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Before the 2020 Pandemic, ELB had adjusted their academic calendar to a modified year-round school calendar and we are continuing to merge over to a year-round schedule eventually. I bet, as a parent, you are wondering why we would do that!!! This blog is to explain why.
First let’s talk about where the traditional school calendar came from. You might remember staring school as a child right after Labor Day and getting out right before Memorial Day. Some might even argue that “those were the good ‘ol days”. For over 100 years, our school calendar had a long summer break; but why? The family farm. When Americans owned and worked their own farms back in the day, children were a large part of a successful harvest. As the American farms have changed over the years, so has the purpose for a summer vacation.
Children were needed less and less to work the farm and their academic break transitioned into a time for travel, time to relax, and time to diminish responsibilities. It was this transition that opened the pockets of the tourist industry and they quickly became advocates for the summer break. The summer industry relies largely on those young workers that are out for summer break to work the season. Athletics is another industry that prefers for America keep the summer break. These social influences have stood in the way of calendar reform for many years.
So why do we still need a summer break? If any one has ever worked in a school setting, there are phases of the school year where everyone gets “burned out”. This goes for the adults and the children! What I have noticed over the years as an educator is that once burn out happens, it is hard to get things accomplished. I would argue that we need a long summer break because another thing I have noticed is that after a summer break students came back completely out of routine, forgetting skills they had learned before, and some had little interaction socially. All of these characteristics contribute to the idea that taking more frequent breaks for shorter amounts of time are better for kids. And while research is inconsistent in determining the long-term benefits of year-round school, some researchers find that year-round schools are effective at the earlier grades. Research studies conducted by Alcorn (1992), Downey, Von Hippel and Broh (2004), Edmonds (2008), and McMillen, (2001), have all shown that year-round calendars appear to academically benefit elementary and middle school students. Additionally, the metaanalyses of Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsey and Greenhouse (1996), Cooper, Charlton, Valentine, and Muhlenbruck (2000) and Worten and Zsiray (1994) have all supported these findings with over 100 years of studies that have focused primarily on the pre-secondary students (Burkham, 2004).
It’s important to ELB to maintain the momentum of progress with our students while avoiding the “burn out” phase of the 10 month school year. The development of children from birth- age 3 is one of the most incredible phenomenon in human life (at least I think so). So much learning takes place in these early years that we feel every second counts with our students. Five distinct developmental domains have been accepted by researches to guide in decision making for educators, families, and practitioners working with young children. As teachers, we plan to address the needs of our students within each category: perceptual motor and physical development, social and emotional development, approaches to learning, language and communication, and cognition. In addition to using these domains, there are significant principles to consider when understanding the relationship between child development and school readiness skills. That’s where the school calendar also comes in to play.
The role of the family in child development is so significant that even with a great preschool program, a child can have foundational gaps in their development. Relationships and experiences are the primary way development occurs in these early years and those interactions help shape the child for the rest of their life. All areas of child development are connected. The learning with development occurs throughout the context of different environments including the family, early childhood programs, and the broader system of the community and culture. Each family embeds their own mark on their child’s development through the active participation in their lives.
These days, families have to make tough decisions or don’t have a choice about working and managing their family. While school is a support for our children to learn, grow, and develop, nothing can take the place of what a family can contribute in these areas. Hopefully you will see this fall intersession as a great opportunity to spend time in your child’s development. If you are wondering what to do to keep your kids busy, I highly recommend looking up toddler activities on Pinterest, Facebook, keep.kids.busy, and 7daysofplay on Instagram for some great ideas. Two weeks will fly by especially if you hold a daily routine. Ask your Lead Teacher for a copy of the daily classroom schedule and try to keep the general schedule the same. Typically our students are energetic and engaged in the mornings so that’s a great time to do a little activity with them whether you stay home or go somewhere. Children also need ample amounts of time to be outside so try to go outdoors for at least an hour during the day. After lunch our kiddos are pretty tuckered out and everyone takes a rest before it’s time to go home. If you are interested in developmental skills your child should be working on at their age, we are happy to share with you our most favorite profile from the Children’s Learning Institute](https://childrenslearninginstitute.org/resources/itelg/)
Network of Infant/Toddler Researchers (2016), Developmental Foundations of School Readiness for Infants and Toddlers: A Research to Practice Report, OPRE Report # 2016-07.
Pedersen, James. The History of School and Summer Vacation, Journal of Inquiry & Action in Education, 5(1), 2012