The Party’s Over!

original

These words are part of the lyrics of an old American song, and for American students these words are very true right now. Labor Day weekend (Labor Day falls on the first Monday of September) is considered the last weekend of the summer vacation season.  While Labor Day was established in 1894 as a federal holiday to honor the contribution of the working people of the United States, and to give them a special day of rest, for school aged youths, it marks the beginning of a new academic year of work.

Perhaps while driving on the highways in the past couple of weeks, you have noticed cars loaded with pillows, blankets, suitcases, and all manner of personal items. No, these were not people headed for a camping trip! Late August and early September is the time of the yearly migration of college students headed to school, and another year of dormitory living. A great many students seek the excitement and adventure of attending college in places far from home. This, of course, means a lot of driving for their parents to take them there, and back!

Visitors from other countries are often surprised at the length of the summer vacation for American school children. The summer break usually lasts about two and a half months. Late May or mid-June marks the end of one academic year, and if the student does well he or she advances to the next level or grade. By comparison, American school children have much more vacation time than children in some counties, and less than others.

At the beginning of the new school year, the teachers often complain that they have to do a great deal of review because the students have forgotten so much after the long summer break! They call it summer learning loss. The long summer vacation also poses difficulties for the working parents of young children.  It can be a difficult and expensive challenge to find activities to occupy the time of vacationing children. Many parents joke (but are quite serious) about how happy they are to have school begin again!

There is no uniform starting date for public schools in the United States. It varies in different regions of the country, and it can vary within each state, too. For example, in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, school usually starts just after Labor Day, but in the South and Mid-west, students may return to school in the beginning of August. Even within a state the different public school districts each establish their own first day of school. So, the schools in one town may welcome the students back in late August, while the next town over waits until after Labor Day.

In any case, for those who were enjoying the lazy days of summer, the party is over, and it is time to get back to the serious business of learning. Most kids have their new backpacks filled with new school supplies, and the frenzy of shopping for new school clothes is over. Now it is time to head to school and see old friends, and make some new ones. Good luck, and have a great school year!

Gail Patterson

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