A glance at Google trends yesterday revealed the preoccupation of plenty of parents and grade-schoolers on what is, for most of the country (me included) the last weekend before school starts, and it’s not a search for the most exciting possible way to make the most of a last few days of freedom from schedules and early mornings. Instead, it’s a reflection of our collective fears about the result of all that freedom. We love our classic summer in the United States; but we worry about it, too. Most other Western countries don’t give their kids such a long break (and very few kids are using it to work in the fields). A few schools (only about 3000) do provide year-round schooling, with two or three week long breaks spread throughout the year, but most of our kids have been out of school for for nearly three months now, and we’re just a little worried about it.
So sure, we’re taking a last trip to the swimming pool amidst all the new-lunch-box-buying and the search for the absolute coolest two-pocket folders. But we’re also worrying, and, as always, our worries are reflected back to us via the magic of Google. What were a significant number of us searching for yesterday that reminded me that no matter how unique we think we are, we really do move as a herd?
All this worry is decently founded: studies do find that it takes some kids a while to recapture what they’ve lost over summer break (and winter break, for that matter). And the greatest losses are in the area of basic math skills. But shorter vacations don’t appear to be the answer: overall, year-round schools don’t boost learning (possibly because they don’t actually increase the amount of time spend in the classroom). So as long as we’re wedded to the 180 day school year (and what school district could afford to do more at this point), we can keep our long summers with a relatively clear conscience.
But when I look back at June, I see plenty of us vowing to keep our kids reading over the summer. We kept that vow, more than a little sporadically, at our house. Maybe next year we should try pre-printing those worksheets and putting them in the book basket, just to avoid the August Google rush.
By the way, my favorite source for those worksheets? Edhelper.com. But since it’s already been so long, and the damage is presumably done, I’m a little reluctant to muck up a last few evenings with a starter version of the homework that’s so inevitably coming. Maybe we’ll just head out and count some stars.