Summer Vacation Approacheth

Now that June is here, my kids have been ticking off the days left until summer vacation. My daughter’s last full day is next Tuesday. After that she only goes in for exams. School officially ends on June 21st. That is the morning of my son’s moving up ceremony- his final day of middle school. So as the countdown narrows, I am taking a few minutes to reflect on what summer vacation means from different perspectives.

First of all, there is no doubt that kids love summer vacation. I still remember some of the lyrics to the song my friends and I sang on the way home from the last day of school: “No more pencils, no more books…” (I’m sure you can fill in the rest, even if you liked your teachers). I think the carefree attitude of summer is conveyed perfectly in the soothing, lullaby-like melody and lyrics in George Gershwin’s “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess” :

“summertime and the livin’ is easy

fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high”

[found on http://www/lyrics.com]

Doesn’t that create the picture of kids running through the fields, or casting  a line in the water, like Huckleberry Finn?

Or how about kids splashing in the mud?

Now, obviously, not all parents have that same feeling of ease when it comes to the length of the summer break. In the month before school ended many of my friends, both working and stay-at-home parents, scrambled to patch together a series of day camps for their kids to attend- either out of necessity or because they dreaded having to entertain them all day long. I totally understood how they felt, since I taught little kids for ten months of the year. It is challenging to keep them happy and out of trouble at the same time.

However, I actually looked forward to the summer. I saw my kids’ vacation as my chance to spend more playtime with them. We often went to the playground or pool where we would just hang out for the afternoon. Sometimes we would participate in a family nature program at our local park, or they would take swimming or tennis lessons. We would take trips to the museum on hot days and usually a week or more would be spent at the beach- collecting snail families or building sand castles.

Before we knew it, summer was ending and we were doing our back to school shopping.

When they got older, they became interested in going to day camps with their friends. I would let them choose 2-3 week’s worth of activities, but after that we would mostly invite friends over or travel somewhere. A few times they brought a friend camping

or we would take a group to an amusement or water park.

I tried to keep the fun, unstructured feeling in summer; but coordinating with other families required making a schedule, which eliminated the laid-back spontaneity I wanted. My friends who worked through the summer, however, appreciated my willingness to have their kids over and drive them to activities. I always felt it was the best of both worlds.

All the grandparents also looked forward to summer vacation. To them, summer meant more time with the kids. Whether the whole family was visiting, we were taking a vacation together, or the kids were staying with them alone summer was an opportunity for extended bonding, when no one was rushed or preoccupied with schoolwork.

There have been many ping pong matches, late night movies, shell collecting, baseball throwing and family story-telling. These are the experiences that make memories and reasons why summer can be delightful!

This summer, my kids have a 2-week period when they will be away from home. They have separate plans during the same time. This means that my husband and Iwill have 2 weeks to ourselves for the first time. Maybe that is my summer vacation from being a mom 24/7 and I should see it as a much deserved break. Or maybe it is a hint of what the empty nest will feel like in not so many more years.

That last thought makes me feel more strongly about the importance of family time during the summer months and the determination to keep it fun and filled with good memories, moments we can all look back on and smile, releasing the happy feelings from our hearts, “those were the days”. We can never get too old to enjoy our summer vacations.

That’s me, the second from the right, with my sisters and cousins at a family reunion. It is always fun to get together!

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susan
    Jun 06, 2012 @ 07:53:18

    Although I have very fond memories of lazy summer breaks, as an adult and parent I now realize that a 10 week break from school is way too long. So much learning loss happens over those weeks. Those from the poorest families don’t have as many opportunities for enrichment activities over break, making their learning loss even greater. This increases the already often large learning gap between our richest and poorest students.

    I don’t necessarily think students need more overall days of school, but I do think school breaks should be shorter than our summer break. I think this will be difficult to achieve, however, because so many of us have so many wonderful summer memories. I guess the trick might be to invent new memory-making opportunities under a new schedule.

    OK, enough of my being a killjoy. Can you tell I am involved with school district issues this week?

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  2. themiddlegeneration
    Jun 06, 2012 @ 10:25:27

    My daughter did a research project on year-round schools. Obviously there are benefits for many students. I, myself, would be upset if we gave up our summer break. Fortunately my kids have a very good education and are not the ones at risk. I am more concerned about preserving their emotional health and giving them a break from the pressures of school. I don’t know how to find the perfect balance between the two.

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    • Susan
      Jun 06, 2012 @ 10:58:46

      I know what you mean about recharging. Do you think that more mini-vacations rather than one long one would be as successful for giving a break if teachers were limited in the amount of work they could assign?

      I was discouraged, but not terribly surprised, to see that NYS ranks 44th in equitable school spending – i.e. poor districts are underfunded in relation to rich districts. Year-round school might be one way to help counteract the inequities in funding differences. It probably would be even more difficult, politically, to change the school year than to make funding more equitable, though!

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      • themiddlegeneration
        Jun 07, 2012 @ 09:24:27

        Perhaps shifting to a trimester system could work; but I still think the kids need extended breaks to decompress. Giving them an assignment over the interim only means procrastinating until the last possible minute. I’d rather let them have downtime where they can play their video games or read a trashy novel to relax than keep them so wound up over schoolwork that they turn to drugs or alcohol (which sadly is happening in high school). Unfortunately teens need more supervision and guidance but are often given too much freedom and responsibility that they are not ready to take on. Maybe funding summer programs would solve the problem in communities where parents are not present. Or what about requiring community service for a number of weeks? Obviously there is no easy solution.

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  3. Paul Maxim
    Jun 07, 2012 @ 08:48:19

    It’s been a long time since I’ve had kids in school. Heck, my oldest grandson is 13. So I may not be much of an “expert” anymore. But I think you’re right about finding the right “balance”. It ain’t easy.

    I do think, however, that most kids could stand more time in school. My grandsons seem to have way too much time off, even during the school year. They’re bright kids, but they could do better. Not to mention the fact that more time in school would mean less time texting or playing games on their PS3.

    What bothers me most, though, is that most kids I encounter don’t seem to be terribly curious – about anything. Reading seems to be a lost art. So long as they have their smartphones, facebook accounts, and can play games online with their “friends”, all’s right with the world.

    Well, maybe I’m being a little unfair. Perhaps all kids go through the same thing while growing up. We’re all guilty. But then there’s those troubling rankings that Susan alludes to. Compared to the rest of the world, we’re not getting any “smarter”.

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    • themiddlegeneration
      Jun 07, 2012 @ 09:37:51

      I don’t think that the kids are becoming less curious. I think our education system has been “dumbed down”. Thanks to standarized testing and teacher evaluations based on scores, teachers are not giving students meaningful assignments that address current issues or interests. School has become all about memorizing facts and spitting them back out without putting them into context or comparing past history to present issues. If kids are told facts in science class without an opportunity to question or explore (lack of funding often limits the relevance of labs), of course they are not going to be curious.

      I recently read an article about a math teacher who brought in police reports from car accidents and guided her students to use formulas in order to determine what happened (i.e. speed of vehicle, angle of impact, fault). Not only did this give them a chance to use the equations they had studied, but they also saw how these could be applied in real life. If that didn’t trigger some curiousity to learn more I would be very surprised.
      If there were more opportunities for that type of learning and less emphasis on testing, I think we would quickly see a change in student attitude about school.

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  4. stmarco
    Jun 07, 2012 @ 11:06:44

    The most magical time for me as a kid was arrival of Summer: That vast expanse of time that was marked by a different feel and less structure. I remember the chance to explore art (not a success ;-)), creative writing (not really either ;-)), reading (always with a book), long walks in the neighborhood or beach or woods, the smell of salt air arriving at the NJ shore for the family holiday, family get togethers, etc. I think the long breaks are wonderful for kids who have parents with the luxury and willingness to provide kids with different learning and growth experiences during that time. For many though (most?), I think the long break becomes a time where they lose what they learned in school and are not really growing in other ways that round out a person as they become adults and for them it is probably too long. The kids in my neighbourhood here in Canada are among the lucky who have amazing experiences in the summer and I don’t see any reason to lengthen their school year. I think in a way they are ‘decompressing’ by having very different summer experiences, just as enriching if not more so than the classroom, but they are not just vegging out with their iPads and video games (though there is plenty of that too!)

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    • Susan
      Jun 12, 2012 @ 14:38:28

      Because most of us – or those of us with the biggest voice in society – have these wonderful memories from our childhoods and maybe even more contemporary happy memories from our own children’s summer breaks, I think it will be very difficult to eliminate long summer breaks from the school calendar. However, when I see what a negative effect the long break has on many children, I wonder what we are giving up and what sort of disservice we are doing to the next generation because of our own nostalgia.

      Of course, there are many practical reasons why eliminating long summer breaks would be difficult – schools with no air-conditioning, no camp counselors because college students would still be in session, established inter-scholastic sports calendars. . . . but I still think it’s worth considering.

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  5. Martha Belardo
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 06:10:03

    i like to spend my mini-vacations on a tropical island with lots of coconut.:

    Our own internet site
    http://www.beautyfashiondigest.com/latest-craze-titanium-earrings/

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