“There’s 104 days of summer vacation, and school comes along just to end it…”
The title song lyrics to the Disney cartoon Phineas and Ferb sums up the feeling that most American kids have between early August and early September. After a long summer vacation, kids and preparing to go back to school during this time of year.
To clarify, no, kids do not have 104 days of summer vacation! School kids (grades 1-12) have about 60-70 days of summer vacation, while college students have about 100 days of summer vacation. Clearly with such a long summer vacation, preparing to go back to school is a big deal.
When is “Back to School” season?
Well, this depends on the area of the country and the school district. From a recent, informal poll of the author’s Facebook friends that live in different parts of the U.S., here are some estimated “first day of school” start times:
31: Atlanta, Georgia
31: Indianapolis, Indiana
7,9: South Louisiana
The US State governments are exempting certain school supplies from sales tax on a certain weekend, usually a few weeks prior to start of school (e.g. Texas and Virginia are two states with theirs in mid August.). This has almost become mandatory for the states; otherwise they lose revenue to neighboring states where they DO have the tax holiday. Of course, some say it is not worth the long lines and the rush to save a few dollars. Note, that while this tax-free weekend may appear to be the time to shop, saving you money, for some it only saves enough to go out to dinner or for going out to a movie (maybe US $10-30 or so).
What is “meet the teacher” night?
Some schools open the school for a few hours one evening a week or so before school starts, so kids and parents can meet their teacher(s) for the upcoming year before the first day of school. It’s also possible that kids will be able to meet some of their prospective classmates who will also attend this event. These events are not mandatory, so not everyone attends.
What are first day of school pictures?
The tradition of taking photos of kids in their new clothes on the first day of school, or getting on the bus the first day, or even walking in the school on the first day is so ingrained in the US culture, that Americans may find it interesting that people of other cultures do not have this “tradition.” That being said, having lived in India the past two years, I have seen more and more Indian parents in India adapting this tradition, posting their kids first day photos to Facebook! (Note there are several other trends in first day and last day of school pictures that are in vogue.)
Joining any teams this fall?/Playing any fall sports?
This question is directed more at Junior High (7th and 8th grade) or High School (9-12th grade) students. In many American schools, fall sports practice sessions may start a few weeks before classes even start!
A fun word search activity was created for a training I delivered on small talk, holidays and special times of the year for Americans. This word search is found in the PDF below. Enjoy!