Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back to school

Today, my kids go back to school. I know, it seems early. When we first moved here two years ago, I was taken mildly aback at the short, six-week summer break, too. That lasted only a few minutes, however, before gratitude sank in. Because that meant our new school district followed a British style of scheduling, meaning a shorter summer break, and breaks in the fall and spring.

Color me ecstatic. I've never really understood why the American school system clings to an antiquated schedule that is redundant in today's lifestyle. A hundred years ago, sure, kids needed to be out for longer in order to help with harvests. But we're not a mostly agricultural society anymore, and those needs for putting kids to work to ensure their family's survival are long gone.

The advantages to such a system are through the roof. First of all, it's great for the kids. A shorter summer means less time to lose the rhythm of their education. Moving up a grade isn't seen as quite the ritual as it used to be, as it is a continuation onto the next phase of their learning.

Parents benefit, too. I'm lucky in that I get to be at home for my kids, but there a ton of families out there that rely on both parents going off to work, or the sole provider in single-parent households, who then have to figure out childcare. Costs for daily childcare are astronomical these days. Wouldn't it be great if they only had to worry about who's going to watch the kids for six weeks instead of ten or twelve?

Another advantage comes with the fall and spring breaks. We get two weeks apiece for those, which makes it a lot easier to schedule family vacations. There's more flexibility, and often, if we want to go somewhere, we're off-season so it's cheaper, too. Now granted, if you don't go away, this means you have to figure out childcare again, but two weeks is a lot easier to arrange than longer time periods. I know plenty of people who ship the kids off to grandparents for breaks.

My sister thinks it's a little insane, that kids should have the summer off. But in all fairness, my kids don't actually have fewer days off than anybody else. They're just spread out more. To me, that's just a much smarter way of doing it.