It’s Back-to-School Season!
This is an extremely strange autumn — schools are grappling with how to balance education with the ongoing Covid pandemic. But that we have a “back to school” period is curious in itself. Why is it that children head back to classes in August and September?
Yes, summer vacation is a perfect time to enjoy the sun — but that’s not why. It’s because of the harvest.
In the 1700s and 1800s, everything was based around farming. Society was agrarian (with farms everywhere), and this industry was very important. Back then, kids weren’t viewed as being kids. They were viewed as being “mini adults.” Life was harder and parents needed help to make money. So their children would often work with them on the farms (or in factories). The busiest times were frequently in the summer, due to everything from maintaining the crops, to caring for livestock, to harvesting. The work dropped significantly in the autumn and winter months with the colder weather.
Because of this, communities would schedule school around the farming calendar. Whenever the kids didn’t have to be farming, they could be in classes. Generally, rural children would go to school in the winter and in the summer (in two different sessions). Still, not every place relied on farming. In the cities (in the 1800s), there was basically a year-long school that had short, scattered vacations (with around 240 days of school per year, which was much longer than the rural communities had).
In the late 1800s, districts around the US realized they needed a coherent schooling system. So in both rural and urban areas, the school systems began in the fall (typically September in the US along with much of the Northern Hemisphere): a less busy time where the highest percentage of children could attend. This new schedule had a 180-day school year. There were still problems with parents needing to keep their children home at times, but improved household prosperity and new truancy laws helped shift society from children working on farms to children working on homework.
States began to mandate that children go to school in the 1850s (Massachusetts was the first in 1852). In the UK, children weren’t required to go to school until the 1880s. Before that, it was up to the parents if they wanted their kids to attend classes. This shows how western societies began to view kids as being children: youngsters who needed to play and learn, not be forced into work.
Links to Fun Activities
No matter when you’re beginning classes, we have plenty of Back to School Worksheets to help!
You can print a variety of “Getting Home From School” nametags!
- Back-to-School Scavenger Hunt
- Back-to-School Activity/Memory Book
- “All About Me” worksheet
- Make Your Own Timeline
- Take-Home Student Survey
- And many more — jokes and riddles, bookmarks, printable books, worksheets, and many classroom ideas!
Make a bulletin board! Here are some examples of what to put on it to welcome the students back:
- Make a Handprint Rainbow
- Printable Bulletin Board Birthday Cakes
- Geography Bulletin Board Instructions
You can also print these short books for the kids to fill out:
Check out our many worksheets about school-related words. Explore everything from word searches to matching printouts. Here’s a sampling:
- Match the Words to the School Pictures
- Draw and Write About How You Get To School
- Back to School Word Search
- Match the Syllables: School Words
- Back To School Word Hunt
- Teacher Acrostic Poem
You can also learn school-related words in different languages with our picture dictionary pages:
Check out the Enchanted Blog’s Halloween issue. Try our Halloween and Day of the Dead activities!
Also contains a brief history of the Jack-o’-lantern!