Summer Vacation: Necessary Relaxation or Stunting Our Minds?

by / 0 Comments / 4348 View / August 26, 2014

Summer vacation is a time of rest, relaxation, and refreshment. It is a time when students get a two to three month break from the constant pressure of school and homework, allowing them to pursue new interests and pick up old hobbies. During the summer, students become more creative and expand their social horizons. They read books “for fun” without feeling the need to resort to SparkNotes for chapter summaries and character descriptions. Their minds are let loose upon the world and they get to spend quality time with friends and family. All in all, there is no denying that students (and teachers) love summer vacation, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. As August rapidly winds down to September, school begins to occupy our minds once more. Try as we might, the last couple days of respite are never quite long enough for us to accomplish all the things we still want to do. Did summer really pass by so quickly?

Although summer is typically remembered with fondness, some people argue that summer vacation is counterproductive and should be abandoned to a longer school-year. In the summer, students forget what they learned throughout the year, a phenomenon which has become known as the “summer slide”. The summer slide is blamed especially for putting children behind and widening the achievement gap. Students who are slow learners have no choice but to take summer classes if they do not want to get behind.

Several years ago, Time Magazine posted a cover article titled The Case Against Summer Vacation. The author, David Von Drehle, argues that although summertime is symbolic for liberty and creativity, when it comes to “competing with children around the world, who are in many cases spending four weeks longer in school each year, larking through summer is a luxury we can’t afford.” Although summer vacation affects all students, Von Drehle makes the case that summer vacation takes an especially horrendous toll on children from low-income families who cannot afford “healthy summer stimulation” such as summer camps and tutors. In fact, standardized test scores are lower on average after summer as opposed to before, and students often lose weeks or even months of progress.

While all this may be true, cutting summer vacation and lengthening the school year is not the solution. Although standardized test scores may suffer immediately following summer vacation, they do not suffer in the long run, because information can easily be relearned and reviewed. Furthermore, education should not only be about standardized test scores. Many recent studies have proven that students learn differently and are better in different subject areas, making standardized tests an inaccurate representation of the intelligence of students. Education also involves unstructured learning and enrichment. During the summer, students have the opportunity to learn “naturally” through different experiences, whether or not they are placed in summer camps. Summer is a time of exploration, when children are free to pursue interests without being told to do so. Something as simple as a hike can teach a child more about the world than any class could.

The truth is, children are not the only ones who benefit from summer vacation; regardless of whether we are students, parents, business-owners, or the President of the United States, summer vacation and vacation in general is important to maintaining physical and mental health. According to Psychology Today, a lack of vacation or regular rest can lead to chronic stress, which affects the body’s ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and avoid injury. When we are less rested we tend to be more irritable, depressed, and anxious. Our memory suffers and we make poorer decisions. In other words, rest is essential if we wish to function properly and effectively as human beings. For students, summer vacation is the ultimate escape from school-related stress. It is also an escape from those dreadful morning alarms (plural, because just one can never do the trick), allowing us to catch up on lost sleep, and keeping us well-rested. A successful vacation leaves us feeling ready to take on the world once more.

For some people, taking the entire summer vacation off is financially impossible. However, it is still important to take at least several days or weeks off from work or school each year. The European Union has recognized this, mandating 20 days of paid vacation to all workers, while the US has no federal laws guaranteeing paid time off. In addition to vacation, it is important to take periodic breaks. The Scientific American suggests taking naps, meditating, going on nature walks, or picking up the habits of artists and athletes in order to give your brain more downtime and decrease “cerebral congestion.” In other words, we need to empty our minds of clutter before we can make room for new information and become more productive, attentive, and creative.

 

References:

Drehle, David Von. “The Case Against Summer Vacation.” Time. Time Inc., 22 July 2010. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0%2C9171%2C2005863-1%2C00.html>.

Jabr, Ferris. “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime.” The Scientific American. N.p., 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.scientificamerican.com%2Farticle%2Fmental-downtime%2F>.

Westneat, Danny. “Vacation Just as Important as School Year.” The Seattle Times. N.p., 9 July 2011. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://seattletimes.com/html/dannywestneat/2015561388_danny10.html>.

Whitbourne, Susan K. “The Importance of Vacations to Our Physical and Mental Health.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. N.p., 22 June 2010. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201006/the-importance-vacations-our-physical-and-mental-health>.