My seven-year-old, Mika, had an extended year schedule school schedule for kindergarten and first grade. Mika started on July 17th and finished around June 8th. I though I would hate the schedule, but I actually kind of liked it. Mika had two weeks off in October, two weeks off in March, and a longer holiday break. We only had six weeks for summer break. I liked walking to school and back with her in the July heat.
Mika’s school was part of a pilot program to determine if the shorter breaks would improve academic achievement. I live in an underperforming school district and they have tried many programs during the past 25 years to try to do better for their students. My son, Marcus, was seven when I had my automobile accident and was just starting to learn to read. I spent most of the next two years in the hospital, and when I came home again, Marcus still could not read.
The school was trying the Lindamood-Bell reading system, which was not designed for mainstream teaching, and my son never learned simple phonics. I could not believe my nine-year-old could not read when he had been going to school. Marcus and I worked hard that year to get him to grade-level reading. At that time, I do not think the school administration cared who got left behind.
Mika has had a completely different reading experience in school. Phonics and simple words were the backbone of her kindergarten curriculum. Mika did not like her first-grade teacher one bit, but she taught Mika how to read. The school district finally understands how important it is for children to learn to read well at a young age. Mika is in second grade and they break the kids into reading level groups with extra teachers, so the teachers can help the struggling kids catch up to the proficient readers.
This year, Mika’s school went back to the traditional school year schedule, although they started earlier in August than her brother or sister ever did. I was disappointed and thrilled. I was disappointed because I thought the experiment must have failed. Only two elementary schools in the district were on the extended year schedule, so parents with children in middle school also had different schedules for their kids. I thought too many parents complained about the different schedules when the district asked for feedback last year.
I was thrilled because Mika and I had nine weeks of summer vacation last year and we were able to run the streets when it was hot! I would much rather Mika have time off school in August than December. In my perfect world Mika would start school the day after Labor Day, have two days off for Thanksgiving, eight days off for Christmas/New Year’s Day, no spring break, and finish the Friday before Memorial Day. We would get 12 glorious weeks of warm weather to enjoy together.
This morning it occurred to me that next year’s school schedule would probably be available on the district’s website. It was, and I am both disappointed and thrilled. I am thrilled because the achievement experiment must have worked. The school year for the entire district will be a little longer next year. This year Mika started August 8th and finishes May 21st. Next year Mika starts August 6th and ends May 27th. I am disappointed because I would rather have two more weeks of vacation in August than a week in October and a week in February. I would probably love this new schedule if I lived in Tucson, Arizona.
My piece of advice to you is to accept change. I want Mika, and her classmates, to do well in school and support the extra breaks and shorter summer. This summer Mika and I are going to have 10 weeks to have adventures. The next summer break will only be nine weeks, but we will make the most out of every day because some day I may not be here to spend a summer break together.
Until next time,
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