Jun 152011
 

Unfortunately, today’s kids are getting the short end of the stick.

Back in the day when I was a child, walking back and forth to school, in 10 feet of snow (ok, not really — that was dad’s story), I lived for my summer break.  Filled with leisurely, fun days at the pool, playing sports or just hanging out with friends, summer was long enough (a good 13-14 weeks) to make me actually look forward to going back to school in the fall.

If I recall correctly, my only assignment was to read a few books off the summer reading list and that was about it.  Everything else was sheer play.

Avoiding summer school was enough incentive for me to study hard during the school year.  Unfortunately, it’s starting to look like even the smart kids are going to have to endure the ‘punishment’ of sitting in a dreary classroom during hot, summer weather.  And cold, snowy weather too.

Reports are circulating now that snow days are on the chopping block.

The so-called best friend “computer” that kids just can’t get enough of is actually becoming their foe.  Some school districts are experimenting with having students do lessons online during bad weather, allowing classes to go on during even the worst blizzard.

In 2009, President Obama proposed making the school day longer and the summer vacation shorter in an effort to help kids gain the competitive advantage on a global scale.  American students were just not spending enough hours in school.  The challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.

When did life get to be so hard for young students?  Aren’t kids supposed to be kids, even if just for one or two days spent outside on a sled? Do they really need to spend more time in front of the computer screen? Have we scheduled them to death?  And when do they have time for unstructured creativity?

Actually, there is a strong case for adding time to the school day.

Researcher Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution looked at math scores in countries that added math instruction time.  Scores rose significantly, especially in countries that added minutes to the day, rather than days to the year.

Additionally, summer is a crucial time for kids, especially poorer kids, because poverty is linked to problems that interfere with learning, such as hunger and less involvement by their parents.

Most certainly, there are pros and cons to which approach is best when it comes to keeping American children competitive.  Ideally, a balance will be found between studying and playing.

Soon enough, these young students will grow into productive adults who will spend lots more time working than playing.  And when they do, hopefully those adults will have childhood memories to daydream about: ones filled with snow day sledding and hot chocolate as well as summers spent frolicking by the pool with their besties.

Contributor: Connie Hammond

~ Read more from The Local’s Perspective ~

We want to hear from you.

Are you worried about your kids competing in the global economy that you’d be willing to slash snow days?  Do you agree with online classes to keep kids up to speed?  Should summer get shorter or longer for kids? Share your story (and if you enjoyed this story, please share it via the link below)!

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