I was glad to hear the reason for schools starting earlier and earlier into the hottest part of summer: that testing should be finished before holiday vacations. I always thought it had to do with football (though if that were true, schools might be accused of child abuse for putting our boys out there in 90+ degree weather). 

But I’d like to play the devil’s advocate and push to consider the importance for children to experience beaches, woods, and mountains, to swim and boat and camp outside. We are giving more time to June, a chilly month, too early for swimming, sunning, boating, even camping. In Europe, August is recreation month for everyone; the work world pretty much closes down and everyone takes to the outdoors, both for fun and for health. August is the month where we feel the most need to be out, rejuvenating in the sun and water.

These experiences are not adjunct to education. Experiencing nature firsthand is a far more powerful and lasting education than a biology lab, and playing freely outdoors is free physical education! 

To experience one’s body moving happily about, to experience one’s family enjoying life together in cooperation and fun, these are fundamental to character building and to both mental and emotional health.

Has anyone examined how different European countries handle the tasks of testing children’s learning and how they schedule around the same holidays that we celebrate?

Marti Matthews

Oak Park

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