Editor's note: McKinney Magazine is pleased to bring readers of McKinneyOnline the first in an ongoing series of opinion columns. Look for additional opinion columns in the weeks and months ahead.
Every child should go to summer school.
Kids are going to hate me for saying that. I know.
My 12-year-old son is steamed at me now for making him attend summer school – yet again.
But, if you’re a parent, I’ll bet you agree with me. A three-month summer break is simply too long. Kids get bored around the house. They watch too much TV and play too many video games. They get on your nerves.
Academically, kids forget too much during the long break. Teachers say it takes some kids several weeks in the fall to get back in the learning mode. That’s too long.
Children’s minds develop rapidly at a young age – if they’re pushed. They lose (and society loses) if their minds are disengaged for a quarter of the year.
US News & World Report had a great article in May of last year about the importance of summer school. It quoted Ron Fairchild, an education consultant and former director of the National Summer Learning Association.
"We’d all expect athletes or musicians’ performance to suffer if they didn’t practice," Fairchild told the magazine. "If you don’t do something for three months, there’s going to be a drop-off.
"Many students don’t have books in their homes. Math is one area that requires regular practice and repetition. Any child who doesn’t practice those skills is going to experience some setback. We’re literally giving back those gains that teachers and principals work really hard to secure every year."
Summer School Shouldn’t Be Punitive
Do I recommend that summer school be as rigorous as the regular school year? No. My son’s private school, I think, has the perfect formula. Most kids, like my son Connor, attend from 9 a.m. to noon – that’s all. And the summer school semester is only four weeks.
Students don’t have homework, and they don’t have to wear the customary uniforms. In short, summer school is conducted at a slower, more relaxed pace. I’m fine with that.
We shouldn’t send the message to kids that summer school is punishment. Instead, we should stress the excitement of learning. They should see the value of education – even if they don’t always enjoy being in class.
Nevertheless, Connor tells me I’ve ruined his summer by making him attend summer school.
“Really?” I reply.
I remind him that we took a 10-day trip between the end of the spring semester and summer school. I remind him that we’re taking another vacation in the weeks before the start of the fall semester.
I remind him that he’s home from school every day by lunchtime and gets a later bedtime than during the regular school year.
“I still don’t want to go,” Connor says.
“I know that,” I reply. “If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t like summer school either.”
Expect Opposition from Your Child
One night, Connor vowed that he wouldn’t go to bed until I apologized for making him attend summer school.
“Apologize?” I said. “That’s not going to happen.”
Eventually, he went to sleep.
Being a good parent doesn’t mean your kids will always like you. Accept that. Grow a backbone – and your kids will benefit.
A few days ago, in between rants about the oppression of summer school, Connor suddenly said, “You know, it’s really not so bad. I get to see my friends.”
The next day, naturally, Connor suffered from amnesia and forgot this sentiment, reverting to the summer-school-stinks mantra.
I can handle the protests. I know Connor is progressing academically this summer, and I’ll know he’ll do better in the fall.
I don’t need his approval to know I’m doing the right thing.
About the author: Ed Housewright spent 27 years as a reporter for The Dallas Morning News, including the last seven covering Collin County. He resigned from the newspaper last year to start SingleDadHouse.com.