EDITORIAL – School’s out: Slow down and savor the summer

School is out and summer break is here – to the universal delight of children and somewhat more qualified joy of parents, who tend to have a stronger appreciation for the intrinsic value of learning (not to mention the school year’s structure, routine and “child-minding” function).

After months of early mornings, homework assignments and classroom lessons, children have the time and space to follow their own interests rather than a set school curriculum – whether that is through a jam-packed schedule of summer camps and lessons, traveling abroad to visit family and unfamiliar places, or simply “hanging out” with friends, exploring their neighborhood or getting lost in a book.

Education, of course, should be every child’s priority. Attending school, absorbing lessons and completing assignments are, effectively, their “job.” But little minds need time to rest and wander, too. Little bodies need to run and jump and play. Summer’s brief pause (or rather, a downshift in gears) in their ongoing education can help expand a child’s sense of self, of community and understanding of the world.

It is a special time to sit back, relax and allow nature’s rhythms to reassert their authority over clock and calendar. Research clearly shows that unscheduled time for free play is critical to a child’s development, contributing to their physical, social, emotional and cognitive growth.

For some students, the end of this school year brings much more than a respite – it marks the successful completion of their studies. We offer congratulations to those students who will be “leveling up”; high school graduates who will enter the workforce or pursue advanced degrees; and newly minted university and college alumni poised to embark on life’s next chapter. For those students and their family members, the end of the school year also marks the end of an era.

Graduation is one of a few “hard stops” in life, along with marriage, parenthood and relocating to a new city or country. Usually, graduation marks a radical shift not only in status (from adolescent to adult, and pupil to professional), but also in friends, freedoms and responsibilities, and profound internal growth. It is an exciting (and sometimes intimidating) time of seismic change.

Even non-parents have reason to celebrate the end of the school year – at minimum, because it brings a much-anticipated easing of rush-hour traffic, which is noticeably lighter than when kids are being ferried to school by car, bus and minivan. (Go ahead, indulge in hitting that snooze button one more time!)

As we have opined on a number of occasions, whether you happen to have school-age children or not, every member of society is invested in making sure the next generation receives the best possible education. Today’s schoolchildren are tomorrow’s community and business leaders, elected officials, coworkers and neighbors. In that respect, they hold Cayman’s future in their small hands.

Time marches on apace. Soon enough, the children of this country will be dusting off their school uniforms, hefting loaded backpacks, and filing into classrooms. Not so very long after that, the young ones will be grown, trading in packed lunchboxes for caps, gowns and diplomas.

So during this glorious summer (and remember, for a child, every summer is glorious), slow down and savor the days that stretch ahead – and make this vacation a safe and happy one.