Today is the first day of summer vacation, but it feels no different from a school day.
When I did the groceries this weekend, I was still putting together things for bag lunches for the kids. When the boys wanted to stay up late bingeing through our PVR last night, I hustled them off to bed. This morning, there was still rushing around to get everyone out the door by 830.
Summer vacation may have started today, but when you’re a family that has working parents, the 10 weeks off in the summer don’t feel much different from the other 42 weeks of the year for my kids. OUr boys have a full summer schedule with a variety of day camps to keep them occupied for the off school time.
This week it’s Pedalheads, for some brushing up on bike skills and some extra long treks. Next week there will be LEGO adventures with Bricks 4 Kidz, followed by a week at the UofC for swimming, riding, and traveling around town on various field trips.
And it continues from there. Each week a new activity, a different location. We try to pick camps with things that will broaden their interests or celebrate something they’re already excited about, but it’s still not much of a break.
And the boys have told us so.
Zacharie loves school. He enjoys the challenges, his teachers are his favourite people and he as openly suggested that school should go year round.
Which leads to an entirely different debate: why do kids take 10+ weeks off school in the summer? If we were to build a school system from scratch today, would we schedule such a long time off in the summer?
Having summers off is something of a new-ish phenomenon. It started in the mid 19th century as North American cities boomed with concrete and asphalt. The heat in the cities became too much, and so families would skip town for the cool of the countryside. With so many people missing school, the districts adjusted their calendars to suit demand and the summer break was born.
Now, the demand is different. With working families, the need to have our children occupied during work hours, year round, trumps any desire to escape the heat of the city. Not everyone can afford to have a parent stay home, and while some say that school isn’t a babysitting service, having our children in school does allow parents to go back to the workforce.
Sure, kids need a break, but wouldn’t a series of 3 week breaks every 4 months work better than an extended period off in the summer?
For years some have called for more school days and a shorter break. While they trot out research saying its needed to help educate kids, but would we ever be able to get it past aggressive unions accustomed to 14 weeks off a year?
The summer day camp industry alone is proof that parents need help occupying their kids for the summer. Rare is it that a child gets a complete 10 weeks off to run through sprinklers, explore forests, and ride bikes around the neighborhood.
This year, to try and stretch the time in between camps, my wife and I took our vacations back to back instead of at the same time. It’s a small sacrifice to make, but it does give our kids two weeks off between summer day camp routines instead of just one.