Sunday, June 07, 2009

Put Them to Work

The latest fashion among child rearing experts is to bemoan the lack of free, unscheduled time among children and adolescents.  Time to daydream, create, come up with their own games, set their own rules, work out their own relational problems.  Yes, those things are important . . . but I was pondering the purpose of the break from school this summer and thinking perhaps we need to take a different lesson from history.

Summer breaks were originally scheduled in the school year when the primary means of support was the family farm.  All farmers and gardeners know that there are times when the workload is nearly non-stop if the crops are to be properly sown and properly harvested and stored.  In an agrarian society, therefore, all hands were needed at certain times, including those of children of all ages.  Breaks from school were scheduled NOT to give the children and youth any downtime, but precisely because they were needed to work, and work very, very hard.  It was hard work or starve the following winter.

If school breaks were actually designed to give relaxation, they should be scheduled at the times of the year when relaxation is most likely.  Here in Texas, we should be having longer breaks during October and April/May when the weather tends to be the most beautiful and all can be outside playing and creating and day-dreaming.  Instead, we have them in the worst of outside weather, leading to either overly bored children, forced inside by the heat, or overly frantic children and parents, leaping from one activity to another, straining both peace and pocketbook.

I think we should just put all the children and youth back to work.  Turn their summers into long, grueling work days, done without pay and for the corporate good.  Then they'd realize what a privilege it is to be able to go to school, to learn, to better themselves, to find preparation for productive adulthood.

It's time to put them to work, building community gardens, helping the aged and infirm, the older youth pitching in to care for their younger brothers and sisters and for other children in the neighborhoods.  They could mow lawns, keep the city parks clean, do simple repairs, get together, sing and play musical instruments and take their music to nursing homes, run errands for the homebound, and hundreds of other things that may not keep their bodies from starving over the winter, but might keep their souls and minds from starving over the summer.

Just a thought.  

1 comment:

Angie Hammond said...

This is exactly what the residents of the Methodist Children's Home do during the summer months.
If they are not attending summer school, then they are up early and doing community service for the first part of the day and then only after serving others do they have time for themselves. They earn no money for their labors, but instead learn what hard work is. Really makes those in summer school glad to be there where the work is somewhat easier on the body.

I'm with you on the having the breaks when the weather is just right for outdoor activities. Of course being a teacher, I just need the breaks even if the weather is hot. The physical work helps me to renew the mind and while my body suffers the mind and soul benefit from the hard work.
Stress is reduced and I feel mentally refreshed.

So I'm thinking that you are correct. Put the kids to work this summer and see if they aren't better for it in more ways than one.