Lazy Days of Summer? Think again…

Summer was not always the lazy, vacation-filled season that we now see it as.  When we think of summer today, we think of long hot days of laying by the pool with the kids while they splash away their summer break.  The family road trips to expensive amusement parks or vacations to the beach are standard.  Sending the kids off to summer camp for the week gets them out of mom’s hair for a while.  Those are all modern ideas.  Have you ever stopped to think that our iconic ideas of summer only exist because of the school calendar?  It wasn’t always that way.

As a homeschooler, I march to the beat of my own drum.  One of the major perks is that I get to decide my own schedule.  Like most other things in my life, I don’t stick with the norm.  I choose to do school year round with significant breaks in the spring and fall.  It’s a little weird, especially when most other homeschool families I know generally stick with the public school calendar.  So, it got me thinking.  Am I really that weird or just behind the times?

Today, kids are out of school by the end of May and back at it by the middle of August.  Around here, that means that they are in school during planting time as well as the majority of harvest time!  I’m knee deep in canning tomatoes well into September.  The school year certainly doesn’t coincide with my homestead life.  I always thought that the summer break got started because of the agrarian lifestyles of our country’s founders, but that’s just not the case.

Here’s what happened.  A little homeschool lesson for the kiddos!  (Hint…it has a lot more to do with the whims of politicians than it does with planting and harvesting.)

Public education got its start in the early 1800’s.  At that time, there was not a standard calendar.  School days were set differently in various parts of the country and even changed from town to town.  As you would expect, the urban school year differed greatly from the rural one.  In the cities, kids attended school year round with days off here and there.  In some cities, school was in session as many as 240 days a year!  That schedule basically included the weekends and a few holidays.

kidsKids in the country had a completely different experience.  Their parents wanted them home for planting during the spring, as well as harvesting during the fall.  The majority of their school days fell in the cold winter months and the hot summer months when their time was not in such high demand on the farm.

As more and more people moved into the cities, summer temperatures got hotter there.  The stone, brick, and later concrete felt like an oven and heated up the cities more and more.  Frequently, rich families began to pull their kids out of school during the hottest months in order to feel relief from the cooler country or seaside breezes.  More and more students were missing and some classrooms sat vacant.

Legislators stepped in to solve the problem.  They rationalized that it was actually more healthy for kids to take the summers off.  They needed leisure time to relax their brains!  By 1900, urban kids were free for as much as 60 days in the summer.  Not wanting to be behind the times, school districts in the country adopted the new summer schedule.

The rest is history, so they say.  Today we have a booming billion-dollar vacation industry that capitalizes on the summer schedule set by politicians more 100 years ago.  But I would submit that our kids are not better for it.  We’re teaching them that they deserve an entire season free of work.  That’s not the reality of life.  Not to mention that by the time school starts again, a significant amount of time has to be devoted to review because students have forgotten most of what they learned at the end of the previous year.

It turns out that I’m in pretty good company with rural homestead families of the past.  Summer break is actually a modern phenomenon.  Schooling year round really works for my family.  A little bit every day, combined with homestead activities and chores keeps learning fresh for us and teaches my kids that learning never stops.  I’ve come to realize that living an off grid agrarian lifestyle has naturally caused my family to live in many ways just as farmers and homesteaders did centuries ago.


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About JaimieB

Jaimie lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead known online as An American Homestead. They live with their two sons and her parents Tim and Joann on 50 acres located deep in the American Ozark Mountains.

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  1. Great article! We currently live in an apartment whole while waiting to close a home with some acreage this next month. We’ve lived in Alaska for the past three years and this is our first summer back in the lower 48. The heat down here is painful after 60- 70 degree summers so we’ve been at the pool a bunch. Today while in the pool I was thinking how lazy and unproductive this was then I saw your article. Loved the history on school scheduled you shared! It totally makes sense. Can’t wait till were we’re on our land with more productive things to do 🙂

  2. Yes! Although our dream of off grid living is still as yet unfulfilled, our homeschool schedule is nearly year round. We try to take June off from “book” learning, although we do review work sporadically here and there during that time. The rest of the year we are schooling about four days a week, with days off here and there for holidays, “brain breaks,” and spending time with my husband when he gets a day off from work. I declare our school schedule with the authorities to be from July 1st to June 30–all year. That gives us the flexibility to do what we need and love. Thanks for the history lesson, it was interesting!

  3. Sabine Edelmann

    Sorry for the 3 stars rating. I wanted to do 5 but it does not let me change it! My kids are almost leaving home but if I could have them small again I would love to do it your way! We live on a farm in northern British Columbia . I am very grateful that we were able to raise our boys here all their life. Nothing is for granted and everything is done together. They appreciate it so much what they have here, like healthy organic food, lots of contact and learning with animals, building projects and fixing stuff, etc. The list could go on and on!
    I enjoyed this article very much.

  4. i enjoy reading your articles. I too homeschooled during the summer months and took other time off. Our homestead was very busy with goats, kidding, chickens, turkeys, horses and harvesting our produce. Our children learned to drive the lawn tractor and progressed to the field tractors in their early teens. It is so hot here in Alabama that we found the other three seasons to be best for outdoor activities. Now that my children are grown and we have a full time horse training facility we get to enjoy our grown daughter as she gives riding lessons and trains horses. When the tie that binds the heart to home is never severed your children will always desire to be involved in your homestead.

  5. You’re not weird. We have been homeschooling for 14 years. We take time off for the Spring and
    Fall feasts as well. Our scheduling problem is that we follow the Kararite Calendar and are not sure of the dates until the new moon is sighted in Jerusalem. I haven’t always had employers that understood, but I will not deviate from our creators calendar.
    Keep up the good work. Your videos are an inspiration for Messianic believers.

  6. Hi! I love watching your shows. I just wanted to comment and say that I love the new head scarfs Jaime has been wearing. They are super cute and look functional for keeping hair out of the face while working. I think the brighter /lighter colors make her look more youthful too! I know this probably isn’t her goal from having watched your other channel, but I just wanted to comment on it. Also, wondering do ya’ll have to worry about water moccasins where you live?

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