Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer Brain Drain and Kids

Have you experienced everything on your summer “to do” list?  Maybe you need a trip to the beach or a hike in the mountains to feel like you enjoyed your summer vacation to the fullest extent.  Or perhaps you are someone who needs to go fishing or rent a house in the woods.  Whatever it is that tickles your fancy, most families on a school year calendar have an individual activity or trip that makes summer feel complete so that they can feel rested and ready to tackle a new school year. 
Some education advocates are calling for a longer school year and doing away with the summer vacation time in order to improve academic standings.  The argument is to avoid what some feel is the summer “brain drain” and suggest that students lose valuable lessons taught in the school year during the summer recess.  This academic loss is coupled with the need to get students back on task at the beginning of the following school year before any new learning can commence. 
This is not just a debate of learning and skills retained, but a topic of logistics as well.  There are some parts of the country that simply don’t have schools that are equipped to handle housing students and staff during what can be sweltering summer weather.  An Op Ed piece in an East Coast newspaper recently was touting the benefits of not having a summer break and stating all sorts of theories and statistics to cite the benefits of a twelve-month-school-year.  A simply worded letter of response stated that if students are becoming ill from the heat in the first weeks of June, what kind of learning would take place during the summer months, pointing out that their part of the country had buckled under a week of 100-plus degrees in July. 
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are those who favor the familiar approach of bursting out of the doors when the last school bell rings and switching gears to turn the focus to building sand castles, riding bikes and playing catch.  The summer-vacation-supporters say that without a sense of ending a school year it robs students, those who are struggling and excelling, of a sense of completion, which in turn, gives the feel of a fresh start for the following school year. 
Whether your school year begins when the calendar says August, or you are a September back-to-school family, best wishes for a happy and productive 2011-2012 school year!
Be well, 

Alice Knisley Matthias
Education Writer

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