The sign at the entrance to my son’s primary school reads, under the school’s name, “A First-Class Experience.” And it is, truly. So much so, that I wish he could stay there all year. And why not?
I love school, and my son does, too — he just finished first grade, and this year we hit the sick-day jackpot, with a total of… wait for it… none. The only time Daniel missed school was the day I took him out to go to his cousin Tara’s graduation ceremony. Just recently, he actually did get sick, but returned to school the next day (bless you, Amoxycillin). Just so you don’t think I’m so draconian a mom that I forced my child back to school the day after a clinic visit, (a) he didn’t have a fever; (b) he was medically cleared to go; and (c) he wailed that he wanted to go back. Gee, either he loves school as much as I think (he said, “Mommy, I can still learn things!”), or the prospect of a day home with me is not so enticing.
So yeah, he’s a bit of a geek.
School’s over this Friday. And though my boy is as much of an “I love school” nerd as his dear old mom was, he’s as thrilled as any of his classmates to embark on summer break, with the prospect of pools and beaches, bikes and ice cream, and, later in the summer, six straight weeks at the local YMCA camp (bliss for us both). It may seem contradictory to say that my child both loves school and leaps for joy at half-days, vacations, and holidays, but I don’t think it is.
I think the love of school is deep and real, and the joy over vacations, while also genuine, is also goaded into being by some social mirroring. All kids pick it up — that “no more pencils, no more books…” feeling — from each other. And if we moms are pushing the “thank goodness school’s over” vibe, well, that can’t do much long-term good, can it?
Am I alone here in wishing my kids were in school longer? The whole overlong summer vacation is anachronistic, based as it is on agrarian calendars. We don’t need the boys home in the summer to put in the crops (or take them out or whatever you do on farms in the summer. See! There’s something my kids could learn about in a summer school program — where our food comes from!) It’s also out of sync with the lives of working parents. There are plenty of parents — and some professional organizations — seeking to bring back more of a year-long schedule, both for convenience and for continuity. I just today stumbled on this piece in The Washington Post, by a writer named Brigid Schulte, extolling the virtues of her kids’ year round program.
She makes many great points. While we all say we looooove summer break, it’s just not the same animal it was when (cue dreamy back-in-time music) I was a child. Back then, summer was an endless idyll. We had a backyard, a quiet dead-end street, and other kids’ backyards, pools, playhouses, and sprinklers. We had the local beach, and the town rec department’s swimming lessons. I recently asked my mom if she’d ever considered sending us to summer camp. “Listen,” she said, “when we moved out of the city, we figured that was summer camp.”
But times have changed. As much as I long for this to be true, it’s not going to be the case that my kids will get together with the neighborhood kids to play flashlight tag all over the street and the neighbors’ yards, or catch fireflies in jars, or eat PB&J sandwiches and Strawberry Quick-flavored milk on the roof of Pattiann’s playhouse in the “woods” (a.k.a. the stand of scrubby trees at the back of her property).
These days, even stay-at-home moms have to invent activities and work the calendar to beat boredom and keep the kids occupied. And working moms? If you’re like me, you’re booking camp back in February to ensure a spot. Thank heaven for the YMCA, which is relatively inexpensive, close by, and a fabulous experience for the boys. They went last year, and I judged how well Daniel loved it by how dirt-, sweat-, sunscreen-, and S’more-smeared he was by the end of the day.
Shulte’s article describes her children’s extended-year school, and it sounds ideal to me. It’s not all sitting at your desk, drilling the multiplication tables all summer. Instead, the year is broken up by “intercessions,” when kids get to do fun projects that only incidentally sneak in the learning. (Hmmm. Sounds like camp).
Yesterday I brought my younger son, James, to the busstop with me to pick up Daniel. James’ preschool ended last week. When another mom asked why James was there, he said, “My school’s over.” I laughed and added, “Yes, but he was all set to go this morning — I had to remind him several times that he was staying home.”
To which my neighbor replied, “I can’t wait for school to end! My kids are over it, too.”
Over it? They are? Or is it just you?
There are some things I’m glad to be rid of, such as sifting through endless papers and projects in backpacks, and prepping endless lunches and snacks. But I’d never let that on to my sons. School? It’s a joy!
What’s your take on summer break?
[photo credit: Everystockphoto.com]