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Linnies Corner

Summer Holidays

(from l to r, myself, me at 1 yr. with sister 3 yrs., my mother at 17 - only photos available).

Today, I’m taking a step back from my usual topic matter to address some lighter thoughts.  Just a week or so ago, your children or grandchildren, stepped outside of those big ol’ school doors for the  final time this season, to  embrace a lengthy vacation known as the summer break or summer holidays.  Parents usually plan well ahead for such occasions by making special care arrangements, if they are working parents, plan summer camp or day camp outings, arrange family vacations, make plans to attend special events and anything at all that will make these breaks especially memorable for the child and parents alike. 

I recall my summer breaks in the elementary grades  (K1-8).  As one of five children with a working mother who was widowed, it was imperative that we did as many activities together as possible, not only because it was more affordable for our mother but as a commitment to keep an eye out for one another as a matter of love and safety.  We did have a live-in couple who babysat us while our mother was working but for the most part, my older sister and I felt an obligation to watch out for the safety of the younger ones and to help out with their leisure activities.  This meant swimming lessons, hiking, swimming in the summer and in the winter, skating, tobogganing and even building snowmen.  We also enjoyed inventing games that we could play together as a family.  One such game was called ‘car’.  We would all sit under our big old maple tree in the front yard and appoint ourselves as the parents – one as the father driver and the other as the mother.  The husband was usually the driver in those days and we took turns playing that role.  The three smaller children sat behind us in the make believe back seat and behaved as children usually do, singing, playing, arguing, and yes, even exclaiming ‘are we there yet?’  You get the picture.  We liked this game because we could change the script at will and I truly believe that my sister and I became more responsible along the way.  

We did get to do our own thing as well and the babysitter took over on such occasions.  My older sister had her own friends, and occasionally, they reluctantly agreed to let me tag along with them while they did their thing.  I was too young to venture out alone but my most memorable times were with my big sister Sherrin and her friend Judy, riding horses, swimming, playing dress up in period costumes that were found in a secret room above the drive shed at Judy’s house that dated back to the early settlement days  in that Region.  I say that the room was secret because there was no door to access it from the hallway and it was not even discovered until  a window was noticed from the outside , indicating that there was a room there.  Eventually, access was discovered through a barn entrance, at which time, they also found a tunnel that led to the lake, being an escape route in the event of an attack during that early settlement period when the house was built.  This was an historic house that held many secrets but our days were spent exploring and re-enacting imagined roles.  I can’t think of a richer way to spend those leisurely days. 

I have never yet met a child who did not look forward to the Summer break with great anticipation, even though they were all anxious to get back to school in the Fall to reminisce with their friends.  And this leads me to question whether or not a two month break is a good thing or not.  Is it too long and if so, does this interrupt the learning process?  Our government of the day has been contemplating elimination of the summer break, substituting just a two week holiday instead of the usual two months.  Yes, our kids would cram much more learning into each school year and the cost of childcare for working parents, may be reduced, but would we be robbing them of an important part of their childhood? 

So here is my question.  Should Summer break be eliminated from our children’s school year – YES or NO, and why do you feel that way.  
I welcome your comments!

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25 Comments to Summer Holidays:

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Micki Peluso on July-04-12 9:39 PM
Linda, I think it would be cruel to deprive children of that yearned for summer break. Studies do show that they forget a lot in those 6-8 weeks off but a brush up course in Septemeber usually catches them up. Having no breaak except for 4-6 weks twice during the whole year has been tried in western states and it is a boon for working parents who have no place or person to care for their chilfren while they work. Still, most kids of all ages need that longer summer break to just lay back and enjoy life, free from the structures of schooling. Micki
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Linda Hales on July-04-12 9:58 PM
Thanks for your comments Micki. I agree that kids need to enjoy that off time while they are young. They grow up fast enough as it is.

Linnea Larsen on July-04-12 9:40 PM
Absolutely not! Summer break is a tradition that families look forward to and remember all their lives. We went camping every year because my parents couldn't afford anything else, but the sights and wonders of nature I saw, I will never forget.
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Linda Hales on July-04-12 10:03 PM
Thanks Linnea - I love your adamant reply. There isn't anything that can substitute for good memories from childhood. They contribute greatly toward building strong character in our children.

Sandy Nachlinger on July-04-12 9:45 PM
I thoroughly enjoyed today's post. Like you, I experienced an idyllic summer every year -- swimming in a nearby public pool, camping with my parents, playing with neighborhood friends, fishing with my dad. I don't remember ever being bored! We were lucky, weren't we? As to whether or not the summer break should be shorter, I have mixed feelings. While I think education is important, I also think children should have time to be ... well... childish! I'm guessing your "car" game evolved over time, and the more you played it, the more you all embellished the roles. Would that have happened if your vacation had only lasted two weeks? There's plenty of time for children to work 50 weeks a year, with only a two week vacation -- it's called adulthood. Why would we want to rush it? By the way, I can see why you're a writer, Linnie. Your imagination was fed and grew through those childhood games.
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Linda Hales on July-04-12 10:14 PM
Thanks for your thoughts Sandy! You are right, playing car and many other games that we made up, certainly challenged our imaginations. Sometimes we mimicked our neighbors and certain colorful townsfolk and always hoped that it never got back to them because they would not have appreciated our portrayals. I agree that kids need to be kids and if it 'ain't broke - don't fix it'! (excuse that nasty word - I understand that they even put it in the dictionary).

Cherrye Vasquez on July-04-12 10:35 PM
Hi Linda, This is a great and thought provoking post for parents with school aged children. I also loved reading about the fun play that you and your siblings involved yourselves in. I can remember making up games with my siblings. One of us would sit in the middle bedroom with a soft item in hand. The other two would run past the bedroom, and try not to get hit with the soft item as it was thrown at them. These were the good old days, huh? I don't think that summer breaks should be eliminated. I do feel that the time off should be well structured with academics, and leisurely fun. I am careful to add fun (movies, travel, museum, plays, symphony, educational excursions (tours), circus and the like to our agenda, but I also add academic reviews and teaching. We must do this in order to keep the pace and regimen alive. I think that children can get "rusty" if we don't. I often purchase the next school year's workbooks from a teacher supply store, but the internet is loaded with great materials, too. Children must have a break. Both children and teachers need time to rejuvenate, or they will feel tired and cranky. We went to Colorado for a great cause (Suzuki piano conference), so only having two weeks off would feel so rushed, and stressed for my family. This is a great post. Thanks for asking this question.
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Linda Hales on July-04-12 11:04 PM
Hi Cherrye - I love that you dedicate good quality time to your children with a wonderful mix of activities during the Summer break. It can wear you out, but they need the stimulation and thrive on it. Sounds like you are a wonderful Mom!

Holly Stover on July-05-12 12:39 AM
My answer is a big NO. I think kids need more than a school education. They need time on their own to contemplate who they really are.They need time to stretch their creative thinking without instructions from a teacher. They need the freedom to make decisions on their own, explore outdoor places other than school grounds. They need to ride their bikes aimlessly through neighbourhoods, spend time wiggling their toes in the sand at the beach and squint their eyes from the suns white hot rays.They need unscheduled time to learn how to fend for themselves and to be themselves. Holly
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Linda Hales on July-05-12 4:16 AM
Thanks so much for your comment Holly. So far it seems to be unanimous that kids do indeed need that summer break in order to express themselves freely with their own imaginations, outside of the classroom environment. Should that topic come up again at the provincial level, I am armed with some very convincing arguments against it.

Sandra McLeod Humphrey on July-05-12 3:01 PM
I vote a big NO too! I remember how all our kids and the neighborhood kids packed their lunches, gabbed their bikes, and were off for the adventure of the day! Sometimes they grabbed their tennis rackets, sometime their fishing poles, and sometimes their baseball gear. They would be gone for most of the day and come home exhausted but bubbling over with great stories about their adventure of the day. Those were great times for our kids and they learned a lot about life, responsibility, and friendships!
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LInda Hales on July-05-12 3:17 PM
Hi Sandy - those memories really take you back - especially because those were the days when kids were able to go away for hours on end, exploring their world and it didn't cost us a cent. How I wish kids of today had the same opportunities as we did in those simpler times but we live in a more dangerous world now. Parents must find ways to remain close by while at the same time, giving some free rein to their child's expression and creativity - a challenge but well worthwhile.

Peggy Strack on July-05-12 3:22 PM
I'm a speech therapist working for a school district and I love the summer break as much as the kids. That being said, I do feel there should be summer programming in high needs school districts, those that are failing to meet the standards. These districts usually are in impoverished areas and there isn't much activity for kids. I would like to see some kind of creative schooling for disadvantaged kids in the summer. ~ Peggy

Linda Hales on July-05-12 3:05 PM
Dear Peggy - thanks for your thought provoking comment. Summer school programming for a child to catch up on failing grades is necessary. Hopefully, teaching innovative and creative curriculum would stimulate young minds while also keeping these children off the streets and out of trouble. You have added meaningful perspective to this discussion.
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Deirdre Tolhurst on July-05-12 4:34 PM
NO! NO! NO! This is a time for parents to get to know their children again, and vice versa! It's a time to grow and play! Oh how we counted down the days until summer vacation. We didn't do much but play baseball in the street; play hide and seek; run through the sprinkler; play red light, green light, one two three; and cops and robbers and cowboys and indians! We climbed trees and pretended all sorts of things. If we took away all the electronic toys and let kids be kids again, I think half the country's problems would be solved! Let them play, and fall down and get hurt, and run after the ice cream truck, and ride their bikes while pretending it was a motorcycle or horse! Oh no, don't ever take the summer away. There is plenty of time to learn! And believe it or not, you can learn while having fun! Loved the car game, Linda, my brother and I had a fun game too. We called it Car Car C-A-R. Too long to go into it here, but if you lost you got radioactivity! So much for the sci-fi movies of the 60s! Deirdre
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deirdre tolhurst on July-05-12 4:35 PM
Btw, I love the pictures!
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Linda Hales on July-05-12 7:11 PM
Thanks for your comments Deirdre! I'm glad you liked the pictures. My mother was an artist and she water colored the photographs in green which is how it had to be done back in the day. I so agree with you that our world would be a different place if we could only give our kids free rein to roam and explore but regrettably we live in a dangerous world where children are preyed upon. Parents must find ways to make this happen safely and with fewer toys and gadgets. I believe that our brain is the greatest gadget ever invented and that through knowledge, all good things are possible.

Rosemary Adkins on July-06-12 2:33 AM
Hi Linda, Thanks for the walk down memory lane with special vacation play! When I was growing up my parents could not afford to entertain us for three months or afford day care so from the day we were dismissed from school to a few days before school began, they packed up the car and we all became a working family. They worked in a sales field most of our lives setting up large stores across America. So our vacations were of a working sort but we traveled to every state in the USA by the time I were eleven years old. We saw sites that were free to visit and met people from all walks of life with our treats being able to dine at fun locations and experience cultures from state to state. I believe it was from these experiences that we all were so prepared as adults after graduating from High School and have learned so much. I have always had mixed thoughts about our "vacations" so I am not sure how I feel about shorter time off. Going to school year around will certainly shorten school time but then you run the risk of throwing KIDS out into this world without a chance to mature. Thank tou for stimulating everyone's thoughts. Just my thoughts!
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Linda Hales on July-06-12 6:03 AM
Dear Rosemary - sounds very much like a working vacation with a major geography and tourism lesson thrown in to boot! This sheds much light on your love and expertise for travel and tourism, all of which led to how and why you have written such a wonderful book on Ireland. I thank you so much for your most interesting comment Rosemary.

Sharla on July-30-12 11:08 AM
Linda, you really left a lot of food for thought in this one. Being a former educator and living in two different educational scenarios makes it a tough decision. On one hand are experiences where the traditional school calendar was in place with summers off. On the other hand was the school calendar based on a 12-month schedule with breaks intermittent throughout the year. There are definitely pros and cons to both independently. With the modern age delegating both parents as 'bread winners'in most cases, the summer off does not leave vacation time as we remember it back in the day so to speak. All of your replies to this post definitely hold merit and if I had to make a choice, I would probably stick to the original calendar I remember - School out after Memorial Day and returning after Labor Day. Great post!
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Linda Hales on July-30-12 11:23 AM
Hi Sharla - love and agree with your comments and position on this subject. As much as it is best for kids and parents to have the summer together, parents must work and make special arrangements for the children during that period which can be difficult and sometimes troublesome. Parents can't always get time off to share those mini vacations either because employers can't allow most if not all employees to take the same time off. I don't think there is one right answer here but I'm having a delightful and informative discussion with you all and thank you again for your invaluable input.

Sally DeSmet on August-21-12 9:51 AM
I say leave it alone. We already cram so much in the school year with studies and extra-curriculars -- kids need a break. College students need a break -- we all do. Summer is a time for regenerating from all the hustle bustle of the school year. Let families go on vacation and let kids be kids. I don't remember my kids ever crying because the school year was over and had to endure the rigors of summer. Of course, I'm assuming that the home environment is good - and if not, summer would likely be dreaded rather than anticipated with excitement. Under normal or optimal conditions -- I think it should stay the ways it's been for years.
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Linda Hales on August-21-12 11:25 AM
Your comment makes sense to me Sally and I lean heavily to your point of view. I just love that we are sharing a range of opinions here but I believe that mostly, we all agree that summer vacations are what nostalgia makes - right! Our kids, and ourselves included, will remember those special times - especially daily outings, new friendships, and more. Thanks so much for commenting. If you have a link or two for me to like, please let me know.

Clarbojahn on September-11-12 11:26 AM
Thanks for sharing your summer vacation as a child with us. As for your question should children have long summer breaks I think a few weeks would be more conducive to remembering school lessons. Many of the people who comment saying they have fond memories of childhood vacations could have done their vacations in less time as well. Thanks for your comment on my blog about my vacation it led me here and I have had a great time reading this post and comments. :)
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Linda Hales on September-11-12 11:41 AM
Hi Char - great to hear from you. I enjoyed yours too. Your response seems like a compromise to the status quo, that perhaps a month would still suffice for that much needed break and still be long enough to make wonderful memories for the entire family. Many thanks for commenting and hope that your new season holds much promise and delivers even more.

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