The Benefits of Year-Round School

The Benefits of Year-Round School - picture of boy and girl doing arts and crafts

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My daughter started kindergarten last week and we’re still getting settled into our new routine.

Before school started, everyone was out the door at 7:30 and I didn’t pick everyone up until 5:15.  Now Greg takes Vivian to daycare at around 7:30 and Lydia stays behind to catch the bus at 8:15.  And instead of me picking them both up at 5:00, Lydia gets home at 3:40 and Greg picks Vivian up on his way home.  It seemed strange at first, but we’re getting used to it.

With that being said, I’m pleased with how things are going so far.  The bus picks my oldest up and drops her off at the end of the driveway, and she appears to be learning all kinds of wonderful things at school.  She has made a few new friends too, which was quite a relief since my worst fear is her being sad and alone.  #MommyGuilt

A lot of people have asked why she started school so early since most kids don’t start until sometime next month.  The answer is simple- our school system runs on a modified version of year-round school and takes the following breaks:

  • 8 weeks off for summer (June, July)
  • 2 weeks off for fall break
  • 2 weeks off for Christmas
  • 2 weeks off for Spring break

Endless Summers in the 80’s

It seems that most schools in our area operate this way these days, but it certainly wasn’t always this way.  My entire school career was spent on a “normal” school schedule with three months off for summer and a week at Christmas and Spring break.  I still remember what school was like when I first started kindergarten in the mid-80’s.  The school year itself seemed to drag on forever, but so did the long, endless summers.

We spent them playing kickball in the streets, running through sprinklers, and catching fireflies in small mason jars.  I still remember the ice cream truck coming around the block with its corny, trance-inducing music, and the fogger.  Did you have a fogger in your neighborhood back in the 80’s?  In case you didn’t, it was a little truck that drove around spraying a “fog” that killed mosquitoes.

Nasty, probably cancer-causing stuff, but we didn’t know it at the time.  Oops. 

The Benefits of Year-Round School

I did enjoy those endless summers of the 80’s, but I’m actually pretty pumped that my kids will grow up knowing something entirely different than I did.  Here’s why:

  • Less time to forget what they’ve learned-  A growing body of research indicates that students forget a lot of what they learn during long summer breaks.  And apparently, this is particularly true of disadvantaged students and those who speak English as a second language.  If this is true, I don’t see why we wouldn’t stick to a year-round schedule.
  • Longer, more frequent breaks- As someone who loves to take frequent trips and vacations with and without the kids, I really like the idea of a two-week Fall break and Spring Break.  Those frequent breaks mean that we can go on trips more often and on dates that work around our own schedules (such as a Tuesday-Tuesday) instead of cramming our trip into a Winter break or one week of Spring break.
  • More opportunities to learn- Being on a modified year-round schedule doesn’t necessarily mean kids idle around doing nothing for extended periods of time.  In fact, kids in our school system can sign up for special learning opportunities during breaks if they desire to do so, which can include things like hands-on math, karate, and even swimming.  I like the idea of my kids taking frequent breaks to refocus and learn something new.

Will year-round school be perfect?  Probably not.  Still, I’m not as upset about it as some people I know seem to be.  To me, it seems like more of a trade-off than anything else.  After all, a shorter summer means a Fall break and a longer Spring Break.  And all those breaks, while possibly inconvenient, could lead to additional opportunities to learn once my kids grow up.

I guess I’m just willing to make the best of it too- we didn’t get a vote and the deal is settled now.  All we can do is prepare our children adequately, love them to pieces, and hope for the best.

Because Lord knows I’m not paying for private school.

Do you operate on a year-round or modified year-round school schedule?  If so, do you like it?  If not, do you think you would like it?

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  1. We’re still in the summers-off school schedule. I do think year-round would have its benefits; especially with helping to retain what you learned from the previous year. It takes my kids at least a good month to get back in the swing of things in September.

    1. Yep, I remember those days! I honestly don’t mind the modified version of year-round we are currently on. I think my children will benefit from it.

  2. Huh! We’ve always had four terms during the year here with 2 week breaks in between and a silghtly shorter summer.

  3. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about a similar topic in one of his books. The kids who performed well in school were the ones whose parents kept them engaged and learning throughout the Summer. It took them less time to get back up to speed when they started school again. I think you’re on to something, Holly.

    1. Well, I didn’t personally choose it but I am not opposed to it either. I plan to keep my kids learning all year long anyway, but I think year-round school will help.

      1. The kids who benefit the most from year-round school are the ones whose parents DON’T keep them engaged in the Summer. I think it makes for a more even playing field because ALL children are engaged year-round in these setups. At the same time, I sure as heck loved Summer vacation as a kid…I think the best approach would be to start the year-round thing when kids are very young so they know nothing else!

  4. I don’t have kids but this just makes so much more sense to me. The parents I work with have to take their vacations at the same time every year, which would drive me crazy.

    1. Yep, totally. We always had one week for Spring break growing up and no fall break, so we had few options when it came to vacation.

  5. I heard a story on NPR the other day talking about the benefits of year-round schooling. The story was focusing on students living in poverty but seemed to suggest the same thing- that kids who went to school year round basically had less time to forget what they learned. It was really interesting. I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all.

    1. I have read similar things about children who live in poverty. It appears that a shorter summer helps keep them on track. I don’t see how that can be a bad thing.

  6. We still have full summers off. Our district has mandatory summer work for mid schoolers and above. These project need to be turn in during the first week of the new year. My wife and I also challenge our 3 to read during the summer. We want them to stay shape during the summer break.

    1. I can’t wait until my daughter learns to read. She is sounding things out and knows her letters well, but I want her to read entire books to me! =)

  7. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

    I really liked year-round school when I was young. I’d get out of school late June and go back mid-August, but we’d have 9 weeks on, 3 weeks off throughout the entire year. Lots of time to play Nintendo! 😉

    1. Ha! Well, I do actually have an old school Nintendo =) I break out Super Mario 3 every once in a while.

  8. While I love the schedule your kids are on, looking back at my childhood, it wouldn’t have left enough weeks for all my summer programming between school years growing up. I remember being booked from day 1 to the last day of every summer in all kinds of different camps. I think it was great because it allowed me a different kind of education than the traditional school environment.

    1. We have the same kinds of activities around here- they are just scheduled throughout the year instead of just during summer. Apparently they’ve had year-round school here for a while so activities (and everything else) have adapted to fit in all the nooks and crannies of school breaks!

  9. School starts next week! DH is in high hopes that our seven year old’s behavior will improve once he’s being challenged again in school.

  10. I constantly hear on NPR that the really long summers are a disadvantage to students because they forget so much if they’re not required to do any school work over the summer. I think this method makes much more sense!

  11. I did the traditional school year in grade school, but in high school I went to private school. It too gave us the summer months off, but we had 2 weeks for Christmas and 3 weeks for spring break.

    I like the idea of year-round school. I always felt rusty when starting back up in school – especially in math. By continuously going, it helps to retain that information.

  12. That schedule makes sense to me–certainly is less time for kids to forget what they’ve learned in the previous grade!

  13. Ah got it! I think it makes sense why they are doing that now. Yes, I totally remember the fogger thing from growing up in Michigan! It smelled so bad….and this after we already smelled like hard-core deet and sunscreen half the time! 🙂

  14. Recently the school board in my township hosted a vote on year-round school and unfortunately the majority voted no. I think that was because the people who were strongly opposed to it were the people that could cast their ballots – after all, they hosted it during the work day and it would have been the parents who didn’t work that wanted to keep kids out for the summer. I don’t have kids yet but I would love for there to be year round school when we do.

  15. That school schedule sounds pretty great. I guess it could be hard to secure child care during the two week breaks though, is that why some people are unhappy with it?

  16. I like the idea of the longer/more frequent breaks. I think three months off at one time is too much lolly-gagging time, plus, it makes the school year a bit intense. We do something similar in our homeschooling world: a shorter summer, but more breaks during the year. Makes for happier kids, at least in our case. 🙂

  17. When I was in elementary school, we were on a year-round schedule. It was pretty good. When I moved to another state, we were on a normal schedule. Our area now has a blend of normal schedules and year-round schedule schools.

  18. I would be fine with that schedule. The only thing is that some people who live in more Northern U.S./Canada have cottages for the summer and I think they would go crazy if they cut the summer short. I also like getting deals for end of August vacation when most kids are back at school. As someone said though, we take all our vacations during school breaks. I don’t take my kids out of school for vacation especially in the upper grades. My kids don’t do any work in the summer but some of my friend’s kids do.

  19. I am a HUGE fan of year round school. Now that my son is 8, it has become increasingly more difficult to find ways to entertain him for the summer. He is currently in between camps, and I have mommy guilt for working and not spending as much time with him, but I refused to pay another $300 for another one week camp. School not only provides a great education, but it gives kids structure which is what every kid needs. No matter how much fun they have in the summer, I think they secretly miss the structure that the school year provides them.

  20. I would love to be on year round schedule. My sister’s kids in Kentucky are and it just makes so much more sense. Everyone would think it’s the end of the world if they did that here. Sadly, the main concern would probably be messing up sports schedules. Our daughter’s school just moved 6th grade down to elementary from middle school, which I think it a fantastic idea. The parents who were upset were the ones whose kids played sports in middle school. Forget academics and lack of maturity for kids that age, let’s get them into football as soon as we can!

  21. Interesting! As a kid I would have hated this, but as an adult, I think it makes sense!

  22. Actually 8 weeks of summer seems like the norm…I remember summer vacation was 8 weeks but July/August rather than June/July. I was going to say the same things as DC…I read Gladwell’s book and it mentioned that we don’t have enough school days compared to many other countries where students appear to be performing better. Like you said, the long summer break makes it easy to forget what you’ve learned and in the fall, you gotta start all over again.

  23. That schedule seems strange, but I can see how it would have some benefits over the traditional school schedule like you mentioned.

  24. We have a very similar schedule here. It didn’t use to be this way though! When I attended school we had 2.5 months summer vacation, no fall break, no winter break, only Christmas and spring breaks. The counties voted on year-round school and it was actually voted against by the majority, so the school board got sneaky with the schedule. We start in July, end in May.

    Now the kids get about six weeks of summer and have way too many breaks and half-days IMO! We have fall break (Oct.), Christmas break (Dec/Jan), winter break (Feb), and spring break (Apr) plus about 10-15 1/2 days unless there are make-up days for weather. We just started the public school pre-k end of July, so we’ll have to see how it goes. Having to find childcare for a week here and there is annoying though. I personally miss the long summers, and hate having to abide by a school schedule for vacations, but it’s not too bad and I can see the perks of it.

  25. The school system that you have is similar is to the one my stepson has in his country. Even during the 8-10 week summer break, we still encourage him to read books and newspaper clippings of the Sunday section for kids (he’s almost seven). We want him to understand that yes he gets to play more during the summer vacation but learning is something that happens everyday.

  26. I’m with you on this one Holly. I loved my summers, and the baseball, ice cream, and bike rides from sun up to sun down, but I think the benefits of year round school have become too much to ignore, and I think it’s great for kids to have constant learning. Now, if more parents were involved with their child’s education, it might be different, but it seems like a lot of folks expect school to do it all. Just my 2 cents.

  27. We just started school today. We have four what I would call major breaks during the year, at Thanksgiving, Christmas, a winter break and spring break. I like more breaks during the school year. But I do miss not returning to school until after Labor Day. That must have been back when kids were only required to do 170 or less days. We are doing 180 now. And yes…we had a fogger go down our alley several times a summer. Had to make sure you turned off the attic fan or that stuff would get sucked into the house.

  28. Our is similar to yours. The girls don’t get out of school until late June and go back at the end of August. We don’t have a 2 week break in the Fall though. They get the week of Thanksgiving off and 2 weeks for Christmas. We have what we call a snow week during the winter where a lot of families go skiing and then Spring Break. I honestly like having a 2 month summer break because its easier for Chris and I when we have the routine of school. 🙂 And the breaks throughout are nice for travel and easier on the kids too. I’m glad Lydia’s doing well at school and making lots of friends.

  29. I am a fan of home-schooling, though our kids are not home-schooled right now. That’s a great way to have school and conveniently take vacations whenever you want. As far as year-round school, I think it would be good to have more frequent breaks instead of a long summer vacation. Our school is still doing the traditional schedule though.

  30. catherine says:

    I didn’t go through this but I wish we did, I much prefer it and I think kids would remain more focused. Come August I was always ready to go back, 8 weeks is long enough!!

  31. I can see the benefits, but the biggest issue I’ve heard of year-round is having to find proper care during those short breaks where it’s not typical. I guess if all schools in the area have the same schedule though then perhaps the daycare centers get on board too

    1. Yep, I think that is the problem most people have with it. Our daycare lady said she will watch my oldest during breaks though, so that might be a good sign that daycares are getting on board with the new schedule.

  32. I remember reading somewhere (The Myths of Happiness) that short-but-frequent vacations are better at bringing us happiness than long, infrequent vacations (like a 3 month summer break). You’re on to something with the year round school idea. Maybe it would work better to simply go year round, literally, with eight or nine two-week breaks throughout the year.

  33. Very cool! I didn’t even know this was a thing. I think the year round schedule is a great idea. Summer break is great but it can be long. Splitting it up over the year sounds like a fantastic idea and a fall break is perfect.

  34. I prefer the modified version because it helps to break up the time adequately. Two weeks during Christmas time is awesome as well. As of right now in my state we are on the old long summer system, but I’m hoping it will change.

  35. We use a traditional school year here (10 months) and it seems to work well. My wife is a teacher so she gets 2 months off for the summer. It’s good in that she gets to enjoy the nice weather but the only drawback is that we can really only travel during the summer – that means peak times and peak prices

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