Public Schools Gear Up for Break

Winter break is the perfect time to revisit the problems associated with long breaks during the public school academic year. Most specifically, over summer break students spend hours indoors, sleeping , playing video games or watching television, rather than playing outside sports, creating and imagining with friends and reading. These poor choices result in students forgetting lessons they fought hard to master. When break is over, teachers spend days or weeks reviewing previously taught material. This cycle wastes money and non-lagging students' time. The United We Serve: Let's Read. Let's Move. program exists to combat problems the long summer break creates. The goal of Let's Read. Let's Move. is for the Departments of Education, Agriculture, Interior and Health and Human Services, as well as the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences to expand opportunities to engage young people in summer reading and physical activities.

Such a program once was unneeded. Parents saw winter, spring and summer breaks as opportunities to build upon material learned at school. Teachers sent home concepts that students would learn in the coming months and parents reviewed them with students in advance. Unfortunately, present family and economic situations leave parents scrambling to find affordable childcare while children are out of school and they work. The reasons for this are numerous. More homes now have two parents working rather than one. More homes also had two parents living together rather than single parents. Money is tight, and taking time off is not practical.

Unsupervised and bored children during breaks lead to academically lost students. Ed Review states that "a staggering percentage of young people suffer learning-loss" during the summer break, more than two months of progress in reading achievement over the summer. Winter and spring breaks do not create as extreme results, but inactive children over any period of time can contribute to a frustration with learning. Over time, it can also create apathetic students. After all, if adults are unwilling to invest time in students, why would they take time to invest in themselves?

Every student deserves a break, a time to spend with family and to run free without bells. The break needs to be constructive though. Parents and others who watch children over breaks can help. Keep children engaged, limit their television viewing, and create some sort of an overall day schedule. Take a mini-trip to the museum or skating rink, especially if larger travel plans are not part of the winter break's plans. Play board games, build a snowman or make a fleece tie-blanket together. Spend time talking and wondering together. Summer vacation was once not a concern because parents and communities kept children active and engaged. Let's do the same for winter break now.

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