Summer Vacation Is the Chance to Make Up For All of School’s Failings

June 1, 2015

By now, just about everyone is on summer vacation, and if you are not, then I just feel sorry for you.

I think it’s a well known fact that teachers need summer vacation as much as kids and families need them. I don’t care what people say about the benefits of year-round school, our society is just built around summer vacation (even if it is a month shorter now than it used to be.)

When it comes to summer vacation, though, I think a lot of families are missing out on something huge. Parents dread the thought of having to occupy the kids all day, so we come up with playdates, camps, and other activities to keep the kids “busy.” Quantity over quality.

However, have you ever considered how much kids love learning?

They probably love it more than most adults. If kids love learning so much, then shouldn’t we stay in school all year?

If kids love learning, though, then why do they complain about school so much? Because they don’t go to school to learn what they want to know. We send our kids to school to pass standardized tests, to jump through hoops, and every once in a while, to learn something that is interesting.

But in the summer, kids can learn what they want. 

Parents, how many of you are starting your kids’ summer with this idea?

What do you want to learn about?

In the course of a summer, your kids can soak up the equivalent of a master’s course in anything. Your kid likes plants? Take them to the library, and then the botanical gardens. He likes history? Take him to a museum.

The summer offers some of the best opportunities for learning, because it won’t happen in a classroom. It won’t happen in the confines of a test. They will learn by experiences, those rare joyful jewels that are reserved for the occasional field trip.

Here’s my thing: too many adults do not love to learn. You can tell, because adults have shut their ears to the world and have oriented their lives around collecting stuff rather than experiences. Most of the people in our culture got out of school, and stopped looking at the world inquisitively (if they ever did). Life became just about a job to pay for more stuff.


Get your kids off the couch. Put them in charge of something meaningful this summer. What will they learn this summer?

What will you as a family learn this summer?

3 responses to Summer Vacation Is the Chance to Make Up For All of School’s Failings

  1. Thanks for the prompt. But this makes me wonder how dreadful school must be now for everyone except those kids who like taking tests.

  2. I don’t disagree with you in theory. And maybe it would work with younger children. But in PRACTICE, kids don’t get summers anymore. My 14-year-old (going into 9th grade) has weightlifting from 7-8:30 am three days a week (for soccer and basketball). He has two weeks of basketball camp (9-12:15). A three-day camp three hours from home, and a couple all-day shoot-outs. Monday night practices for all of June and part of July. Wednesday night games/scrimmages at other schools. (Some days there are three trips to and from the high school for various practices.) We’re waiting to see what two nights the “open field” practices are for soccer. None are maybe OFFICIALLY required, but if he isn’t there, the reality is he won’t have a chance of being involved in next year’s sports teams. In his spare time, he has weekly assignments due for next year’s honors bio (reading 3-4 chapters and answering a bunch of discussion questions)—from June 7 through August 9 (and school starts the following week). For honors English, he has three novels to read and two papers to write. When you factor in his one week of church camp, worship band practice, and assorted family obligations, summer is gone. And we’re both exhausted and resentful that it’s summer and we didn’t get a break. The most frustrating part is to be a parent who doesn’t believe all that is necessary, and who isn’t a sports person—and yet, if I don’t want my son to be penalized, I have to go along with it all. Not to mention continuing to work full time, from home, with three kids in and out all day long. Summers aren’t easy for most parents I know. It’s work to squeeze in those experiences you talk about. I’m trying to develop a better attitude, but this has always been a touchy subject to me, so forgive me for venting. Yes, there’s still a tiny bit of other time. But my inclination is to fill it with things like sleeping in for the couple of weeks when there is no practice. (The state mandates one whole week of no sports, the first week of July.) And I know my son doesn’t have to be in these things, but it’s good for him to remain active and to be part of something bigger than just him. I don’t know the answer—believe me, I wish I did. Maybe if everyone (teachers, coaches, administrators) saw things the way you do, summers would be better because they would allow that time for exploration. As it is, it’s difficult to even leave town for a day. Again, let me say, I’m not arguing with your ideas… just sharing my personal experience as a mom of three (my 14-year-old is my youngest).
    Kelly Stanley recently it all away

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  1. Recommended reading | Down the Road - June 6, 2015

    […] Teacher Matt Appling says that now that summer vacation’s here, your kids can still learn things — things that actually interest them, not the stuff they have to learn to pass the standardized test. Makes me wonder how awful school must be now if that’s all that’s being taught. Read Summer Vacation is the Chance to Make Up for All of School’s Failings […]