ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why does the American School System have Such a Long Vacation?

Updated on July 6, 2016

School Closed for the Summer

empty school closed for the summer
empty school closed for the summer | Source

How Long is the Summer Vacation?

The school summer vacation can vary from 6 to 14 weeks depending on the country you live in. In the US, although it can vary from state to state, the majority of school districts run on a 180 school day year. The Education Committee in 2013 reported that 30 of the states work on a 180 day school year, with smaller breaks throughout the year and a long summer vacation. Consequently the summer vacation can be two months or more in length.

History of American Public School

In the years after the American Revolution Thomas Jefferson argued for an education system for all, but it was not until the 1840's that a few public schools began opening in communities that could afford them. Slowly a move towards free, compulsory education began, starting with Massachusetts passing the first compulsory school laws in 1852. By 1918 all American children were required to attend at least elementary school. To date there are approximately 15,000 school districts operating in the US.

Plaque marking the first public school


Modern School covered in snow


Why is it so Long?

Historically the reasons for the length of the summer vacation are based on money, agriculture, and facilities. It is often thought that students living in rural areas were needed to help around the farm during the Summer months, however as harvest times are usually Spring and Fall it may not be as accurate as it is thought. There are records of some city schools requiring students to attend school during the morning and work at earn money and develop industrial skills during the afternoons. It is also possible that students living in more rural surroundings would have found getting to school during the heavy winter snow harder than the winter causing absences during that season.

At the beginning of the development of public schools the length of the school year was determined by the finances of the district. A school with a long school year would be considered a more affluent and desirable school as it could afford to pay staff, building maintenance and equipment. This train of thought would suggest a shorter summer was more desirable, particularly for families who needed a place for their children while they worked. As the education system progressed the school calendar varied from district to district based on the needs and finances of the community.

Historically extremes of weather also factor in the length of the school year. During the hot summer months lack of money to invest in or run climate controlled building would make school buildings uncomfortable.

So why is the summer vacation so long in modern times?

With the development of climate controlled buildings, the introduction of child labor laws and the advancement of transportation is it really necessary for schools to closed down for the summer months? There does not seem to be a valid reason for the necessity of a long summer vacation. Advocates site the lengthy vacation as a tradition, part of American culture and a reason to work hard all year, looking forward to a long vacation. However does it really help or harm students?

There are arguments both for and against the long summer vacation from public schools.

Not a Good Idea

Many believe that the long time away from education has a negative impact on a students learning. Labelled by some as the 'summer fade' the long gap between the end of one year and the beginning of the next can have a detrimental effect on some students. Some studies have shown that students in families who have limited funds to spend on summer camps and programs can have academic deficits at the beginning of the new school year which are hard to make up as the year progresses.

Some schools have made the move to year round calendars with blocks of 3 or 4 weeks vacation throughout the year. Others with a high volume of students have a multi track system working on a shift basis to accommodate a greater number of students.

The long summer also puts a strain on families who rely on the free school meal system for their daily lunch or even main meal. No access to this service would mean families have to fund this extra meal not normally in their budget. Homes that are normally unoccupied during the daytime may require air conditioning, another expenditure. Parents may find it challenging to find affordable day care or camps for their families but have little choice due to their work commitments. Most professions do not allow for an extended vacation to this degree, resulting in a juggling situation of staggered vacation time for each parent.

A Good Idea

Many parents enjoy the opportunity to travel for an extended period of time during the long summer vacation. They can plan long trips that they would not be able to do during the rest of the school year without missing classes.
Children can attend camps in subjects that interest them, things they would not be able to experience during other times of the year.

School can be a stressful time for some students and they need the long summer months to decompress, enjoy their interests and relax about school curriculum.

What Does the Future Hold?

As more schools transition over to a longer school year with a more uniform vacation times research is bring done to determine if this system with have a positive effect of students learning and development. The academic successes plus the financial impact of running schools in this way will determine the future of the school calendar in the US. What do you think?

Summer Vacation Length in Different Countries

Length of School Year
January - December
August - June
January - December
September - May
South Korea
March - February


Submit a Comment
  • Ruthbro profile imageAUTHOR


    2 years ago from USA

    Thanks for your comments, from personal experience I grew up in the UK where the summer break is only 6 weeks long with lots of one week and two week breaks spread throughout the year. The summer seemed long enough and the breaks thoughout the year welcomed.

  • lions44 profile image

    CJ Kelly 

    2 years ago from Auburn, WA

    Here in WA State, I always thought the school should run from late September to late June. The weather isn't warm until after July 4 and it's beautiful until early October. We even have a state fair in September. But I had the chance to meet a lot of educators while working for the State and they advocated two shorter breaks during the year. One wanted to school during most of July. And a long winter or spring break. Sounds reasonable. Great topic. Very important one also. Sharing everywhere.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)