The history of summer break

Summer break is many students’ favorite time of the year, and a widely debated topic since its creation. There have been multiple myths and theories surrounding the origin of this multiple month long break in school. The arguably most widely believed of these is surrounding farming practices, and the increasing need for agricultural workers during summertime. Due to this growing necessity, children would take multiple months off of school to help out on their family farms, resulting in the standard break in school that we see today. This idea, although largely accepted as true, is in fact incorrect and has been continually perpetuated by various news outlets and a societal idealization of America’s agrarian past. 

Truthfully, the agrarian calendar included a break in the springtime, with an equally lengthed break during autumn to accommodate farming needs. The standard educational calendar we see today only existed after the Civil War, and was more a result of the upper class in urban areas having a desire to flee the impending heat of summer in cities. These families would travel to cooler areas and take their children with them, causing severe drops in attendance, and subsequently the performance rates of these students. Schools were forced to enact this longer break during the summer so as to preserve students’ academic performance. This led to the nationally appreciated summer months, and the widely accepted calendar by which schools in the United States still function today.