HaYidion - Prizmah's Journal of Jewish Education: Summer Homework

Summer, 2017

Source: HaYidion - Summer, 2017


The articles in this issue begin with a recognition of the difference and legitimacy of summer experiences, their necessity for the personal, social and spiritual development of children. Authors accept the notion that children need time away from school, not merely as “downtime” but as an opportunity to have experiences that will be meaningful and important to them for their entire lives. They need to swim, climb trees, play hours of soccer, spend time with friends and make new ones, to improvise, cope with disappointment and exercise some control over their lives. All of the authors acknowledge that there is value in not assigning summer homework.

And yet, at the same time, day schools do not conceive of themselves as artificial boxes that students enter in September and step out of in June. They are rather microcosms, model worlds that students are meant to take with them throughout the year and throughout their lives. Parents send children to day school in the hope that the school will help shape them into people who are ethically alert, intellectually curious, disposed toward active participation in Jewish life and community. Assignments are a way for the school to ensure a continuity between the ethical and intellectual life at school and the students’ lives beyond campus.

How can summer assignments accomplish that lofty goal without squelching students’ needs for fun and exploration? In the first section, teachers and administrators wrestle with this challenge, and offer solutions from various perspectives. Ablin advises against heeding the bogy of the dreaded “summer slide,” often the uninspiring rationale for summer homework. Wise turns to Daniel Pink to tap into student motivation for summer reading. Landa proposes a host of projects that would combine ethical with intellectual goals. Lubner urges authenticity, imagining ways for students themselves to craft their summer study. Grebenau asks how we can find meaningful ways to assess student summer work, and Krieger argues that summer assignments should be crafted with the same eye toward student differentiation that teachers direct toward classroom assignments.

In our spread of pieces from schools, students describe summer experiences, from overseas trips to Shabbat dinners, that exerted an impact on their Jewish identity. The next section looks at summer work for school professionals. Andron, Markel and Solomon describe the benefits of administrators learning together as a team in their professional development. Prizmah colleagues Eisen, Heller and Loewenstein suggest using the summer to strengthen teacher professional development, throughout the year. Dohn proposes summer reading circles to strengthen faculty learning and cohesion. Fridman and Weinstock envision the summer as an invaluable time to gear up for development work during the school year. And for parents preparing their children for college visits and applications, Geller offers a bounty of ideas that college counselors can present.

Two concluding articles bring us back to the connection between camp and campus. Grinberg explores the underlying philosophical question of how these two pillars of Jewish education relate: opposites, complements, or wholly other? O’Brien presents a vision in which educators who work in day schools and camps learn from each other and strengthen each other’s practice.

Updated: Jun. 14, 2017