Should children study over the Christmas break? It’s an interesting question and one that many parents ask. Of course, ask the kids themselves and you are sure to be met with a unanimous, 100% and emphatically resounding, ‘NO!’
But, this is not a simple, black and white question that can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. The ‘right’ answer is dependent on a wide range of factors: family circumstances, the progress the child is making at school, and the timing of mock exams – to name just three of the many things to think about.
It’s a question that can probably only really be answered on an individual child-by-child basis, but here are some of the things that should be considered before arriving at your own answer.
Rest, relaxation and recuperation
We all need rest, relaxation and recuperation! Whatever Christmas means to people: the religious significance, festivities, presents – or just the opportunity to spend quality time with family – the holiday season also offers us an opportunity to have a bit of a rest and to relax. Of course, for many people (mainly parents!) Christmas can be a very hectic time too – but we should never underestimate the importance of some good old-fashioned relaxation.
Children are no different. The school term from September to December is relentless – and it doesn’t let up in January! There is a clear argument for taking some time to ‘recharge the batteries’.
Losing ground and losing momentum
Countering the ‘You’ve worked hard, you deserve a good rest’ argument are concerns that a child that gets out of their stride of learning and studying will lose ground and valuable momentum. This is also a strong argument that should not be underestimated.
Of course, the issue is most pronounced following the long summer break. Even after almost two decades in the classroom, I will freely confess that on the first day back every September I felt a little rusty. Take anybody out of their normal environment for six weeks and it will take a while to get back into the swing of things.
Children tend to experience these types of issues more though. Much is made of the ‘dip’ that often occurs in the transition from Year 6 to Year 7. This is usually put down to the upheaval of starting a new school and the massive change that primary to secondary education actually is. However, the dip in performance from the end of Year 7 to the start of Year 8 is actually more severe for many children.
Whilst the effect on a student’s ‘learning momentum’ should not be as significant over Christmas as it often is following the summer break, any loss of momentum – especially for those in Year 11 – can be very costly at any stage.
Let’s compare an athlete and a school student. The athlete is training to achieve optimum performance at the Olympics. They have one chance of success in their particular event.
For the student, the exams are their Olympics. Exams in each subject are their particular events.
An athlete would not take a two week break from training just months away from the Olympics!
Does this mean a student should not take a break their studies?
There is a happy medium… somewhere!
The truth is that the two arguments detailed above are both correct! So, where does that leave us?
It’s about finding a happy medium between the two:
Should a student take a complete two week break from all studying? No.
Should you be insisting that your child does two hours studying before and after Christmas Dinner? No.
The Christmas break is long enough to enable a healthy mix of rest/relaxation and studying/revising. There should be plenty of time for a child to do a couple of hours here and there to keep things ticking over and to enjoy their own ‘me time’.
If you are travelling a lot over the break, this is actually a great opportunity to do some studying too. Listening to an audiobook or revision podcast during a journey is a very productive way to spend the time.
Children do need a break – but a complete break will often do more harm than good when it comes to their academic progress.