CUMBERLAND — When it comes to acquiring skills, knowledge and the ability to use them, there are no unimportant days, weeks or months for adolescents. For every youthful “work in progress,” learning is an ongoing process; there’s no telling when something will take place inside or outside a classroom that will spark a life-changing epiphany.

But while there truly isn’t any unimportant time in any single school day, there are certain months of year some see as more educationally significant than others.

September is when students return from their extended summer break and get their first and only opportunity to make a favorable initial impression on their new peers, not to mention the teachers whose classes they’ll attend for the next 10 months.

Final exams are administered in June. These provide tangible evidence of how efficiently and well a young person is learning. Such end-of-year assessments can affect the immediate and long-term futures of every young person. June is also when seniors graduate to the next chapter of their lives.

But identifying education’s most meaningful month(s) can be best illustrated with an analogy.

Imagine a 16-year-old distance runner who trains diligently for the entire school year. By the end of her spring track season she’s running five-minute miles. But then, after winning every race she runs, she spends her summer lying on the couch, chatting on social media, playing mind-numbing video games and washing down junk food with caffeine-and-sugar-laced “liquid refreshment.”

Come September, there’s no chance she’ll run a five-minute mile. In fact, if she follows the regimen described above, she’d be lucky to waddle one in twice that time.

Anyone who has worked hard to achieve excellence in any field of endeavor would suffer a similar fate after taking two full months off from exercising their talent, be it athletic, artistic or intellectual. No serious young athlete, musician or artist would take a 10-week hiatus from practicing what he or she excels at and realistically expect to resume their chosen activity 60 days later at a high level of performance.

So why then do so many young people, often with the tacit approval of their parents, totally abstain from reading and writing every July and August?

Aspiring to play a solo at the school concert, win a basketball championship or earn top student honors in a vocational program are all admirable goals, not to mention impressive achievements. But there is nothing physical or artistic a high school student can achieve that matters nearly as much in the long run as continuing to hone their thinking skills without interruption.

As disappointing as it would be to watch a gifted athlete fritter away his or her summer indolently, allowing a young person to let his or her brain lie fallow every July and August is exponentially worse. Those who annually take two months off from mental exertion are not only squandering potentially valuable growth time, they’re setting a dangerous precedent.

Young people who habitually disengage their brain every summer often find that doing so for longer stretches gets easier as they age. And as far too many genial slackers find out too late, attractive opportunities for those who have willfully or involuntarily slowed or ceased their intellectual growth are few and far between.

Students who take July and August off from reading and writing arrive back at school in September with literacy skills similar to the physical capabilities of the athlete who spent the summer physically inert.

The difference: In 10 years, high school athletic trophies will be dust collectors, but the abilities to read, write, listen, speak and think will go a long way toward determining how much fulfillment, satisfaction and happiness an individual will attain during his or her remaining time on earth.

People who believe that June and September are educationally essential are absolutely correct. But the two months in between them are potentially, for better or worse, far more significant.