Issues with the Extended School Day

School vs. Family, Who will Win?

At least once a year someone in the news will ask this question to viewers/readers in the area:

Do you think the school year should be extended?

This question often goes alongside:

Should the school day be longer?

Frankly, I’m sick of both questions.

In New York State, most schools start the first Wednesday or Thursday after Labor Day. The third week of June marks the end of the school year. This gives students a two-month vacation in July and August.

First, I want to address the question on longer school days. My simple answer is no. Want me to elaborate further? Okay. Even for me, an adult, trying to study, do tests, concentrate on lectures, working, reading, writing and so on all day long tends to leave me mentally exhausted by a certain time of day. Adults need a break. Why wouldn’t children and teens? If they extended the school day any further, my daughters would come home after my husband comes home from work and he leaves a few minutes before my teenager does in the morning.

Oh, there are times when I wish I had a little more alone time to get my work done. But I certainly don’t want my kids to become so exhausted they’re cranky. No way. Uh uh.

In the ’80s our school day was one hour longer. That hour was useless because by then we were too tired to think, too bored to care, too anxious to get out and enjoy what was left of the day rather than listen to the teacher go on and on. We fought to get that hour removed. It happened the year before I graduated. Let’s be honest. A show of hands herehow many of us took school seriously when we were teenagers? I don’t mean who got good grades. I mean, really cared all that much about what some of the teachers were trying to tell us. Sure, there were some classes I loved. It wasn’t until I was out of school that I started to be interested in anything having to do with history or science. In fact, I learned more on my own going to libraries, watching the news, and going online than I remember learning in school.

But back to the schools today. My girls go to a great school. I have no quarrels with that. My girls are smart. They have responsibilities at home as much as they do at school. They have *gasp* chores. Morning chores and evening chores. And don’t think they’re alone. Despite what the older generations want everyone to think, I know of more children these days that still have chores, are properly disciplined if needed, are helpful to others and are responsible human beings. My daughters also have to do their homework as soon as they get home from school. By the time it all gets done, they have time to play or relax while we make dinner. After dinner they get maybe an hour, maybe, to go out and play before each goes up to take their baths, have a little family down time and get ready for bed. Many times they end up too tired and just relax instead of playing.

The point is, I think it’s irresponsible for adults to forget what it’s like to be a child and teenager. I’m convinced we’d be harming our kids if we lengthened the day. Now I know, there are parents out there who would rather their kids stay in school longer because they get more time to themselves, or they have to work longer too, or for whatever other reason there may be. Seeing my daughters get home at 4PM on school days, I’m opposed to them coming home after 5 or 6PM as is being discussed. We have dinner at 6PM. When exactly are they supposed to get all the homework each teacher hands them done, play and talk with friends, spend time with the family and so forth before going to bed and starting over?

As for the question on extending the school year, my answer is again no. Mainly for selfish reasons. I like my family with me. Families can plan vacations, camping trips and so forth without worry that the children need to be back in school right away. Children can go outside to play all day if they want, or veggie on the couch for a little while. They don’t all sit in front of the TV or video games. Children can be children.

And lets face it, not one school in our area doesn’t feel like an oven in the summertime. If they have air conditioners, they don’t use them. What child, let alone an adult, can think when they’re burning up and can barely breathe? July and August are the hottest months here with temperatures that occasionally reach to 100F, but with humidity that extends far beyond. There is no way I’m going to agree to have my youngest daughter with asthma go through the summer inside an oven just to make school years longer. No way. Not going to happen. If they even try to make this possible I’ll fight it all the way.

I can go on and on about my reasons. Really, there are more that have a lot to deal with common sensesomething lacking in so many politicians these days. New York State worries about the students who don’t do well and thinks this will work for them. Even though my daughters are doing just fine, I still don’t think longer days and longer school years would work for anyone. As I said, the students are tired before classes are over now. Why would anyone think they’d be more alert for longer days? There are other reasons why some students don’t perform well. A longer day is not going to change those reasons.

I’m also aware that other countries (and even other states) have longer school days and year. And? I actually like family time. My children talk to me about anything. I remember what it was like to be a child, a teenager. How much fun I had with my friends. I’m not going to deprive my children of that. Goddess knows they’ll have plenty of time to get serious and down to business when they graduate and have to make their mark in the adult world. You know, the days of working too hard and playing a lot less, of feeling exhausted, frustrated, and for many people, unappreciated.

However, I do agree with shortening some of the newest school holidays. They’re getting ridiculous, especially President’s week. A whole week off in February? Is that necessary?

The school gets so much of my girls’ time as it is. In a few years, my daughters will be leaving to start their adult lives. Maybe it is selfish of me to want to actually spend as much time as I can with them. To let them play and be children right now. Selfish or not, I know that a longer day at school won’t teach them anything new.

So, what do you think? Longer school days and school years? Yes or no and why?