By the last month of the school year, I just wanted it to end. Both kids seemed to be done, academically, emotionally, and relationshipally (yeah, I made that word up, I’m the editor, I can do that) with 8th and 4th grades, respectively. Tigger was slogging through the final days of middle school without anything resembling interest, and Little Bit was coming home and collapsing in tears over the latest taste of the unfairness of life. In her defense, some of those incidents were really damned unfair. In life’s defense, that’s just the way it is sometimes.
So I was glad, and so were they, when the final bell rang and they tumbled into summer. They’ve both got camps and activities lined up for much of the break, for which I am grateful. Three days into summer and one wonders if there can be any other meaningless, dredged-up-out-of-nothing conflicts left to have. They have the whole rest of this week to find out, if I let them live through it.
I thought, back when I was planning their summer, that they would have this first week free, and then the last week-and-a half of August free before the new school year started up on September 1. But here’s where life-is-unfair kicks in again. The state is broke; the school district is broke; and no cure for broke-ness appears to be on the horizon. So, at the end of June the parents were informed that even though the start-of-school date was published months ago and everyone made their plans around it, the district cut a bunch of teacher work days out of the schedule somewhere and shifted the start date to September 12. Thus, hundreds of parents who thought they had child care, aka school, for the first two weeks of September now suddenly have their bored, whiny, been-out-of-school-way-too-damn-long-already kids at home, still. Forget about that business trip! Better renegotiate residency arrangements with your uncooperative ex! Buy a new game for the Wii and lock them in the TV room to save your own sanity. The district was not even a teensy bit apologetic. “Be glad we teach ‘em at all, you ingrates!”
Granted, I am in a better position than many parents to weather the unexpected extension of under-utilization of children. I work from home and only occasionally have to show up at an office. My eldest child is old enough to be left alone or left to babysit her sister. There’s a TV room I can lock them into. It still irks me because that’s not how I planned it and because there’s no blessed reason why children should be out of school for months at a time, anyway.
Have I ranted about this before? If not, I should’ve. Taking two to three months off of school is highly detrimental to kids. They lose a lot of ground and then have to spend an obscene amount of instructional time in the fall just reviewing what they’ve forgotten. It is even worse for kids on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Richer kids spend the summer doing interesting, enriching things, like going to camps and classes or traveling. Poorer kids spend the summer forgetting what they learned the year before. You know how we, as a culture, are always bemoaning the fact that American kids get whomped by kids from other countries on tests of just about everything? Maybe the hundreds of hours of additional schooling those other kids get every year has something to do with it. Ya think?
So, hello, extra-long summer. Hello, valium. Get acquainted with each other while I get some more coffee.