Thursday, July 21, 2016

Summer Break?

Upon our return from a two-week Ireland vacation, I was greeted with a smiling sister-in-law, an excited dog and an enormous pile of mail. As I rummaged through the heap of advertisements, I came across a letter from my daughter’s middle school. Being that this will be her first year attending middle school, I got excited to read the contents of what was inside the letter. Was it a school supply list? Or a welcome message? Or an orientation invite? No. It wasn’t. It was homework for my soon to be sixth grader.

Obviously, this doesn’t sit well with me.

Being that both of my daughters are straight A and/or honor roll kids, they work their butts off all year long. And as their mom, having witnessed their hard work, I completely support a well-deserved break for them. So, I can’t help but ask the question, “Umm…they call it summer b-r-e-a-k for a reason, don’t they?”

Now, I understand it’s important that children have some sort of review over the summer to avoid teachers having to spend the first month of the new semester rehashing the lessons of last year. However, the contents of this letter require my daughter to complete two lengthy reading projects (not just reading, but projects that accompany the reading) and quite a bit of math work, all of which will count towards her grade in a school that she hasn’t stepped foot in yet. As of right now, her teacher is a phantom, but here sits an assignment.

Maybe I have become accustomed to the easier elementary school summer tasks, where kids are challenged to complete an optional workbook over the summer in exchange for a special trip to LEGOLAND later in the year. I guess middle school is more hardcore than I expected.
I know that middle school and high school educators are in the business of prepping kids for college and life afterwards.  However, in my experience with both my college education and my career, extra summer work is not a thing. Unless college kids opt to take summer classes, university professors generally don’t stick around, grading homework over the summer. When I attended college, the professors graded our final exams in May and then said, “Sayonara! Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, kids.”

And if I dare to look even further into the future, when my children accept their first jobs after college, their bosses aren’t going to give them projects to do while on vacation that will count towards their year-end bonuses.

Because vacation is vacation, and summer break is summer break.  Everyone needs to recharge, including our kids.

Maybe I am a bit cranky because I just got back from an amazing vacation, and I thought I had another month or two before having to deal with anything school related. Maybe I am just whining and being that lazy summer mom who is contributing to the diminishing education of our American children, simply because I want them to have some down time. While there are moms who are willing to grab a poster board and picket in Washington DC for a more stringent, year-round education system, I am not one of them.

I am the mom who pushes her kids throughout the school year, who watches as her children receive educational awards, who encourages her children to read books well beyond their reading levels, who supports her eight and eleven-year-old girls when they ask for random items like Rosetta Stone so they can learn a different language by next year.

I am the mom who believes that my children will always work hard and do well, not because they did some trivial school work over the summer, but because it is in their nature. I am the mom who realizes just how short childhood is and revels in the pure joy that summer brings to my daughters’ faces.

In a society that barely makes time to look up from our cell phones, I am the mom who will continue to value the “break” in the summers that belong to my children.

*This piece was published on Sammiches and Psych Meds on July 21, 2016.