When Families Can’t Afford Summer

My campus fills with camps for kids in summer.  In the weeks I teach, I have to navigate around parents dropping kids off for computer camps and science camps, and down the hall from my classroom, kids are doing something with legos and circuits.

In my own family, I hear the parents who are professionals start planning in February for the camps their children will attend in summer.  My students start asking for our summer class schedules early in Winter so that they can plan summers for their kids.

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In High School, I’d  babysit in summer.  Inexperienced and often unenthused about the work, I was the only adult in the lives of young children during those days. At least those families could afford to pay me a few dollars an hour.

Yesterday, the NYT published an essay reminding us that many families cannot afford even that:

WHAT are your kids up to this summer? Sounds like a casual question. But for working parents at this time of year, it’s loaded. What have you managed to pull together that will keep your kids engaged, healthy, happy and safe, while still allowing you to keep feeding and clothing them? For most parents, summer, that beloved institution, is a financial and logistical nightmare.

The financial and logistical nightmare of long summers out of school is sustained in part by the insistence of privileged parents that their children need time to refresh, to invest in enriching summer activities, or to travel.  While I’m sure that the logistics of camps and nannies and transportation become complicated, there is at least no worry that children are basically safe and cared for.

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2 thoughts on “When Families Can’t Afford Summer

  1. Ros June 6, 2016 / 12:37 pm

    “The financial and logistical nightmare of long summers out of school is sustained in part by the insistence of privileged parents that their children need time to refresh, to invest in enriching summer activities, or to travel. ”

    … or, in the case of the farm families around where I live, it’s sustained by the fact that the labour of older children and teenagers on the farm is actually needed in the summer, because the family can’t make ends meet without it. The original reason for a summer break, incidentally.

    Personally speaking, I’d need a few extra sets of hands in April/May, and then again in August/September, but let’s face it: if they’re old enough to help, they’re proably old enough that you don’t need to arrange childcare for them.

    • janevangalen June 6, 2016 / 12:42 pm

      Good point, Ros. The farm work around my hometown is so automated now, but yes, there is always that work to do. And in places like that, there isn’t the frenzy of summer camps and enrichment activities for kids, either. From times when so many kids came from farms to now when so many kids are on their own in isolated suburbs over the summer if their parents can’t get them into camps or sports teams, there have to be more thoughtful ways to think about the school calendar (and year round schooling with breaks in spring and at harvest could work well?). Thanks for commenting.

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