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The Use And Abuse Of Holidays

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

THE question of holidays, and in particular of the long summer vacation, is one which often gives parents anxious thoughts. It may be doubted whether the present custom of nine months of schooling and three months' idleness is the wisest that could be made; would it not be better to study right through the year, with four short intermissions annually, thus accomplishing in three years what now takes four? Doubtless many parents would welcome such rearrangement. At present, the short interludes at Christmas and Easter give little trouble at home; each has special amusements and observances in which all are interested and occupied, and which are, or may be, occasions of profit as well as joy. But the long summer vacation is undoubtedly a trial to that large part of our population which resides in cities and has a small income. Their houses are small-often mere apartments; the mother does all or most of the household work; the father, however willing, can be of little assistance to her; and perhaps the only out-door playground is the street. To the tens of thousands of decent and hopeful families in such circumstances holidays are a terror rather than a joy, and the children themselves welcome the reopening of school. The case is not easy to meet, but the best solution seems to be some sort of regular occupation. For rural folks no counsel seems needed in this direction, except not to forget that boys have a fair claim to time for play, and an inborn need to go a-fishing about once in so often. In town, let the boys, after a few days of freedom, go on a farm or into a factory, store, or office. They expect to do so a few years hence-why not begin their training now? The money they earn will be small, but will feel good in the pockets, and brain rest gained in change of work is better than that gained by loafing. Some girls might find similar employ-ment, but it would be better for them to take this opportunity for lessons in housekeeping, relieving the mother of all the tasks and responsibility for which they are fitted. One difficulty here is to get the average mother to let her daughter help her systematically, and in the relief from strain, take something like vacation herself; yet that is the only way to train the girl thoroughly, and probably she is much more capable than she is given credit for.

As to families more fortunately situated, the most important caution is one against permitting the excitement of plentiful amusements, seaside life, or forest-camping, to blot out all recollection of studies. In one way or another, by tutors, by an hour or so of regular reading daily in the line of school-work, by the pursuit of some specialty in science or art or linguistics, the mind should be kept toned up for the business of the coming autumn and winter. In short, children should not be allowed to make vacation days a dread to their parents and a waste to themselves.

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