In three years I will no longer be a parent with kids in the K-12 school system, so our family may never have to directly experience an extended or balanced school year calendar, or “year-round schooling”. But since I am reading and hearing about some movement in this direction in various districts in Canada and the U.S., I keep thinking and listening.
I have read articles and blogs that suggest that the 10 month on/2 month off schedule is out-dated and is aligned with a very different era in the past. I hear and read concerns about summer learning loss and addressing gaps in learning and achievement. I hear that a more balanced calendar will be beneficial for learning by breaking up longer stretches of both classroom and summer weeks. I hear that a shorter summer and a longer Christmas and/or spring break would be welcomed by families and might be more suitable to working parents for various reasons.
I also recently came across this article by Maria Chesley Fisk (@ThinkParenting) about summer being a time to help a child pursue passions. It also gives some suggestions for some simple, accessible activities that support learning.
It resonated with me because I have very special memories of, and gratitude for, the kinds of experiences and self-directed learning my own daughters have had during their summer breaks from school. With some school years seeming quite intense for not only my daughters, but also the staff in their schools, I often felt that the two month break was needed to refresh and learn differently for awhile. I also know that educators do a lot of professional learning and projects during the summer that might be hard to fit in otherwise.
But I am always one to look for more balance. Although the longer unstructured time in summer is appreciated, I wonder if is it right that it might only be in the summer that a student can explore their passions or learn more deeply in an area of interest? Would a different school year schedule allow, balance or increase such opportunities for all children at other times of the year—either in school or out of school? Would a more balanced or differently distributed schedule of school weeks and months ease off some of the intensiveness of covering the curriculum and allow for deeper learning of concepts and subjects — mandatory and self-driven learning?
But mostly, I need to hear how such adjustments to the school year are going to be good for kids — their development; their well-being; their learning and growing as citizens. What positive outcomes will there be in their communities in which they live? I may be unaware of the successful outcomes so far in other districts, but I hope we are looking in the right direction as we embrace changes like this.