Don't shut that book

Who owns the summer?

Until recently, the answer has been pretty clear: children. Summer was time to adopt a gone-fishin' mentality, and a kid's duty was to hang out at the Y, ride bikes, maybe go to camp.

What a difference, as the saying goes, a few years can make.

Parents used to typically give the above their blessing. They even celebrated the end of school - the end of homework battles. They were more likely to protest required summer reading than ask for more of it.

Glance around this summer and you wonder how things changed so fast. Reading lists barely raise an eyebrow. Finding kids just "around" in many neighborhoods is like discovering gold. And summer school? One teacher I talked with recently said that summer as we know it won't even exist in a few years. Already, about 1 in 5 students in urban districts is in class this summer.

Keeping more learning in summer has positive aspects. For kids who have little else to do, it's better than hanging out for 12 weeks. Studying in July may also rescue some kids from the daunting task of repeating a grade.

But as districts slap programs into place, there are worries that it'll just be more of the same - giving educators an out for not reaching struggling kids during the regular year. For other kids, summer will be just a time for yet more scheduling, as families try to pour on more "enrichment."

That won't leave much time for serendipitous encounters - or self-directed learning. With more working parents, the trend is inevitable. But soon the kid that's envied may be the one who, when asked what he did today, smiles mysteriously and says, "nothin'."

*E-mail newcomba@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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