The typical 180 days of school weren’t always so typical. In the early days of American education children either went to school on the rural or urban calendar. If you were a rural school child you might attend school in the summer and in the winter. That way you were able to help out on the farm during spring planting and fall harvest. If you were an urban school child you may have endured as many as 48 weeks of school. Phew! I am glad this was not my schedule.
Thanks however to reformers like Horace Mann, the two calendars were meshed together and voila, our current school calendar (or a version thereof) emerged. It appeared obvious that summer was a great time for a break. According to an article in Time magazine by Alex Altman, summer break was the choice because, “it offered a respite for teachers, meshed with the agrarian calendar and alleviated physicians’ concerns that packing students into sweltering classrooms would promote the spread of disease.”
Now, whether or not summer break does all of this I can not be the judge. What I do know is that I enjoy summer break and the opportunity it affords me as a teacher to rejuvenate. I also enjoy the time it allows me to spend with my children. I love that it allows my kids to spend some time being kids.
There is a season for everything. In the summer it is our season to enjoy each other, the weather, the beach, the bugs. We stay up late, sleep in- when we can, watch a movie, draw on the sidewalk with chalk…
Mr. Altman’s article makes me aware that our South Korean and Japanese counterparts are in school 220 and 243 days respectively. How do I feel about that? I am not sure. Do I want to fall behind? No. But can I say change our schedule based on that knowledge alone? No.
I only have more questions. How long has it been that way? Are their children happier? Are they smarter? Whose measuring and how? It is almost too much for my brain to consider- after all, I am on SUMMER BREAK!