Does summer vacation still serve a useful purpose?

The end of the traditional academic year brings summer vacation, but some school districts are moving toward year-round classes. Today’s Question: Does summer vacation still serve a useful purpose?

  • Al

    When I was a new teacher the summer served the purpose of allowing me to work another job to make up for the pathetic wages of a starting teacher. I was told that if I went to college and studied hard I could get a good paying job. Teaching was not it. The reality was that I was making about as much as if I had stayed in the fast food job I worked at as a college student. And during the school year I put in way more hours than a 40 hour a week year round job. Teaching isn’t a 9-5 job. If you want to do away with summers you need to figure out how to reward teachers as the college educated professionals they are, particularly in the early years. You would also need to rearrange the workload to prevent teacher burnout.

  • bsimon

    There is a lot to learn about the world that is not learned in school. Summer vacation is an opportunity for such learning.

  • kathy

    NO! Year-round school with several 2 or 3-week-long breaks throughout the year would make much more sense for kids and adults. There is SO much anticipation and excitement building up to the 10-week-long summer break, that the learning process stops long before the traditional summer break begins.

  • Bruce

    It seems to me that one of the excellent benefits of summer vacation is taking a break from having a useful purpose. Freed for a time from ‘purposeful’ activities, one might just learn something.

  • Joey Waite

    I am a fifth grade student at JJ Hill Montessori. Maria Montessori said that the brain needs a brake or else it wont be able to process all the information you learn through shcool. This is why I feel that summer brake is very much needed.

  • Benjamin

    However, I think summer vacation needs to be shorter. We have one of the shortest school years of any industrialized nation. As a result, American students lose about a year total compared to many countries. Students need to spend longer in school every day and every year.

  • Susan Mau Larson

    My sons attend Crosswinds — a year-round school in Woodbury. We have found the year-round calendar to be very advantageous academically and my sons love it. I think every school should adopt this model.

  • Amy

    Summer break is definitely needed, both for students and teachers. Students need a break, need a chance to learn outside of a formal setting. Teachers need a break more than anything. Working 60+ hours per week during the school year is way too much, so teachers need the summer to get some mental clarity back and reboot for the next school year.

  • Tai Koma

    If you read ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’ there’s actually proof that summer vacations hurt poor students more than they help them. At the end of the school year, poor and middle class students perform very similar. But look at the beginning of the school year, and poor students backslide much further than do middle class students. (That is, all students lose some ‘knowledge’ over the summer, but poor students lose more.)

    The book argues that’s because middle class and wealthy students use their summer vacations going on vacations, visiting museums, attending sports camps, Poor students spend their vacations home alone because their parents have to work and can’t afford vacations or sports camps, and they’re more likely to spend their vacation dodging drug dealers or sitting in front a of a TV rather than having learning experiences like their wealthier peers.

    I personally support the Japanese system, of year-round schools with moderately-sized breaks three times a year, rather than one huge break once a year. Still plenty of time to rest your brain without giving enough time to wipe the brain of everything you learned last semester.

    It used to be summer was time off because that’s when it was necessary to care for the farms and students would have been out of school working even if school were in session. As a no longer agriculture based society, it’s not necessary anymore. The only purpose it serves anymore is to allow middle class students the luxury of vacation and camps, at the price of poor student’s education.

  • Steve the Cynic

    The idea of “summer vacation” evolved from the days when education was thought to be a luxury, and children could only be spared for such things when there wasn’t field work to be done. To the extent that’s still true, summer vacation still serves a useful purpose.

  • Lawrence

    Globally, American kids attend the fewest number of school days than other kids from other industrialized nations. Perhaps, more to the point, academic success for American kids has dipped in recent years. Summer vacation does not serve a useful purpose when education is the source of study. On the other hand, few states (ours included) are willing to pay for year-round schooling. Moreover, significant retail and tourist sectors of our economy rely on kids for labor and consumption. Given this reality, summer school serves a useful purpose. What we must decide as a society is this – is it better to help our students become more academically successful than they are now by making K-12 year long instead of 9 months long, or do we make the economy our priority and have these kids work and play during the summer.

  • Peter T

    Summer vacations are still needed, of course, but why can’t they be shorter, to counter the well-known effects of too much downtime for the brain?

  • Khatti

    My nieces lives are so regimented with summer activities that they just as well be in school. When they visit us during the summer what they like to do as much as anything is park themselves in front of the TV. It could be childish indolence–or it could be exhaustion.

    I suppose I think summer vacation could be done away with. The world is getting more and more complicated, and an education is getting more complicated right along with it.

    On the other hand: there is a manic quality to the nature of modern education. If we don’t spend every waking moment stuffing our children’s heads full to the brim with important stuff, something awful will happen: Tinker Bell will die, the sky will fall on Chicken Little, Gabrial will blow his trumpet and the gates of Hell will open, we won’t get that entry in the Encyclopedia Brittanica proclaiming our status as the world’s most effective parents–which, as we all know, is a far more important matter than that, ‘demons of Hell overunning the Earth and causing mayhem’ thing!

    I have a question no one seems to ask: what is junior being educated at? Those brilliant munchkins we need going into robotics and mag-lev technology are going into law and finance. Mom, Dad, Junior, ten years from now that may not look as good in that Encyclopedia Brittanica entry as you think it will!

    As usual, I’ve wandered off subject. Sorry

  • Arthur

    Based on what I’ve read here, I think many people don’t understand the concept of “Year-Round” school. It is NOT a model where classes are held 52 weeks a year, but rather most models I am familiar with resemble the following: the same number of school days a year broken up into 6-8 week chunks, followed by several weeks of time off. In the end, it adds up to the same 9 months of school with 3 months of time off. It would do little or nothing to address the disparity between the number of school days our students have vs. those of other countries.

    I’m a teacher, and not sure what that would be like to have year-round school, but I can tell you it would be nice to have some time off at other times of the year than just the Summer, Christmas, and Spring Break.. For example, I can’t take two weeks off my job in February when I’m sick of Winter and go someplace warm because I have to be on the job, unlike someone who works for a company might be able to, or visit family out of state for Thanksgiving because the trip is too expensive for my family to be there just a few days. I’m sure I’d get used to it.

  • Amanda

    We need to move away from the long summer break and towards a model with breaks spaced equally throughout the year. As mentioned in another comment, Malcolm Gladwell addresses the American schools’ summer break as extremely detrimental to poorer students. A regular schedule of learning, coupled with 2-3 week breaks throughout the year, is better for students and teachers.

  • EAL

    The U.S. migrated from a rural to an urban country around the 1900’s yet most schools remain on an agrarian school calendar. Something similar to nine weeks on / three weeks off would benefit students significantly. Citizens and legislators preach the importance of education. Conversely, it is absolutely criminal that legislators have not thwarted the resort industry, education unions, etc. and made the change. This discussion is similar to the rhetoric given to the need for additional educational expenditures, then setting the need aside while spending money for a major league baseball stadium.

  • Dianne

    It has been a long time since summer vacation has served a purpose. I would have preferred year around school with shorter, but more breaks during the year. In the northern climates, imagine the money that would be saved by not having school in the coldest parts of winter. Of course, some schools would have to put in air conditioning to make the year around program work. For students and for the future of this country, I believe we need year around school.

  • Rachel

    Yes, I think that summer vacation is important for a number of reasons. Kids should be allowed to be kids and have a break from school. There are also many great summer programs for kids that they might miss out on if they were in school year round.

  • Ed Dykhuizen

    The summer vacation needs to go. The problems with American education is largely due to the long summer vacation. Studies have shown that low-income students tend to forget almost everything they’ve learned over that unecessarily long summer break. And every other developed nation has at least two more weeks of school per year than our kids do. Even adding just two weeks a year would work out to almost a full year of more education over the ife of a student. (This is all from a great article on this in the June 11, 2009 edition of The Economist).

    Of course, teachers would have to be better compensated if we got rid of the summer vacation. And we should have plenty of long breaks — I’m not suggesting a mere 2 weeks’ vacation out of the year the way we overwork our adults in this country. But spread the breaks out more so there is less loss of information, and add more weeks overall. It’s a very simple solution to a longstanding problem.

  • Jessica

    Summer is a great time for children to explore outside of the confines of the school and classroom and also to learn time management if given the opportunity. I remember in my younger years spending hours outside helping in the garden, ‘exploring’ in our woods, building forts with friends, or ride my bike to the library and discover new books for hours on end, many things that kids can’t do in school. Of course I had some activities, like swim or piano lessons and a week or two at camp. As I got older, and wanted money, I got age-appropriate jobs and learned to manage my time between my responsibilies and my wants. I hope to foster similar feelings and experiences with my child as he grows. Today’s kids and parents do have more of a challenge obtaining that kind of freedom depending on where they live, and how many electronic distractions there are.

  • Sue de Nim

    At very least, summer vacation is too long. In the state where I grew up (not MN) many years ago, it was the law that public schools had to have 180 instructional days per year, not counting teacher “in-service” days. I was surprised to learn that Minnesota has a lower standard than that. In today’s world, I would think 200 would be more appropriate.

  • Meghan

    In a state with such a high rate of vitamin D deficiency, I think summer vacation is vital for Minnesotan children!!!

  • Lynn

    Children need a break from the rigors and strictures of school. I think that many adults forget how demanding school is, especially for young children whose bodies are itching to move. Kids are not adults, it is a lot to ask that they sit in desks all day, always paying attention or they get in trouble, being quiet, following orders, etc. How many adults could put up with having their activities controlled so tightly all day long?

    I’m afraid that we’re even turning our kids into a commodity by counting the number of instruction hours compared with the kids in Taiwan, limiting their education to subjects that can be measured and converted into a well-paying job some day.

    Let’s also teach our kids the value of relaxation, of spending time with good friends, of making things with cardboard and duct tape. Let’s teach them that they can learn on their own by trial and error. Let’s teach them that life is not an assembly line. For that they need time, good old fashioned unstructured free time. They need summer.

  • Todd

    Going to year-round school does not diminsh the value of a break. They are spread out more evenly throughout the school year versus a majority of time piled up in the summer. Not all kids have the benefit of safe outdoor free play that is described as valuable. Go to year-round schooling and increase free time during the school day. Do you have to worry about stepping on broken glass on the sidewalk or at the local “park”? Do you to worry about witnessing violence on a weekly basis? Walk a mile in someone elses shoes people. The great freedoms of summer described are not available to everyone. Sometimes school is the only place they can be free of these concerns.

    Just my thoughts.

  • Jane

    I absolutely believe there needs to be a summer break!

    Quite frankly there is not a school system that meets the needs of the children in our Society. Our Society has deminished quality as we have advanced into the “Technological Phase”. We have not created a social network which provides a stable and safer environment for the poitive growth of Children in our country.

    You worry about giving them a break from your maddness well how about seriously creating a school that would give every Family the sense of community they all need!

    Then it would be worth having it opened all year.

    School begins at 6 weeks old as a working parents go back into the work field. Every child is part of a buddy system group whcih is someone from every grade. All students attend the same Campus. All students graduate after they finish their Associates degree. This Campus would be a hub for the community along the lines of a community cent although it would be open everyday with different areas for different reasons. We so lack a sense of community that this would be a great step in the right direction. The classroom would have a crossover of grade levels like kindergarten and 1st. The older kids would be required to help out with the younger aged and especially in the nursery of course with supervision. Plus they would help prepare the daily meals. Every child would be expected to do something everyday to contribute to the School. THIS CREATES Society!!! In the beginning of the day each buddy group would meet and make sure everyone gets where they belong. Senior Citizens would be able to help in various areas as contribution to Society. Syblings would not be far from each other and each child would develope their extended family group….Well I hope you get the picture there obviously is a lot more to this concept but I believe this would allow students to vacation anytime and teachers to to meet the modern famillies lifestyle to the next Milenium! This would send the students out with strong sense of community and stablility preparing them for their lives and alleviate the stress of working families!!

    I do apologize for misspelled words. TY

  • Recent Grad

    Year round school would have certainly made this “real world” easier to acclimate to.. no one has a 3 month break as an adult, and for the life of me, I can’t find any value in all those summers spent laying around outside, watching TV, dreading the return to school where we spend the first month going over everything we all forgot.

    I see no value in a 3 month break – prepare them for college with year round school, and they will be so much more well prepared for real life and the future.

  • Oliver

    If you keep allowing “kids to be kids” they will never learn how to be an adult – the real world is fast paced and different than it was 20+ years ago. America needs to get on board and realize kids aren’t going to get much value in 3+ months of running around like animals.

  • teen student

    In my community, placed in the American North East, tourism economically sustains us. During the summer vacation, high school and middle school students fill out the jobs that business owners need to keep their businesses open, and thus make enough money to heat their homes & feed their families in the dead of winter, such as busers, caddies, counter clerks, camp instructors, seasonal laborers, and ticket salespeople. Especially since less people are traveling to take these jobs, teenagers are needed during that time to keep their community alive.