Same old summer dilemma
Highlands TodayWhen we lived in Arlington, Texas, my children were all in elementary school and I was working full time. That summer I put them in a sports day camp because, at 11, 9 and 7 years old, they were not ready to be home alone all day. Or maybe I should say I was not ready to leave them home alone all day.
Published: June 14, 2009
Published: June 14, 2009
I checked the place out thoroughly and it was a great program in a clean, pleasant facility, run by the city parks department and staffed mostly with college interns who were fun and enthusiastic.
About 40 kids, ages 5 through 12, learned a different sport every two weeks. They played tennis, golf, bowling, soccer, racquetball, basketball, softball and archery. And every Friday they spent the afternoon at the city swimming pool.
The tuition for three kids took almost everything I made that summer, but it allowed me to keep my job and it kept the kids busy doing constructive activities with skilled supervision instead of sitting in front of the TV or playing video games all summer.
The first week they all whined and complained about going, but gradually they started coming home with smiles and tales of the fun they'd had. When the summer was over, they got certificates of completion and some nice prizes. And by then each of them had identified an activity they truly enjoyed and still play to this day. School P.E. classes never had that result.
Recently, I talked with a coworker who was stressing out over what to do with her elementary age boys for the summer so she could continue to work. She had already investigated several programs but they were full or too expensive, or there was no way to get the kids there. I was able to suggest several other choices and so did another coworker whose kids are now grown. But the hassle and worry and expense persisted.
The problem of what to do with kids in the summer is a never-ending dilemma. Every generation and every community has dealt with it, and still there are not enough good, affordable solutions.
When we lived in Minnesota, the schools there decided to do year-round school. At first teachers, and especially students, were horrified. But when they realized they would only go to school for 10 weeks at a time and then have three weeks off, it didn't seem so bad. Soon parents realized they could plan family vacations even in winter and they could actually book a cruise in off season at a bargain rate.
People also quickly realized that their taxes actually went down because the school system didn't have to build so many new schools. They could accommodate more kids in the same classrooms because while some were on vacation, others were in class. School buildings never sat empty, gathering dust and mildew through the summer.
Teachers loved it because they got a rest every 10 weeks and they didn't have to go all summer without a paycheck or put up with nine months of pay spread over 12 months. They also didn't have the frustration of spending the first month of school in the fall re-teaching everything the kids had forgotten over the long summer. Kids retained more and progressed faster.
And best of all, working moms didn't have to worry about finding appropriate, affordable childcare through the long hot summer. Schools, parks, and daycare facilities offered special three-week programs with fun field trips, music lessons, and other day activities for kids on break. It wasn't perfect, but it proved workable and beneficial for everyone.
Japan has always had year-round school, and their students far outscore ours academically. So why are American schools so backward? Why are our schools still on the schedule that was invented when all mothers stayed at home fulltime? That's just not realistic in the 21st century. When are we going to wake up and figure out a school schedule that works for working families?
So what do you think? Would year-round school work here? Email me your thoughts at email@example.com.