Summer vacation, a golden time of the year in the lives of school/college goers. And for the primary school kids, summer vacation is even more golden as they still are toddler like in many ways, they still can spend hours in pretend role plays, they still can make imaginary boat, aeroplane or a car from a cardboard carton. As a social rule they go to school everyday, are getting trained for constructive daily routines inside the class-rooms but they do desire for and also need the non-constructive free time where they can mess up with play dough or water-colours in the name of art and craft, run around in the gym area or play ground, or can search for lady bugs, grasshoppers and long lines made by ants in the garden!
In India summer vacation brings a great relief for children, their teachers and families from extreme heat, and the time is mainly spent inside the house or in somebody else's house (grand parents for example!). Storybooks, ice creams, Television, drawing, painting and visits from guests or friends are typical rituals in this time. Summer vacation is almost a necessity here, it is the autumn and winter vacations when the holidays are welcomed through different events by school like fair and cultural programmes. Summer vacation starts after annual exams are over and results are out, children feel quite tired by then after heavy load of academic performance. It is mainly from April to June, approximately 6-8 weeks. With the beginning of Monsoon starts the new term in schools.
In Europe summer arrives little late so time for summer vacation is from July to August (also around 6-8 weeks). I remember reading about details of a summer day in the month of August in Enid Blyton books as a child and always wondered why the month of August is so hot? and now I know why. Here in Europe June, July and August are summer months and also this is the best time to travel and see Europe.
Summer vacations is highly anticipated in European school calendars and the mood sets off almost a month ago. The custom of annual examination is almost nil here. Academic performances are monitored through out the year and are documented in a format called personal learning plan (PLP). Therefore the last school term is full of events. Picnics, Penny fair, theatre, sports day, poem competition, disco, a visit to a local botanical garden or a zoo, book fair, folk dance night, health and safety day are some of the many. In this last term of the school year children get active in arranging and participating in these events and regular routine of numeracy, literacy takes a back seat. But children love these events and learn a lot from them. They practice all the mathematics skills they have earned in their classes for buying and selling things in penny or book fair. They learn new songs, poems and so several new words from the cultural activities. Social awareness like safe living and environment consciousness are picked up by them more generously through these events than when they are taught about them through books, blackboards or in the written form of questions and answers.
Finally the last day arrives and although as a parent I always gave enormous importance to the first day of the school year, but here I learnt that the last day of the school is equally important. A proper good bye is as necessary as a hearty welcome. In a small primary school in UK, I saw how the whole school gathered together on the last day of their school, cheered up the final year students and wished them luck for their next stage they are going to start in the secondary school. The head teacher in her charming speech encouraged them by saying "You joined the school as little children but now you are leaving the school as little adults and I don't know about the world but you all are just ready to face the world!" The whole school also thanked all the teachers and staff and said good bye to those who will not be joining them in next term. Then after a final speech from the head teacher the school dispersed with a happy holiday note.
In the school closing ceremony when I asked some of the kids about what are they going to do in the summer vacation, most of them giggled and said they have no clue, but they are very happy that the vacation starts and they are sure that it will be only fun!