Too much vacation, too little school?

It’s the middle of summer vacation, the doldrums, and I don’t need to look at the thermometer outside to know it’s hot because my kids are all becoming zombie night owls obsessed with video games and their personal electronic devices. They’re bored and the devices fill the time. I know the mantra, the guilt trip that as a parent I should be tossing aside kidsonvacationeverything that I need to do each day to educate and entertain them. Sure, sounds good for a week or two, but in the interest of ensuring that the mortgage payment continues to be made, the reality is that they need to find their own diversions and activities.

Summer camp, did I hear you say? Sure, but that’s rather astonishingly expensive and so I end up having to work even more to pay for those $500/week or more camps. Then there’s all the gear needed for the adventure camps and transportation, and, honestly, it feels onerous. When I was a kid, I remember that summer vacation was when I’d jump on my bike in the morning and vanish all day at a pal’s house. We’d be out and about, going on bike rides to the library, to a local fast food place for lunch, or even just scheming ways to earn a few bucks so we could score some candy bars. We’d find our own entertainment and our family vacations were maybe a week each summer if I was lucky. Parents gotta work, ya know.

The thing of it is, we have too much summer vacation in the United States and that’s a big part of the problem. 6 weeks, 8 weeks, that’d be reasonable and long enough for us to have a major holiday if we wanted or for the kids to go and visit Papa in LA or even host friends visiting us. Plenty of time for sleepovers and more. But we don’t have that. We have, as Phineas and Ferb like to highlight, 101 days of summer vacation.

And that’s too much.

Let’s add some actual data to this discussion: There are 260 week days in a year. In England, 192 of those days are spent in school (that’s only 73% of those weekdays and none of the weekends, remember), in Israel 216 of those days are spent in school (83%) and Japan’s at the top with 243 school days (93%, but Japanese children attend half-days of school on Saturdays). In the USA? We’re at the bottom of all industrialized nations with a mere 180 school days annually (69%).

That means American school children spend 180 days in school and 185 days at home each year. They spend less days at school than they do on holiday.

Now I’m the first to admit that the school system has other issues and challenges, and simply adding additional days isn’t magically going to fix our future economic prospects or the fact that American children rank far from the top in math, science or other academic indices, but at the same time, given that every single teacher I know spends the first month post-summer reminding the children what they learned the previous year (another month lost), couldn’t we rethink these school schedules a bit and add 10% more schooling to see what happens?

What’s your opinion? Mine is that another month before my kids are back in school is just too much time off…

Dave Taylor is a single dad who writes about his experiences on his popular blog. You can find him just about everywhere online, however, when he’s not playing with his children.