We wrapped up April vacation week today in Massachusetts, and it started me thinking about the coming summer vacation. I’m not talking about my vacation, of course, but rather the practice of closing the schools for a week in February, a week in April, two weeks in December, and all of July and August. Why do we do this?
When both parents work, school vacation is time that childcare must be covered. It can be an opportunity for fun–our kids enjoyed an enriching week at the Boston Nature Center. When parents can coordinate schedules it can be a great time for a family trip. But not three months.
Thinking ahead to summer, we have arranged several weeks of camps and planned a family vacation. We are far from “helicopter parents,” but not scheduling is not an option and we want our kids to have a good experience. I don’t mean to whine and complain that schools “inconvenience” us, but…
Isn’t the most important thing in our kids lives learning? Why is there a need for a vacation from what is good? Kids should not be sitting at desks all summer learning math, but they should be learning things about life that they will not get if left to their own. A toddler needs to be watched; kids need opportunities to learn and grow.
Boston has an amazing array of resources and programs for kids in the summer, but most of it is piecemeal. There are even more opportunities offered by private organizations. But you really have to “stitch” things together when some programs are morning or afternoon only or end at 4pm, don’t start until 10am, etc. When a parent works part time, or has an amazingly flexible schedule, or does not have a job…I guess you can make it work. But otherwise, I think most of those programs are an automatic “no.” Ironically, if your kids do poorly in school, there IS summer school–but I doubt anybody wants that.
We need something more comprehensive to keep the spark of learning alive for all kids over the summer that is also practical for parents. When I look at the programs offered, I think, wow, we are almost there. It’s the same reaction I have when I look at the after school programs and organizations like Citizen Schools, a nonprofit that coordinates volunteer parents to go into schools and provide extended learning opportunities by sharing their skills and experience in a way that links school to work.
The pieces are already there…and I think Boston has an incredible supply of opportunity–for those parents and kids who can find a way to participate. Why is there no systematic effort to make these opportunities available to all? What if parents could be assisted in creating a yearly education plan for their kids that would simultaneously solve the childcare challenge? Am I a hopeless liberal planner type to think we need more than just parental serendipity?