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The Grinch Who Stole Summer Vacation

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Ronda Kaysen: Should summer vacation go the way of the dinosaurs? David Von Drehle of Time Magazine seems to think so. He penned an article making a case against summer vacation, arguing that low-income kids suffer academically during the lazy months of summer, while kids from middle- and upper-class families either stay the course or even excel because of academic-focused (and costly) summer camps.

The Grinch

"There is an idyllic view of summer, but we've known for decades that the reality is very different for a lot of underprivileged kids," Ron Fairchild, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, a nonprofit organization in Baltimore, told Von Drehle.

Insiders call it "the summer slide," and although most 6-year-olds return from summer vacation on basically equal footing, by the time kids get to high school, the gap in knowledge between kids in low-income families and those in higher-income families is staggering.

The solution? Take the stigma out of summer school and provide kids with enriching programs all summer long, to keep their minds agile and fresh.

Summer was never meant to be a three-month siesta. It's a tradition left over from our agrarian past, when kids had to help out on the farm. Kids in other developed countries spend an additional month a year in school, putting American kids at a disadvantage in a global economy.

It's hard to imagine childhood without summer. It's such an iconic part of what I think of as being a kid. But at the same time, spending three months watching TV or sitting on a street corner in the heat eating Popsicles is hardly a good way for a kid to spend his time. Perhaps summer has gotten too long, or maybe it's a question of making summer camps and summer activities affordable for more people.

What do you think, moms? Is summer a brain drain, or do you think it's part of what makes being a kid great?

next: Living in Cougar Denial
8 comments so far | Post a comment now
gere August 2, 2010, 5:22 AM


Anonymous August 2, 2010, 9:36 AM

Summer vacation is when my kids learn the most!!!! In this age of test-driven brain-numbing education, we need summer vacation more than ever.

For most kids, there is a jump in learning over the summer. Instead of pulling all kids down to the level of kids from low-income families, let’s give the kids from low-income families free passes to summer camp.

MartiniMama August 2, 2010, 11:13 AM

I have helped organize summer day camps in the past. Every one of them has a scholarship program. In an effort to get that info out to lower-income families so that they could also take advantage of these great camps, we started sending home a “summer camp” list with students at our elementary school.

I do, however, wish we could go to a year-round school schedule. I think that would have the most benefit for everyone.

Anonymous August 2, 2010, 4:09 PM

Nothing wrong with a little down time. What happened to destressing in this society? It’s nice to not have to constantly think. So make some affordable voluntary summer academic camps instead of school for those who want them and voila, problem solved.

Sue August 2, 2010, 5:49 PM

When children are young, don’t they say that play time is a time when they learn the most? I think that apply’s to everyone. Nothing wrong with a relaxing summer!

michelle August 3, 2010, 1:49 PM

American public schools are already so bad compared to other countries. This is not just because other countries have longer school years. Making the school year longer without fixing anything else is not going to help. Maybe we should first concentrate on fixing the September-to-May part.

Janine August 3, 2010, 1:59 PM

It seems to be more and more that there are 2 kinds of kids. Ones whose parents pay attention to them and those whose parents can’t or don’t. When a parent pays attention to a kid in the summer- Summer can be the time when a kid blossoms the most. Kids who have parents who can’t or don’t pay attention just need schools and everyone else to pay attention for them. Maybe we need 2 types of schools. Parent particpants and non parent participent schools.

thomas sabo charms December 20, 2010, 4:30 PM

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