The Parent Trap: Countdown to summer

Monday began with games, to be followed by laser tag and bowling. There will be trips to Pennypack Park, trips to the movie theater and trips to just about anywhere else but inside a classroom. Welcome to the last week of school.

With finals completed and plans for the next school year in full swing, what else is there to do except have fun? Well, there’s work. I was informed that a couple of neighborhood kids are spending their final week of school in the classroom – cleaning. Obviously, their school has a different philosophy than the one where my daughter attends.

My daughter, now deep in the throes of early adolescence, has the final week’s schedule in her seventh-grade existence taped prominently to the refrigerator. I only wish that she thought enough to do the same with her exam schedule.

Many will tell you that the last week isn’t school… it’s pre-camp. I was told the story of a mother who, upset with the lack of actual learning during the final week, decided to keep her children home. But there is another school of thought. Perhaps, with the prospect of summer camps and lazy days looming in front of them, it doesn’t hurt to end the school year with a little fun.

Maybe a week of fun can also be a – gasp – learning experience. What’s wrong with letting loose after spending nine months with their noses to the grindstone? What’s the problem with kids who have developed friendships through the year taking time to laugh just a little?

You might think, after reading such proclamations coming out of my keyboard that I am in favor of long summer vacations. But I am torn. It would be easy for me to say that America should follow the lead of countries such as Japan and South Korea. The Japanese school year begins in April and lasts for three long semesters, with a one-month summer break. In South Korea, the school year runs for two semesters, the first from March to late August, with a four-week break.

This sort of information usually ends the argument between me and my son, who believes that Japan is located a little left of Nirvana. Amazing how America looks so much better when you have three months of fun placed in front of you.

Would longer school years translate into an American resurgence? Maybe but then again, long summers didn’t hurt us when U.S. business was the envy of the world. Success can be the result of an idea by someone at a computer screen, or maybe an idea from a person lying on the grass, staring at clouds.

So, for now, let’s let the kids have their week The time to relax is now, because September will come soon enough.

The Parent Trap is a weekly column by Patrick P. McNally that will appear on NEastPhilly.com every Tuesday. See others here. Read other NEast Philly columns here.

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