occupy the vast majority of science, engineering and physician jobs in the USA. Why? They're EDUCATED! "Let kids be kids" is an idea that needs to go the way of the dinosaur. Children don't have to learn in the classroom all the time but they must always be learning. Doing a mind dump every summer while the rest of the world's kids are still learning is why our jobless rate is growing.

        July 1, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • lee s

      The majority of probalems are from lack of parenting is what you are tying to say? I know some teahcers in low income schools, what a nightmare it sounds like. 3rd graders sayig "F You" to a tacher, an 8 year old saing that....Id strangle the little mutt,

      June 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
      • grammar still needed here

        Lee: please go back to your trailer in rural Florida. Your grits are a burnin' over.

        July 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • AnotherAnnie

      I've been a public school teacher in a Title I school that was 95% low income, and IMO, the reason so many students "lose" knowledge over the summer isn't so much because they don't use it, it is because they only learned the material partially or at a superficial level. They cram low level facts, rules, and definitions to pass their tests, but they don't really master the concepts. Any time students actually master a concept, regardless of their income level, it stays with them for the long term. Many of my low income students have returned years later, when they were in high school, to THANK me for making them learn the basics of writing well. The qualities of good writing apply everywhere – and because they learned the necessary skills to a mastery level, it still served them well beyone middle school and into high school (the children I taught in 6th and 7th grade haven't graduated high school yet, but I just know their skills will them them in college too!). I tend to think that we sell low-income kids short with a culture of low expectations. When forced to conform to a higher standard, my students did very well. Oh – and in my classroom, there was no achievement gap. My school was a minority-majority school, and the Black and Hispanic students performed as well as, or better in some cases, than their white peers. White students only made up about 9% of the school population.

      June 30, 2012 at 2:41 am |
  17. ts

    for those who learned so many things during the summer,i.e, baseball, cards, swimming, bike riding, tie shoes, climb trees, catch fire flies, watch tad poles turn into frogs etc.. could you not learn any of that during the school year, and lets not forget winter break, spring break, the holidays they have off? I dont get it? Then when the child fails parents what to blame "the system"

    June 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Teaching No More

      The kind of summer you describe is not at all what the kids of welfare mothers are experiencing – these are the kids that show up for school in the middle of winter without a coat or mittens (and yes, I've seen it first hand) or boots. The so-called "mothers" want them out of the house for as long as possible and want to put in zero effort in the lives or learning of their offspring (which usually is a house full of kids she cannot afford.) I've had to make a home visit for a student who had their door wide open in the middle of winter – the mother very clearly told me she didn't care because "I don't pay the ******* bill, *****!" Nice, huh?

      June 28, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  18. ts

    I guess not many really read this part.......Research shows students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer than they do at the beginning. Most students lose two months’ worth of math skills each summer, and low-income children lose another two to three months in reading, putting them chronically behind their better-off peers. That’s an incredible waste of the resources we pour into the school year.

    I believe your child can enjoy the summer break but a little reading or an something productive wouldnt hurt...I have my son read at least 2xs a week... and do a crossword puzzle or something basic....just to keep the ball rolling. My sons education is very important and him falling back is not an option. In no way does he miss out on fun.. also..whats the big deal with fun during the summer only.. do you not take your kids out during the school year or let them go out to play?? I dont get that..

    June 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  19. Taysha

    Kids need to be KIDS. Children are not scholars and we are doing them a disservice by pushing them to learn, learn, learn and study, study, study. Free play, running around half wild and hanging out with friends, THAT is what summer is for. It's for enjoying the freedom you put away during the school year. You learn about the bugs you catch, about relaxing, about playing with others and entertaining yourself. Maybe you learn to find your hobby, maybe you read a dozen books. When was the last time children were encouraged to read for the sake of living a new adventure, rather than the accomplishment of have read x number of books? I never read a book as a child because my parents/teachers wanted me to read more. I had to discover what reading was all about, THEN go back and read those books they had tried to force on me. And I LOVED them. Anything that was ever forced on me so I would 'learn' I never did learn, and I resented.
    Trying to turn everything into a 'learning experience' ruins the experience for everyone involved. Sometimes, a visit to a zoo is just a visit to a zoo.

    June 28, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  20. Mastiffs4evr

    Agree with Elena, James, and RyGuy- there's more to learning than the school curriculum (and I am a teacher). In the summer when I was a kid, I learned the following: how to play softball, badminton, and all sorts of board and card games. I learned how to ride a bike, roller skate, ride a horse, and swim. I also had the opportunity to learn sewing, cooking, and photography through a 4-H club. My friends and I spent many nights camping in our backyards and were frequently at the public library reading what WE wanted to read. We hiked and explored caves (with an adult). All of these experiences were free and the learning that took place was priceless and FUN!!

    June 28, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Mei

      Sounds wonderful, but I think the world has changed a lot since we were younger. Today parents fear for those who might harm their children (they distrust adults who work with their kids) and they have every right to be worried (as abuse is epidemic, according to statistics). I did many of those things you mention here, but I was abused as a kid and back then, people didn't believe me or want to face the truth. I was told to "never speak of it again" when I told a supposed safe adult. There are areas that are too rural or too urban or too poor to offer programs for the lower income children. They are the ones who suffer most and we all know the class gap in this country is growing wider and wider. Those with money can offer things to their children (lessons at home or at some prestige school), but the poor have little academic choices left when both parents are working to support them (often with multiple jobs).

      July 1, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  21. elana

    Also, some of the TOP school in the world do LESS schooling than we do, not more. It is important to keep in mind that children are learning all the time. On the playground, playing with legos, putting on a dance concert in the living room. These things will not show up on a 'test', but it is knowledge gained in life, and tools that help you navigate the world!

    June 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  22. elana

    This may be an 'uneducated' statement, but doesn't every town have a library? Even poor towns? If someone CARES enough to get their children engaged and learning, that is all anyone needs. Not money.

    June 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Judy

      Public library is a wonderful resource for every community . Unfortunately, not every town has one, and the existing ones are all facing budget cuts and the threat of closure. So, support your library and don't let your city council or whoever has the final say close your community's library!

      June 28, 2012 at 10:54 am |
      • Fed Up

        Libraries have become nothing more than an extended daycare – parents drop them off or don't supervise them when they are there. I've seen kids literally destroy hundreds of dollars in books and the local library says "we don't intervene" on these matters. No – I get to pay higher taxes to support this garbage! (Oh, let's not forget the free summer lunch programs!)

        June 28, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  23. James

    Many children will get the opportunity to learn more things they are interested in during the summer than during the school year. They get the chance to go out and explore and read for fun, not because they have to pass a test. Increased TV is a problem along with a lot of the video games (not all). Most teachers I'm around are the same way which makes them a more "well-rounded" teacher.

    June 27, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  24. RyGuy3000

    As a parent and single father, I see myself as solely responsible for my child's education. 365 days a year life in itself is a learning experience. The school districts (especially in AZ where I live) can teach their curriculum and I have mine. I make more money than almost all my firends and I never went to college. Educate yourselves!

    June 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  25. Overseas Mom

    Here in Hong Kong, schools break over the summer for 6 to 8 weeks, early/mid July through August. BUT: the kids have summer homework, ranging from 5-10 pages of handouts for pre-schoolers to 100+ page workbooks and completion of a reading log (recommended to read a few pages everyday) for grade-schoolers. Not sure yet what is done in high school as my children aren't there yet.

    I think this is the other extreme and frankly too much. As such, I do agree that U.S. allows way too much down time with no structured expectation of any learning, i.e. no homework (not that I minded when I was a kid).

    June 26, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  26. Kids Read Now

    We're so glad we found this article, because it's the precise reason our organization came into being. Now in our second year, Kids Read Now aims to prevent the loss of reading skills over summer break for kids in early elementary years. This year we have 2500 kids in 40 schools in Ohio, Georgia and New York. In addition to free books the kids pick in the spring, we use automated phone and text technology to stay in touch with families all summer, cheering them on and helping them track their reading time. As they hit milestones, we send additional books in the mail–like Christmas in July! It's going really well and we're finding growing demand for the program, so we're looking for sponsors and donors to help us expand. Check us out at KidsReadNow.org, or on FB or Twitter. We'd love to hear from you. Happy summer reading!

    June 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  27. The Truth

    Summer vacation is a learning experience and is just as important as regular school. It is a change of pace and gets children out of the comfort zone of a regimented lifestyle of going to school. School is the time to learn valuable skills they will need like math, science, history and language. Summer vacation is the time to utilize those skills in real world environments. Beyond those skills summer vacation gives them a chance to develop other skills and knowldege that are not available or too time consuming during school time. Summer vacation time should not be looked upon as a break from learning. If parents do this, to put it nicely they are terrible parents. No matter your financial situation there are plenty of ways and activities to make a child's summer vacation time a great oppertunity to learn and develop and just as important to have fun.

    June 26, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • elana

      True that!

      June 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  28. Successful Career Chic

    My parents were not able to afford to send us to camp but there were lots of free books to read in the summer time...

    June 26, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Frank Tillery

      That was a great. Our school district provides a summer reading list for all students from 1st thru 12th grades. It is voluntary but those who participate can continue with the usual reading tests that we require during the school year. Reading is fundamental and will always be beneficial. Two or three books over the summer break is not a lot to ask.

      June 27, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  29. John

    When I was growing up, school did not start until 1-3 days after Labor Day and never went any later than Memorial Day.

    During my high school years, I did a lot of fishing and played tennis all summer. The latter was a good way to meet chicks.

    Now, that's the way to spend a summer.

    I think I needed that much time off and so did my teachers.

    One summer I did get Solid Geometry out of the way so I didn't have to take it during the year in a summer class – I think it took about 3 weeks 5 days a week from 8:00 AM until noon.

    June 25, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  30. AppalachianMom

    I taught in Victoria, Australia for several years. They had a three part year, and after two of the three parts there was a 2-21/2 week break. The "summer break" during Christmas down under was longer- 6 weeks or so. It was a great schedule! The kids got a break, the teachers got a break, we were all ready to resume at the end of each teaching period. Families had time to travel or just spend time together. Something worth considering?

    June 25, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  31. BD

    Having summers off allows children to create an identity for themselves. I can't imagine what sort of person I would have turned out to be if I hadn't had the summer to explore the things that interest me. I do think programs and camps are good, especially for urban kids whose parents work. That said, I think its very important to strike a balance that gives kids enough free time to find themselves and develop strong social ties.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  32. TheToaster

    A number of things bother me about this article and the comments that followed. First off, information isn't "lost" over summer, it becomes unfamiliar. There's a huge difference between a couple of weeks familiarizing yourself and you are back up to speed vs. having to start at square one. Second, time off from institutionalized learning gives the opportunity to get a much more valuable learning experience; socializing, managing free time, developing hobbies, and real world experience outside of sitting at a desk is arguably more valuable than time spent in a classroom. This was one of my major points of contention with the article because it seems to dismiss time not spent in a classroom as "wasted". Third, most time spent in a classroom is "wasted". Color this map, memorize something meaningless, jump through this hoop. School doesn't become meaningful until you hit college and start training for a career, but until that point it's mostly glorified day care. Nearly everything meaningful and important about life and myself I have learned outside of the confines of a mandatory jail-esque "learning center" we like to call schools. When I look back at my straight A's, honor rolls, honor classes, AP classes, near-perfect SAT score (perfect math score), and perfect state standardized testing scores all I can think of is how over sold it all was. How useless these accolades are and how much of what is taught is also useless is all I can think of when I reflect on my pre-college schooling. Even college has a lot of unnecessary fat that needs to be trimmed. School is just a hoop you are forced to jump through to gain the privilege of certain opportunities. To see people advocating MORE time spent in the classroom and LESS time spent in the real world is infuriating to say the least. Summer is an important time for self-discovery and personal choices, don't mandate anything. And for the love of god, don't send your kids to a camp over summer (unless it is their idea and they beg to go).

    June 25, 2012 at 4:59 am |
  33. nicole

    "Summer break is a treasured American tradition that arose from the need for children to work on farms during the warm-weather months. "

    not true. Schools were year round (often just taking off for major holidays, like Christmas), until some developmental experts/philosophers decided, basically, that kids needed extended breaks (due to now discredited theories). Planting and harvesting seasons vary regionally, but summer was basically weeding and watch the crops grow time here, not anything compared to what planting and harvesting would be like in the pre tractor era. Kids who had to work the fields just wouldn't show up to school, and I suppose some schools would call off, but it was definitely a case by case deal,

    Even middle class families often cannot afford good programs- I know my baby brothers are having a summer pieced together with cheap sports camps, free library programs, swim lessons, and cheap/free bible schools (coming from an, at best, agnostic family). Camps run $150 a week, half day classes (like Lego robotics) run $100-200 a week- just way beyond affordable. But they do benefit from having a family that emphasizes learning.

    June 25, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  34. teachergirl

    I am a teacher in a middle to upper middle income school district. The teachers in my district beat their brains against the wall trying to cram the mandated curriculum into the 180+ days of our school year. There is never enough time to do a thorough job – we are never personally satisfied with the job we do. There are also so many state mandates, tests etc which also distract from the time to deliver the curriculum. I think school should go into the summer, at least half days during the summer. However, I live in upstate NY – not very many schools are air conditioned and I will tell you that it is absolute hell teaching the last month or two of school – especially if there is a hot spell. All year school makes a lot of sense to me but our facilities are not equipped to handle it.

    June 24, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Adam

      That is a very valid point it's not just the schools in NY either. As you said most school's do not have A/C and trying to teach in the kind of heat we had last week would have been impossible. The amount of money it would take to get schools climate controlled and with state budgets being what they are the Summer vacation will be here to stay for a long, long time.

      June 25, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  35. markaabbott

    Great article. I've witnessed the THINK Together after school program and they are fantastic. I'm sure the other programs are wonderful too. Some of the creative educational games that THINK comes up with are amazing. Also several of the comments above say that kids should just go to the library during the summer. Well when only 18% of low income kids go to college and fewer than 9% actually graduate from college, it just seems that the library isn't working anymore. Great YouTube video on THINK Together here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lE-hIh2ivk&sns=em

    June 24, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  36. AZ

    I don't believe that fun learning is as effective as some serious learning. I agree with the author. Summer vacations should be utilized properly and we should inculcate in the minds of kids to be in a tempo of being a serious student always.

    June 24, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • SCD

      The author's view is too narrow. Children need time to learn through play with sports, arts-and-crafts, outdoor activities, and drama. There is much more to learning than the three R's (reading, writing, and arithmetic). The literature on play based learning demonstrates that free play makes kids better able to problem solve, more resilient, emotionally healthy, and better citizens who get along well with peers. What is more important for life–social problem solving, relating to others and emotional well-being or being able to complete math problems and answer reading comp questions at a higher percentile rank than peers?

      June 24, 2012 at 9:45 am |
      • AnneSD

        You have a point that play-based learning is important, but what I see is that, at least in my city, many neighborhoods have only a very few children and those may vary widely in age from preschool to college. When I grew up (in several different cities across the country), there were a lot more children in the neighborhoods, both from more families having children and from parents having more children. Back then, it was relatively easy to find someone nearby to play with. Now it is not quite so easy in many neighborhoods, so the children are inside playing alone or playing video games. Not exactly an ideal socialization experience.

        June 27, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Jones

      I'm guessing you haven't taught any children? I worked with children aged 4 through high school as part of my grad school internship and when we made learning fun they learned a great deal more than the poor souls who wouldn't participate. Those who sat by themselves and had parents who didn't like the fun aspects of learning, simply did not learn as thoroughly as when we had fun in groups.

      June 26, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
      • John

        I realize I was an atypical child, but I deeply resented the 'fun' learning activities, not because I had a problem with fun, but because for me, there wasn't any *learning*, and it tended to make things take *longer* for the kids who 'got it' in the first place. Imagine you, as an adult, got told by your boss that you *had* to spend the next 30 minutes playing a 'fun activity' to help you memorize your multiplication tables. Suppose further that you told your boss that you already know your multiplication tables just fine, thank you, and you would prefer to spend the next 30 minutes reading about something you *don't* know instead, but your boss said you *have* to participate in the activity, "because it will help *reinforce* your memory."

        This is essentially what my childhood experience was like: teacher would say something to the class. I would get it. The rest of the class (mostly) didn't, so the teacher spent the next 2-3 days trying to get us all excited about some activity or worksheet or whatever to help "learn" what I already got in the first five minutes. And I had to plod along with everybody else because the teacher couldn't fathom the idea that not everybody needs things repeated 100 times in order to learn it. The games were the worst of this, because there was no quick way out – with worksheets, etc. I at least had the option of finishing the work in a hurry and then reading or something while the rest of the class did their work.

        So when people start talking about 'summer learning,' and, god forbid, "year-round-schooling" I start to get worried for my kids, because for them, like me, summer is *main time* for learning, because you don't have 6-8 hours of nearly useless classroom time filling every day. I get that not everybody is like this, but it would be nice if, in 'helping' the slow learners, we don't punish the others.

        I agree with the author that learning is fun; but it doesn't necessarily follow that every 'fun' activity a teacher does contributes to learning.

        June 29, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  37. Hypocritical Parent

    The author has a point, albeit he looks soley to the educational system for resolution. Parental involvement/engagement in their kid's scholastic and learning activities is what's paramount, not only during the school season, but in the off-season as well. As a father of two (8&12), all too often I see parents relying exclusively on their kid's teachers to administer both the scholastic and developmental learning experiences. IMO, parents should stay engaged in their kids learning experiences year- round so they can recognize opportunities to reinforce key skills, especially with their own experiences. This works well for me and them. It not only helps me bond and empathize with my children, I (dare I say) actually learn something new in the process!

    June 24, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  38. jsun

    I'm wondering, if one were to dig deeper into this writer's background, if one of those Pearson lobbyists aren't promoting this mindset. Remember, the longer kids are in school standardized testing, the more money these companies take. If we went back to the old ways of teaching, as someone mentioned above, delving deeper into material and truly mastering skills, Pearson and companies like that would make less money. I also wonder if this writer would agree to pay teachers a regular salary if they did teach all year rather than the meager pittance they make now.

    June 23, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • FifthGeneration

      jsun - the pittance those teachers receive would not change with a year-round schedule. What they receive, now, is spread out over the entire twelve months, not just those months passed in the class room.

      I *DO* favor a year-round schedule for all students (divide the year into 4 periods of 13 weeks - go to school for 10 wks, have 3 wks for Family activities), as students would have more hours/days in the class room. Teachers would not be limited to 'teaching to the test'. And, even those who are presently chronically behind would have less time in which to fall behind.

      HOWEVER, a parent is a child's first teacher. As a parent, it was my obligation to ensure that my kids got whatever "enrichment" I could arrange, whether it was a free day at the museum or art gallery, or helping them find a stick-ball game in the neighborhood. Put a map on the kitchen table (covered with a clear plastic, of course), & take a trip around the country, or around the world. Look at each state (wipe up the milk on Wisconsin, Ross!), read about that state's history & culture. With your kids, cook some of the dishes from India as you read about Gandhi. There are a lot of ways that are not that expen$ive in which to encourage one's children to learn, even when not in the class room. But they DO require that a parent be diligent & attentive to their children.

      June 29, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  39. Duc L

    In many East Asia countries, summer break is only a "title". When I was there about 4 years ago, during summer we had to learn math and literature for the next school year so that we can easily re-learn it during the actual school year. It is a constant study process throughout the year and they don't really have any big breaks as American kids do. That explains why American kids have lower scores on standard tests

    June 23, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  40. reader

    The learning that takes place out of school during summer is invaluable. Younger children need to learn to ride their bikes, swim, tie shoes, climb trees, catch fire flies, watch tad poles turn into frogs. Older children who can stay home by themselves can learn to make their own lunches, do laundry, etc... All children can benefit from just trying to find something to do with friends or by themselves, problem solve, or just have time to do nothing but think and be bored. As long as you can limit the amount of screen time that your child has, there is so much learning that can be done this summer!

    June 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  41. Sally

    Having begun my teaching in a large school system in Wake Co. NC, they have lots of data regarding test scores in traditional schools' schedules(180 days over 10 months) vs. year round schools' schedules(180 days over 12 months with smaller breaks). Guess what? NO DIFFERENCE. In terms of retention of information, you still must reteach after a 2 week break or a 2.5 month break. Not sure where this guy is getting his "data" and "studies show" info from. I have friends who teach in other countries and their students are in class no more than ours are in the US so the idea that more hours sitting in a classroom leads to more learning isn't necessarily valid. The fact that other countries do better has to do with HOW we teach here in the US–wider curriculum vs a national one, over-reliance on instructional time being used on covering a huge curriculum and test prep/practice instead of delving deeper into subject matter until it is mastered. Teaching is NOT like it was when I was in school-ridiculous amount of curriculum that should be taught by parents now having to be covered in schools. Teachers must get advanced degrees/continuing ed. credits in order to stay in the classroom thus the need for summer breaks so teachers can keep their licensure valid-can't do it during the year since I bring too much school work home at night that must be graded. I DO agree that students should keep learning over the summer by reading, going to museums, camp, etc... but there is too little of that for low income students who can't afford it/have parents who are working multiple jobs trying to make ends meet.

    June 23, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Rmh

      For those low income families.... Library books are always free

      June 24, 2012 at 7:40 am |
      • Jessica

        The library is a great place for low income families to come during the summer. Most libraries have summer reading program that encourage kids to read and offer prizes as incentives. They also have special weekly (or in my libraries case, daily) programming. Everything at the library is free- books, movies, dvds, program, computer use...everything!

        June 27, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  42. Camp Director

    I'm blown away by the narrow mindedness of this writer. The type of learning that happens over summer vacation is just different than the type of learning that happens in school. Kids learn and grow so much over summer (especially those who are lucky enough to go to camp)... They are able to try new things, take risks, grow socially... just because it's fun doesn't mean they're not learning.

    June 23, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • tootfoot

      I agree with you about the value of the kind of learning that takes place outside of school, but also think there is something to the idea of formal learning gains being lost over such a long break. Perhaps the optimum solution would be to have both kinds of learning intertwined . . . all year 'round. Instead of a 2-1/2 month break all at once, split that up into a number of 2- or 3-week breaks. That would also allow for kids to spend a decent stretch of time engaging in winter activities as well as summer ones.

      June 26, 2012 at 12:12 am |
      • John

        Is breaking up the looong summer break into pieces the *only* way to keep those memories? If all you want kids to do over the summer is *retain* existing knowledge, (as opposed to gaining new knowledge,) couldn't you just as easily send home a packet of summer 'homework'? One 15-minute worksheet a day is probably all you need to keep those math skills fresh. Ditto for reading/language arts. And the kids who need it get the practice, and the kids who don't, well, at least they can finish it up in a hurry and get on with their lives, learning to scuba dive, or studying ants in their back yard, or perfecting their knuckleball or whatever else floats their boat.

        Mark Twain famously said "Never let your schooling interfere with your education." As a parent of two bright kids, my new motto is "Try not to let schooling interfere with my kids' education." – this is a tough one.

        June 29, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  43. Kim Richard Smith

    Formal education is highly overrated. We should ask the kids what they want to do this summer. Some would spend most of their free time reading; others would undoubtedly choose to go fishing most of the time. This would at least weed out the edumacated idiots.

    June 23, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  44. msp

    Reading the comments from some of these parents make me realize why our kids are in the state we are in. Sad. In deed.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • markaabbott

      Absolutely. I am baffled by these responses too.

      June 24, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  45. jack

    This is one of the worst opinions ever. First off, children didn't get summers off for working in the fields. That's nonsense. Second, and most important, is that almost all of the information we learn in school is forgotten. That's why we all crammed for tests growing up. We learned it quick, took a test, and kept a very small amount of it in a deep recessed memory that allows us to play along with Jeopardy on the television. Unless you are going into a field that requires a certificate (teaching, nursing, etc) or an actual license from the state (doctor, lawyer, etc) college is pretty much useless as well. Those "core requirements" we are all expected to take aren't worth anything more than money for credits. A normal freshman college student has taken some sort of "English" class since they were in first grade. Why make them take it in college? Taking the joy of summer away from a child would be an abomination and would in fact lead to childhood depression.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  46. Will completeit

    Summer learning ! Are they learning anything USEFUL during the regular semester?
    Kids will be missing lot more when they will realize that student loans have trashed their whole life.
    Students and parents should read "in your face IRS: zero taxes:, ISBN 978-0-9857370-0-9

    June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  47. LeeinVA

    “Here’s the issue we have with education in our country. Educators go to college for four years, get a degree and they sit in a classroom and teach for 30 years. Rarely do they ever get out and see what’s going on in other peoples classrooms and so, we're just creating this cycle where we're not having anything new. There’s no growth, no development. So what we do at the academy is we let people come and see excellence… If you don’t see excellence, you don’t know how to get there.” – Ron Clark
    I am not sure what Ron is getting his information about teachers just sitting in the classroom and not getting any professional development but I know in Virginia that is dead wrong . Teachers are required to take professional development in Virginia or they will loose their licenses.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  48. Solo

    Our school system cannot handle the task at hand already, let alone deal with summer education. Taxpayers are already pushed to the limit and asked to pay for two meals a day during the school season – is summer education just a way to feed the poor all year long on my dollar? Fix the problem with the current system and I'd be open to listening to the idea of summer coursework... as it is now, it's a broken mess already and summer education is not the answer.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  49. Erica

    I never went to summer school as a kid. My childhood summers were spent on my grandparents' farm, feeding ducks and chickens and running around in the fields. It's when some of my best childhood memories were made.

    Yet, I went through middle school, high school and college earning almost straight As. It's not the quantity but the quality of work you do that moves you forward. During the school year, when it was time to get the work done, my parent made slacking off not an option.

    No amount of institutionalization will replace the parents role in the intellectual growth of children. If the parents don't value learning and good work ethic, their kids will not either.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  50. Scott

    My kids learn all summer – they do some reading every day, pages in workbooks, tech camps. Getting away from school in the summer is excellent because the kids can do a different type of learning, and switching gears keeps them fresh. What we don't need is mandated school in the summer, because then kids of parents who care will miss out on a period of deep enrichment. I realize that some parents don't give a darn, and their kids do regress in the summer, but that's neither my fault nor my problem.

    June 22, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  51. Mom of 2

    This article gives too much credit to our schools. In our district, learning stopped nearly a month before the last bell–as soon as STARS testing was done. Honestly, we are happy to have some freedom from the schools for a few months to allow and encourage our children to pursue their interests–science, advanced sports training , and art which receive no priority in our schools today. We don't have alot of money to spend on high-end summer programming, but have found good alternatives at the local library and online. Honestly, I need the time during the summer to teach my kids that learning can be fun since the schools do such a poor job (and I live in a "good" school district). If you want to give our kids a better future, start with how the schools are run, what they are taught, and how we don't challenge or encourage our kids to develop a love of learning.

    June 22, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Scott

      Totally agree. We do the same stuff at my place, and the kids' growth in summer is at a much faster pace vs. during the school year.

      June 22, 2012 at 10:24 am |
      • Chris

        How many kids do you teach in the summer? Is it 30, like the vast majority of public classrooms. Of those 30, how many are willing to learn, how many have special needs etc etc....Your kids make progress because it is basically one on one learning. Teach 30 and see how much progress is made.

        June 22, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Teaching Mom

      That's really sad about "no learning" after STAAR! I'm a Texas teacher, and my teaching partner and I use the time after "The Test" to get the kids into some project-based learning. We use the curriculum, but we have the kids learn the material the way THEY want to learn it...skits, presentations, technology, etc. It's fun for us and for the kids. :) Teaching to the test is become passe', at least in our district.

      July 1, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  52. Jack

    Mr. Huggins, have you ever heard of burnout? It's not like kids have award-winning school systems that unilaterally look out for their physical and mental well-being to look forward to, a lot of American school time is wasted on obsolete, insularistic academic strategy and dysfunctional school environments. American school systems are rife with political pandering, cover-your-backside mispolicy and waste at all administrative levels, and it affects every aspect of education. The only time many kids have for a reality check from that is summertime. You are barking up the wrong tree, Mr. Huggins, if you think that exposing the future stewards of society to these maladies year-round is going to resolve the problems of education in this country.

    June 22, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  53. Dashan C. Wright

    And... we are JUST now reassessing this concept at this point on the timeline??? No wonder we have other countries ahead of us in education. And we are the BIG BAD world power. Sounds like a sales pitch to me.
    I have been complaining about this for the last 20yrs and I am only 35 years of age.
    Define the reason kids are out of school rather than saying, "Children deserve the break from learning". If this is the logic in reasoning then I need a damned break from life for the same amount of time. Or, do we need to adjust the quanitified time for an adult to have the necessary time off?? Get out of here!!! Hahahaha...
    Look, overhaul it – 10 week sessions 2 weeks off. In a years time, you'll have the proposed 2 months of time the children can "break". Rename the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc system. WE are WAAAAAAAY behind the times we should be (computers have fast-forwarded this process). More potent curriculums teaching the necessaries (I don't think people care tooo too much about George Washington for 13yrs including one year you would have to pay for in college – What is that???). Get these – watch this – I-N-D-I-V-I-D-U-A-L-S out of a the so call public system into functional roles within their respective disciplines where they are living much longer, fruitful, and hopefully better decision-made lifestyles. Obviously this is paraphrased for a much bigger plan but, damn people, idiocracy is more like the biography of American culture for crying out loud.
    We gotta do better...

    June 21, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  54. Vince Medlock

    For 180+ days of the year, parents and family are marginalized while public schools dictate the lives of those of us with school-age kids. I will be damned if they're going to get our summers too.

    June 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • anonymous

      Not sure I'd go that far, but I do relate. I get only 2 hours a day with my kid! I don't mind giving up a bit of June, but why do schools have to start so early in AUGUST? That's when it is hot and when most people want to relax.

      We work, as Americans, more than people in most other countries. We seldom have breaks and now we're introducing this hectic lifestyle to kids younger and younger. We have no sense of the benefits of leisure.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  55. Paul

    We have not had three months off during the summer for years. It is more like two months and if you teach summer school as I do, it is only two weeks! School ends June 8 and starts on Aug 8th.

    June 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  56. Pippi

    We began homeschooling several years ago for academic reasons – and about 5 years ago we stopped taking Summers off. My kids were losing too much of what they'd learned in math and they were frustrated – in fact, THEY'RE the ones who actually suggested we stop taking Summers off. So instead, we now take smaller breaks all throughout the year whenever we need them (ie: when everyone is starting to burn out) – usually 3 weeks in late Spring, 3 weeks in the Fall, and various other weeklong breaks during the year when they need them. If we take more than 3 weeks at any one time, my children don't necessarily "forget" what they've learned, but they do definitely become "rusty" in some of their math skills, and then we're left wasting too much time reviewing (not to mention dealing with a ton of frustration on the kids' part). We are able to avoid that entire scenario now. We continue ALL subjects all year long, though – not just math.

    June 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  57. dpcfoh

    I do think that the break is a little too long, maybe make it 6 weeks and take the other weeks and spread them around throughout the year. I do usually plan my vacations during the summer, but living in northeast Ohio I would love to have a two week break during February where we could head south for a break from winter, that's hard to do during the holiday break because of family commitments.

    June 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • anonymous

      Awesome, if you have the money for a ticket to someplace warm in cold weather. Many of the rest of us who may not have the money to do this want to take advantage of the nice weather when it's nice in our own communities.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  58. Scott

    This article is really stating that the priority of formal education in school is more important than the other types of learning that are happening during summer break. And that unfortunately is the crux of the arguement. What is the priority? Most parents, including me, want my child to be well rounded and use the summer to introduce children to things they don't get in school...like travel, books and music not on the curriculum, sports leagues, etc.

    June 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Sarah

      While I completely agree that formal education in the US misses the mark in regards to ensuring that children are well rounded, it's not like parent's can't use breaks to travel, read and experience life if schools transitioned to a different schedule. As a military family stationed overseas our children went to the local schools who had the year round program. Talk about awesome – 6 wks of school, 2 wks out with extended holiday time for the traditional holidays. We come back to America and my kids can't travel when my husband is able to get leave or do field trips during the year because where we are now it is an attendence violation to take kids out of school for parental field trips and vacays. I say go to year round schooling!

      June 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
      • Been there...

        Sarah, Year Round is great as long as you can get all your children on the same track. And once they start high school, they go back to traditional and if you have several children in several different grades, elementary, middle and high school. It can be hard to schedule trips or any adventure. Most schools do let you get the same schedules in elementary/middle if you do it right (sometimes not) and like I said, High School goes back to traditional calendar. It did not work for us.

        June 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  59. Loves Summer

    For all those low-income kids out there (I was one when I was growing up), there's this awesome place called the library where you can check out books on any topic for FREE!

    June 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Heather A.

      Hey, "Loves Summer"

      For all those low-income kids out there (I was one as well), there's this NOT-so-awesome thing called "Getting There". Public transportation costs money, which these kids may not have; their parents may not own a vehicle, and there is no access to school libraries over the summer breaks, nor free bus transportation to get them there.

      The library may be FREE!, but obtaining access to it isn't. Quit being such a condescending snob

      June 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  60. gonefishin

    Due to budget cuts, they canceled summer school in my district this summer.

    June 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • ALD

      My district too and many others in California as well!

      June 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  61. Serious Person

    I like the idea of year round school with smaller, more frequent breaks. Unfortunately, the teachers who claim they didn't get into teaching to have their summers off...want their summers off. Go figure. Studies show year round school has many advantages. That's why year round school doesn't happen, the teachers.

    June 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • s

      nope, not at all. i don't want year round school either. summer is the time of year when the weather is good enough for protracted road trips to see family we would otherwise never see. as far as kids missing out on education, not mine. we keep her learning all summer, and that without benefit of paying for rec. dept. programs or summer school. it doesn't MATTER what teachers want. if pushed hard enough, school districts would institute year round school regardless. i would promptly remove my child from any such school; unlike so many others, i never intended to rely solely on the school for her education. learning starts at home and should continue there, including summer vacation, spring break, winter break, snow days, EVERY SINGLE DAY. it's not just that teachers are loathe to lose that summer vacation, ( many of ours are in and out of the school all summer long, idk where ppl get this idea that teachers get the entire summer off free and clear like the kids do anyway), it's that families will have to give up traditions that they've held, sometimes for generations. family traditions; these things are part of the glue that binds a family together; when you look at all the kids going and gone wrong in our country, ask yourself how many of them are that way in part because they had no cohesive family due to a lack/loss of traditional family doings. tell you something else...I NEED THE BREAK TOO. summer vacation isn't just for the kids!

      June 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Liz

      I'm a teacher and would love year round school! In fact, many of my colleagues would as well– it's the parents in my district that are opposed to it because it would make child care a challenge. What they don't understand is that the same camps that are offered in the summer would pop up over the the new year round breaks if it became a reality.

      June 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Jo

      Many teachers in their first years of teaching need summers off so they can complete master's degrees, which are required for their continued employment. Others are not paid well and use the summer to find supplemental income. Almost all spend their summers preparing for the next school year.

      June 22, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Chris

      Serious, how are you going to pay for the additional 2 months of salary that would be needed to pay the teachers, or are they suppose to work those additional two months for free? The teachers, who you so readily bash, just took a volunteered pay cut in my district. The vast majority of teachers work a second job during the summer, and many work a second during a school year. Blaming someone other than teachers takes effort and some thought, so I understand why you ignorantly did.

      June 22, 2012 at 11:31 am |
      • Tiffany

        In our district teachers are salaried and can elect to receive their pay over the months spent teaching or all year long. If school is still in session the same number of days and the breaks are spread out then nobody's really working two months extra . they're just not getting all their vacation at once. So this is definitely not a pay issue. In our area they have said no because we rely on high school kids as workers at gift shops and food joints in our resort community and going back to school before labor day would mess with that.

        June 22, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • The_Mick

      The claim we don't have year round school because teachers want their summers off is despicable. The fact is that most systems require teachers to earn their master's degrees within a certain number of years, become certified to teach AP courses, take college level courses like Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries to coach, and take courses to better fit special ed kids in regular classes. Teachers in general do NOT have their summers off! And, as it is, the typical teacher is not teaching high school from something like June 17 to August 17, so it's not the whole summer anyway. Want teachers to teach more? Pay us and we'll be happy to do so!

      June 23, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  62. CW

    How dare these kids be kids! I am so sick of nanny-staters like the author. Get the hell out of my family's life.

    June 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  63. DANILLE

    JUST LOOK AT THESE OBESE PEOPLE, NO WONDER HEALTH CARE COST IS SO HIGH.THESE WOMEN SHOULD NOT HAVE KIDS

    June 21, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Never learn enough

      Are you stupid or something??? The people pictured, if you can read the text beneath the pic are getting exercise while learning. Try reading the article, or anything for that matter... You might learn something about people.

      June 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
      • iammeyouareyou

        I love my wife, but she is the same shape as these women. I always tell her "If you are not sweating, you are not exercising." "Walking" is not exercise unless you are an asthmatic 90 year old. For God's sake fat people, RUN, RUN RUN. Sweat. For long periods of time. Walking just lets you get from point A to point B.

        June 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • humanbeing

      For one, your comment is extremely rude; those people aren't obese, they just aren't pencil thin. Secondly, what does their weight have anything to do with in regard to this article?

      June 22, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  64. Donna Fisher

    What do other countries have for summer "breaks"?

    June 21, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Dr. Ray

      Quite a few countries do not have a summer break per se. Many have multiple shorter breaks throughout the year. I do think that moving more schools to more frequent but shorter breaks may lead to less of the summer learning loss that this article references.

      June 21, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • spent

      I live in Europe and the summer breaks, what summer breaks.

      June 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  65. Victoria

    I totally disagree. More time spent in school does not always translate to more learning. See info about Sweden's school systems, which require far less time in school but educate in far better ways. Schools waste so much time, in my opinion. Many children learn with a multi-sensory approach, not just doing busy work sitting at their desk in school. And learning isn't all about math or reading. They need to also develop pathyways to the brain that come about from running, climbing, cutting, coloring, and other crossing the midline activities. This can come about from playing with other kids in the street for 2 months. And by the way, I don't know where you are coming up with 3 months of vacation. It's a few weeks short of 3 months for pretty much every school I know of; ours is 9 weeks. All of my fellow mom friends all agree that summer is over in a flash as it's not really long. Every kid I know of needs a good break.

    June 21, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • spent

      I think you need a break.

      June 21, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  66. Dr. Adam

    Agree with the article, but not the history as to why kids have summers off. I wish it was because of something as honorable as working in the fields. Try researching Horace Mann and his thoughts about summer. I think you will find it to be interesting.

    June 21, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Jo

      Farming is actually slow during the summer because crops are in and there's no a lot to do between planting and harvesting. As for livestock, that goes on all year round.

      June 22, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  67. kathy allen

    I'm sure you grew up having summer vacation from school and learning. Didn't hurt you, now did it?

    June 21, 2012 at 10:57 am |