Summer has been rolling along nicely here in Michigan. The temperatures have been a bit up and down, but for this state that is normal. For the most part though it was summer weather, summer wear — flip flops, shorts, tank tops, and sunblock.
Then it became the last week of August. The temperature turned cooler, people were in a variety of clothing styles, an indication they weren’t quite sure what the weather was going to dole out and were making their best guess. You would see someone in shorts, then someone in pants, a tank top then a sweatshirt, sandals then boots. Why? Because even though it wasn’t “cold” it felt that way to some.
Does nature know kids are going back to school and that temperatures must drop to get children in the mood for school? Is this a system of reminding parents that if they haven’t purchased that exhaustive list of school supplies they need to handle it now? How did the school schedule get established in the September to June rotation so that children are attending during the coldest months of the season?
I have learned that our traditional September to June school schedule was established at a time when the United States was a farm-based society and children had to help with spring planting and fall harvesting of crops. The September to June schedule with three months off in the summer best suited the needs of children being able to help in the fields during the main production period with as little interference as possible in their education.
Even though we are no longer a farm-based society and industrialization has ended the time of children needing to be taken out of school to help with farm duties, the schedule has held pretty close to the traditional rotation for decades.
A number of states have tried to increase the hours of a school day, lengthen the period of time that students attend, and some have attempted a year-round school schedule. What many places have found is that increasing the number of hours a student attends also increases operating costs for the school district and many can not afford the increase.
The level of learning, length of time a student spends in school, methods for teaching, and every other aspect of education in this country is constantly being evaluated and changes made. The length of the school year is normally determined by a specific number of days or hours of instruction. One hundred eighty days (180) is the minimum required by many states, five states require more than 180 days, and five states require less than 175 days. Here in Michigan students are required to attend a minimum 180 days.
So what this all means is that it is now September and for the next 9-10 months there are certain times of day when we may be delayed by a school bus. We will see children carrying backpacks loaded down with books, lunches, and a number of other necessities for school. The rotation of school sports, PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences, homework, report cards, and school breaks is now in session. Whether nature knows it or not, the school year has begun.