Grade Expectations: Mini Classes During School Breaks Are Unfair To Kids

kid scheduleGrade Expectations is a weekly look at education from a parent’s perspective. We’ll talk special needs, gifted & talented, and everything in between. 

My daughter could have had a very entertaining winter break. Judging from all of the three-day camp and weekend workshop offers we got, plenty of people must be filling their children’s vacations with tons of educational activities and experiences. There was the gymnastics week-long camp. The dance studio had super-intensive programs. The area youth theater offered mini-classes. Let’s not even get started with the zoo, the children’s science museum and multiple other local kids’ attractions. Everywhere I turned, there were exciting things for her to get involved in.

Instead, my little girl spent the time she wasn’t ripping open presents or visiting family laying around our house, playing with new toys, and even watching a little television.

She was lazy. She even got a little bored from time to time. And call me crazy, but that’s what I’ve always assumed winter and spring vacation were supposed to be about. They’re breaks from spending every weekday doing a planned, educational activity. Why would I want to sign my daughter up for a bunch of classes and extra-curriculars during the one time of year that she gets to relax?

I realize that a big reason these camps and classes have grown in popularity is that parents are looking for childcare. It’s not easy to take a couple weeks off of work because your little one in home from school. Parents just need someone to watch the kids when their normal schedule is thrown off. And honestly, camp for an activity your child likes seems better than a daycare drop-off center that your child isn’t terribly familiar with. It makes sense why these programs have grown so much.

At the same time, I think our kids are missing something when they head out for eight hours of kid-friendly science experiments or swimming and kickball at the local YMCA. I think they’re missing the “break” part of winter break. They’re missing the relaxation that comes with laying around the house for a day or two, playing with new toys and maybe taking a trip out into the snow with a sled.

It’s not an option for every parent, but instead of shelling out for camps and classes, my family, friends and I are coming together to give kids a little down time. Each parent takes a day or two off work, whatever they can handle. The kids travel from house to house, with one parent whose only job is to cook a little lunch and keep the peace. No planned activities. No programmed entertainment. Just a house to relax in for kids who need to take some deep breaths.

I know that some parents don’t have that choice, but I’m really thankful that my daughter gets a chance to calm down over vacation. I’m completely fine with hearing her whine that she’s bored every once in a while. The extra-curriculars and planned activities can wait until later. We’ll handle those on weeknights, when life gets back into a routine. Winter break isn’t made for productivity.

(Photo: MR.LIGHTMAN/Shutterstock)

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  • Diana

    Couldn’t agree more. Kids are worked hard during the school year. Let them have a rest .

  • bumbler

    I don’t think kids need a break. The breaks don’t exist to relive them of the stresses of 3rd grade, it’s for spending time with family for the holidays or (formerly) helping with hunting or harvesting. It can also be used as a time to have them explore interests that are not met at school. Kids need daily downtime, which most of them get, but they don’t need weeks on end of doing “nothing”.

    • Angela

      I agree with you both. I believe that Lindsay’s daughter is only 4 which I feel is way too young to be in any kind of intensive training or day camp unless it’s absolutely necessary for child care. I feel that the solution Lindsay and her neighbors devised is ingenious and much more developmentally appropriate. If an older child or teen wishes to attend classes or other activities during school breaks I don’t see a problem with it. But I also wouldn’t take issue with a kid who didn’t. No, I wouldn’t let my kids spend weeks at a time vegging out in front of the TV. They would still have chores and I’d encourage them to get out and play with friends or read a book or 2 but I don’t think kids need structured extracurricular activities all the time.

    • bumbler

      yes, you said it better than me! :D

  • Paul White

    I enjoyed some of the stuff I did on those breaks–classes at the zoo, scout camp, etc–rather a lot. I do think it’s a problem if they’re forcing kids into stuff every break, but just having the option is a good thing. Sometimes kids WANT to do some of that stuff!

  • Elle

    It’s not like the kids are in camp 24/7. They still have evenings, weekends and the holidays themselves to have unstructured time. I also fail to see how going to a different friend’s house everyday is much different other than I guess there aren’t any specially designed fun activities once they get there. Going to dance camp or the zoo is hardly the same as sitting in a classroom at school for 6 hours a day. Give the kid a choice between school, sitting around the house themselves all day or going to camp for an activity they really enjoy and guess which one they will pick 9 times in 10?