The Surprising Story behind Summer Vacation (and Why Seeds Doesn’t Have One)

It’s common at Seeds for new students to ask us, “When do we have summer break?” The answer is: we don’t! Outside of a day or two off for Independence Day, Seeds keeps its classes going all summer long.

We feel we have a compelling reason not to have a summer vacation for our students. But let’s first turn our attention to an equally compelling question: why do schools have summer break in the first place? Here are some answers.

  1. It’s NOT because of farmers

    It’s not entirely clear when this misconception started, but tracing summer break back to our agrarian roots is as much an American myth as Paul Bunyan or George Washington’s cherry tree. Though summer was an important season for farmers, spring and fall were busier. So busy, in fact, that most farming communities sent their kids to school in summer, but didn’t have school in the autumn and spring months. Myth busted!

  1. It’s more because of urbanization

    Over the course of the 19th century, Americans flocked from farms to cities. And thanks to the heat island effect, cities got hotter as the population grew denser. Unlike their rural counterparts, city kids were expected to attend school all year. That was no fun for students or teachers, especially when air conditioning was decades away from being invented. So parents who could afford to took matters into their own hands: they packed up their family for the summer and went to beat the heat in the countryside.

    But wait a minute—how did these parents get away with just pulling their kids out of school months at a time?

  1. It provided a chance to standardize education

    This might be surprising for modern readers, but school attendance wasn’t mandatory for most of the 19th century. With many students ditching school for summer anyway, legislators saw a chance to make attendance mandatory and create a standard calendar for schools across the US. Summer breaks also provided training opportunities for teachers, creating a badly needed opportunity for professionalization in the profession.

So summer break isn’t just an arbitrary holdover from our nation’s farming days. That said, it’s not without its problems. Summer slide, the loss of knowledge that occurs over the 3-month break, is by now well-documented. Increased knowledge of the phenomenon has led many to call for an end to summer break. Some schools are already doing it.

Whether summer break is too engrained in the American calendar remains to be seen. Seeds, however, will hold fast to its no-summer-break rule. Our mission is to provide a personalized and flexible education for all of our students. All our policies, from our open enrollment to our multiple daily class times, are designed to provide the maximum amount of opportunities for our students to learn. Taking three months off in the summer would severely limit that flexibility. Traditional schooling failed our students. Holding to the traditional school calendar would be, for us, a missed opportunity to guide more students on the path toward their HSE.

But don’t take my word for it. Come to Seeds this summer and see how we keep our education going year-round. And don’t worry: we have air conditioning.

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