Haven’t you always wondered why the beginning and end of the school year doesn’t line up with the calendar year? Well, the answer might surprise you: the school year actually dates back to when the farming schedule took precedence over everything else—yes, even school.
Farming can only be done in the spring, summer, and fall. Families needed the kids around to help, so their schooling took place in the colder months when nothing could be planted or harvested. That way, kids were able to help with the livestock and other farm duties during the busy season. (Even if you’re not quite ready to head back to school in the fall, you’ll still enjoy these hilarious back-to-school photos every parent can relate to.)
Cities operated a little bit differently because they didn’t rely on farming to make a living. They would go to school essentially all year and take a few short vacations throughout.
When education started to become more valuable in society, stricter rules had to be established so that there was more uniformity in the school system. In 1852, Massachusetts became the first state to enact a compulsory public education law, making it mandatory for both rural and urban areas to offer schooling. Parents who didn’t send their children were fined.
Shortly after that, a compromise was made between urban and rural school systems to run at the same times of the year, starting in the fall so kids could still help on the farm during the summer—and that is how the 180-day school year came to be.
So, even though most kids spend their summer at the pool or playing video games and not feeding the cows, they have the farming season to thank for their three months of fun in the warm weather.
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