lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Posted on June 24, 2009. Filed under: American culture, chinese culture, education, Japanese culture | Tags: , , , , , , |

I see it coming, like a runaway train, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. The day after tomorrow school is over.  The kids will be home for the summer.

One of my kids’ favorite summer activities is  sitting on the floor behind my chair while I’m working, and fighting.  Another favorite activity is opening the refrigerator.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Americans go to school about 180 days a year.  We have more days off than in school. Other countries, of course, think this is ridiculous. European and Asian kids spend more hours each day in school. Many attend school Saturdays. They have fewer vacations.  If a foreign school has 15 days more each year (from K-12), that equals another 180 days of study, or another entire school year.

I’ve met many Japanese and Chinese expats who are amazed to see how little homework their children get in the US schools. Many teachers give 10 minutes homework per grade (1st grade:10 min, 2nd grade:20 min), so by 6th grade students have 1 hour homework. American kids are asked to focus less time, and in one study gave up on tasks faster than their Asian counterparts who focused on solving the problem for a longer time.

And why do American high school kids finish class by 2:00  in the afternoon? What are they doing the rest of the day and who is around to supervise them?

US kids get 10 weeks vacation from school during the summer. Since we no longer need the children to harvest the fields, they should be sent back to the classroom. 4 weeks vacation seems generous. As an American,  I don’t think cramming kids all day, every day is a good idea. I value free time for kids  creativity, self discovery and social development.  But the summer vacation is archaic. The teacher’s union, probably the biggest block to a longer school year, needs to realize 183 days a year won’t cut it today in a global economy.

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One Response to “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer”

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I agree to a certain extent. But as I recall, European and Asian schools have long vacations, however, they don’t have these in-between 1-2 day vacations(i.e. columbus day, thanksgiving). I think it’s these vacations between the holidays that add up. However, I don’t think you’ll be able to get kids that are already of school-age to go to school on Saturdays because it’s so set in our American life style of saturday morning cartoons and 2-day weekend thing.

Also with college, they end in May and don’t start until late August, early September yet they can be pretty prestigious so on the other hand, I don’t think it’s the amount of days but the level of difficulty placed in the classroom and we don’t make it challenging enough for our children so that we can teach them persistence.

Personally, in my high school experience, I had 2-3 hours or more of homework even as a freshman so it also depends on the school.


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