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Carla Mosca with her daughters Lexi (C) 13 and Giulianna 10 at the school playground in Calgary, Alberta, June 12, 2011.

Todd Korol for The Globe and Mail

School calendars should be modified, with a longer spring break and a shorter summer holiday. This would mitigate the impact of summer learning loss, benefit disadvantaged children and give families greater flexibility.

While a long summer vacation makes sense in a Canadian climate, coming up with activities to fill the time actually requires the organizational skills and deep pockets of an executive corporate planner. Many families do not have a caregiver at home to take children on idyllic outings to pools and parks, or the money to travel. Instead, they struggle to organize and pay for day camps and sports programs, fearful that unsupervised children will fritter away their time on PlayStation 3.

A shorter summer break - of six weeks instead of nine - would be easier to plan for, and also help alleviate the effect of vacation on students' learning. Many students forget math facts and spelling over the summer, and children from poor families also lose reading skills. An Ontario study found that children from low-income families who had only one month off in the summer did better in math and needed less time for review.

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Students could make up their vacation time in the spring, following the custom in Australia, which has four school terms with shorter vacations in between. Restructuring the Canadian school calendar in this manner would also silence critics of year-round schooling, and those who believe holidays are as sacred as time in the classroom.

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