For many kids around the country, Labor Day (before or after) marks peak back-to-school season.
Not so in Central Indiana.
Labor Day is when I receive my kids’ midterm grades and parent-teacher conference notices.
August is the new September for school year starts in many communities. It’s a phenomena known as the “balanced calendar.”
Are there advantages? Sure.
But it can also drive a working parent crazy.
On the school district’s calendar, the math works the same: 180 days of instruction is 180 days of instruction.
But on my family’s calendar, it gets a little more complicated.
My kids are part of a district that heads back in the first days of August, takes a week off in October, a week off in November, two weeks for winter break and then builds snow days in for the week before spring break.
They finish right around Memorial Day.
“Isn’t it nice having a week off in October? And that extra time at Thanksgiving?” people ask.
But people seem to forget that my husband and I do not have vacation at this time, just the children.
If the kids could drive to Vermont and wonder at the fall colors, I’m sure they would. As it stands, we alternate days off on school breaks or work from home.
Mostly, the kids get up at their regular time and watch YouTube.
Toward the end of the week, they finally start sleeping a little later, and then the first day back to school is like the first actual day of school all over again.
Repeat for Thanksgiving.
Is it really that different than having to fill a 12-week summer?
Yes. I find it’s much easier to schedule out a big block of time with camps or sitters during the summer weeks.
When I sign them up for summer camp, swimming and hiking are included, two activities not offered at any school-year camp held in March.
I should also note that since moving toward these “balanced” calendars, no two school-district or private-school calendars are alike.
When my son was attending a private preschool and my daughter was in our local public school, there were seven days of school in October they both attended.
The rest of the month, one or the other was on a “fall break.”
My son was 3 and my daughter was 6, so I’m not sure what they needed a break from, but they got it.
The argument for a shorter summer break has to do with summer learning loss.
I wonder, though, what they lose by having less of a summer.
They for sure get less time outside, because Indiana in November is not the same thing as Indiana in August.
They have fewer warm summer nights where they’re outside until it gets dark and fewer warm-enough days for swimming.
Since swimming and running around the backyard catching fireflies aren’t measured on standardized tests, though, they’ve been shoved to the back burner.
In protest, I try to live every August weekend like it’s our last.
We head to the pools (at least the ones that are still open, many close as soon as school starts), we let them stay outside until it’s dark and generally ignore the fact that school exists until Monday morning.
They only get so many carefree childhood summers, and I want to make sure each one counts.