Edgy Mama: The president who stole summer vacation?

Breaking news: President Obama’s approval rating plummets in elementary schools around the country.

Why? He wants to steal summer vacation.

Because? Kids get too much vacation already. Luckily, third-graders can’t vote, so who cares if they’re pissed off.

In truth, the president says he wants to shorten summer vacation, implement longer school days, and offer open school on weekends so students have a “safe” place to be. The first two are proven strategies for improving test scores and skills in fields like math and science (fields where U.S. students lag behind most of the rest of the developed world). The latter offers security for kids who might otherwise be hanging out on street corners or unsupervised.

Edgy Girl reads the daily newspaper for sports scores, but a recent headline about Obama’s plan for less summer vacay caught her attention.

“I love Obama. But summer vacation is already too short,” she exclaimed. This from a kid who spent most of her summer playing math games, reading books, and pretending to be a reporter by surreptitiously writing down entire conversations (since forbidden due to new parent-enforced home privacy law).

The boy was even more horrified by Obama’s ideas. He recently asked if he could be home-schooled because he thinks that would leave him doing whatever he wants all day — which it would, because I don’t have the time or the inclination to home-school him.

Of course, our president already knows changing the educational system will be, well, akin to negotiating universal health care.

“Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas,” he said earlier this year. “Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.”

Malia and Sasha are in sixth and third grades, and while I hear that having your dad as president can give a kid instant popularity (for the wrong reasons), having dad become the summer vacation Grinch might damage these girls’ street cred.

Jokes aside, what are the realities of our current U.S. educational system? Our system is still based on a once-predominant culture that now exists for only a few — agrarian society. Summer wasn’t vacation time in the past — it was work on the family farm time. But that’s so no longer the case (same with daylight savings time — make it stop, please?) My kids helped weed our tiny suburban gardens a couple of times this summer, but they certainly didn’t need 10 weeks off for that.

Back when I worked in education (yes, I used to have a real job), I researched “full year” school. And I liked the idea. There’s less vacation, but vacation isn’t all concentrated into one steamingly hot time of the year. Instead, kids typically have 10 or 12 weeks on, then two weeks off, 10 on, two off, etc., throughout the year. Imagine being able to take a vacation in October or February. Could be fun.

The research shows that students that get shorter vacations lose less knowledge. Teachers then spend less time reviewing and more time introducing new material. And yes, test scores typically improve.

I also don’t mind the idea of longer school days, provided that all homework becomes schoolwork. Having an extra hour or two of independent work, supervised by teachers instead of parents, appeals to me immensely.

On the other hand, I’ve come to enjoy the slower pace of summer, even though it messes with my work schedule. Not having to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn and get kids organized and out the door every morning is natural Valium for me. But then, I mostly work from home. For my friends who work full-time, summer vacation can be a pain. They have to find camps, daycare, or sitters for their kids — not only time-consuming, but also expensive.

So I’m not sure what’s the answer, but I’m leaning toward agreeing with Obama. The pros of his ideas seem to outweigh the cons. And the Edgy Kids can learn to deal with it. Remember, childhood is not a democracy.

Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.


Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

10 thoughts on “Edgy Mama: The president who stole summer vacation?

  1. Rebecca

    Family friends have their boy in year-round in Denver. They don’t just like it, they LOVE it. Seems like they get more vacations, somehow … but can be tricky with work schedules for parents, etc.

  2. Piffy!

    Just explain to the lazy little things that they can either get a job harvesting tobacco all summer, or shut up and go to school so they can possibly have a chance at competing with the rest of the industrialized world for jobs in ten years.

  3. Rio

    Working on college campuses for most of my kids’ lives, I truly enjoy the summer breaks for family time. I do know it’s a pain for people who don’t have 10 month positions. And I know all the info about school knowledge lost over the summer – but there is something lost for a child who can’t just have a slower paced life for a while and learn how to enjoy days where hanging out and doing nothing are finely cultivated arts. (and yes – I do have to force my kids away from the tech and “I’m bored!” days to try to engage in other forms of development)

  4. I always thought of a longer school year as the same thing as a bigger bag of cheap potato chips.

    It is just more cheap potato chips.

    I want a smaller bag of better potato chips.

    I also think that bag of chips would be better if spread out into three sections across the year. That’s just me, though, and I clearly do not know what I am talking about.

    After all, I have three failed books and a failed quadruple album on my shelf. No one wants that stuff. My last eight marriages ended in disaster before the children could even be thought of, much less created and spawned. The one I adopted from Singapore ran away three weeks after he got here, screaming “No crazy man! No more talk!”

    I feel sometimes as though none of this would have happened if Gore had simply had the presence of mind to go after those Ohio votes instead of the Florida ones. Then again, if Carter hadn’t lost to Reagan….

    Oh, but the nostalgia. Poisons the mind, doesn’t it? Makes you wish for a past that never existed.

    Speaking of which, I miss my summer vacations. The highlight of my incredible life (the details of which are spelled out in two of the books and three songs on the quadruple album – one of which, to be fair, is one of Pink Floyd’s songs, but that’s ok – he isn’t using them anymore).

  5. tatuaje

    Or instead of teaching them to compete with the rest of the industrialized world, which is set to implode any minute now, send the lil’ rugrats to a place like Wildroots (http://www.wildroots.org/index.php)and give them a real leg up on the competition.

    You’ll be a proud parent when the younguns are using their friends’ college degrees to start a fire with flint & steel to keep you warm and safe in your old age.

    If all else fails, they can live in a cave, dumpster dive, make & spend no money, and blog about it. Like this guy…http://tinyurl.com/ycydtwo

  6. Cat

    European children go year round. Maybe it would be a good thing for them. I know that in Germany they even went on Saturdays. Yes, it is good to have some free time for them to play and grow outside of a school environment but with the US education down in comparison to the rest of the world, it may be a good idea to pump it up a little. They’ll survive. They have recess/gym and they are out of school by two, seems easy enough to me.

  7. Andi

    I don’t have kids, but I tend to lean towards the Obama proposal, I think it makes sense to give more continuous breaks throughout the year that are shorter in length so that the kids retain more of the content they are taught.

  8. My kids are grown now, but I remember what it was like; summer vaycay is great for about two weeks, and then the boredom sets in. I can’t imagine anybody would genuinely suffer for having school a bit longer, and it probably would do a great deal of good. It will make things more complicated for those who run summer camp programs, since they generally draw from a variety of municipalities, all of which will have slightly different schedules. I don’t think there will be quick or easy public support for it.

  9. Withrow

    If we increase the school day by 1 hour, that should represent an immediate 12.5% increase in teacher pay (at least; that presumes that there’s no planning necessary for that extra hour of instructional time). Are we as a society willing to do this?

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.