Ah, the images of summer vacation. Childhood memories of those endless days lying on the soft grass in straw hat and overalls, gazing up at the fluffy white clouds and twirling a stalk of wheat between bare toes. For generations, children have spent the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer free of pencils, books and teachers' dirty looks. Then, as August yields to September, the days grow shorter, and families gather together on Labor Day for one last fiery sacrifice of 100 percent Choice Beef on the barbecue to honor summer's end.
So what happened? No, I'm not talking about how children can no longer while away the hours when camps, tutoring programs and summer jobs are keeping their days as regimented as if they were in a classroom. I'm decrying the fact that it's still a couple of weeks until Labor Day and my children are literally back in the classroom. All over the country, schools are starting their new academic years in the middle of August--while warm beaches and cool swimming pools lay sadly idle and picnic baskets now carry textbooks and homework assignments. The first days of August used to trigger the urge to escape to the mountains, the open road, or the sea. Now, they are triggering our trips to the mall to ensure our teenage boys aren't the ones stuck with the remainder "Hello, Kitty" backpacks in hot pink or chartreuse.
Proponents of this stealthy invasion of summer argue that starting class in mid-August allows kids to finish fall term finals before the winter holidays. That way, students can relax over the break and not have to re-study all the information in January for the exams. Uh ... is it just me? I thought that the lessons our youngsters learn in school should stay with them longer than a few days--or even weeks. If the material is so quickly and easily forgotten, I just might begin to wonder about its value--or how effectively it's taught, hmm?
Sure, I have to admit that starting the year earlier may mean an earlier end date in June. Two weeks before any summer camp programs are open of course. And, with three children in three different schools with three different schedules, coordinating a summer vacation together next year will be a challenge, too. My husband and I have identified one week in mid-July when we'll all be free--I dibs the campsite now, okay? The waiting list starts here.
I know I shouldn't complain--parents with children in year-round schools have struggled with these nontraditional schedules for years. Times change, and we have to adjust as well. But, I can't help but be nostalgic for the summer vacations of my youth, when Labor Day loomed as the end to summer fun. After all, singing one of my favorite teenage love songs with this modern twist just doesn't have the right ring: "See you in Sept--August?" I'll have to agree with my kids, "That's lame."