June 07, 2011 Kerala Taylor

Should we get rid of summer vacation?

Summer is rife with learning opportunities. It's a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends. In short, summer is a time for unstructured play, bringing with it all the rich developmental benefits that make play such a vital part of our children's lives.

But how many children actually experience this kind of summer? For how many children, does summer mean this instead?

Alas, the "summer slide" is not a ridiculously fun piece of playground equipment, but rather a term used to describe the learning loss that can take place over the summer if kids don't have access to brain-stimulating activities. And as TIME points out, the "summer slide" disproportionately affects lower-income children, whose parents lack the resources to send them to camp or to take them on family vacations.

For us, the question is less about whether or not we should "abolish" summer vacation and more about how we can ensure that all children have access to learning-rich free play opportunities when not in school. Slashing funding for community pools and city-sponsored summer camps -- as city officials are doing across the country, according to The Wall Street Journal  -- is not a good first step.

Or, the question can be reversed: If we decide that year-round school is the best way to go, how can we ensure that all children have access to learning-rich free play opportunities during school hours? (Hint: Reducing or eliminating recess is not a good first step.)

What do you think? Will your children benefit from summer vacation?


Related reading:


the buzz in play, unstructured play, learning, education, summer, free play, health, parenting