Simple Summer Homeschool
Every year around this time it seems as if the homeschool debate is whether to break for the summer or school year-round. (I bet some of you are trying to make that decision for your own family right now.)
There is a long list of benefits to being a homeschooling family, and at the top of that list is our ability to choose how we spend our time and the flexibility of making our own schedule.
As a former public elementary teacher on a year-round schedule, I have witnessed the benefits of taking shorter, but more frequent breaks throughout the year.
Having this experience has really made me an “outside the box” thinker for how my family spends our school days. It is no surprise that I implement a modified year-round plan for our homeschool.
When I tell people that we school year-round I usually get the “this lady is crazy” look. I am sure they are envisioning my poor children confined to a desk while everyone else is enjoying time off. What they do not understand is that school in the summer does not mean worksheet drudgery from 8 to 3.
Schooling year-round can look so many different ways and can make the regular school year run more smoothly by giving us the breathing room to take more breaks when they are needed.
Education is a lifetime of continuous experiences and should not end when the workbook has been completed or that last lesson of the curriculum has been taught. Summer break is a wonderful time to capitalize on a more relaxed schedule while still learning and making memories.
Make a Summer Bucket List
No matter how you choose to spend your summer, I love the idea of making a summer bucket list. Sit down as a family and make a list of activities that you absolutely want to make time for this summer.
If you have young children, make a fun list for them of activities that you think they would enjoy. I like to put ours on big chart paper but yours could be on a poster board or even a piece of construction paper. Post it on the refrigerator or somewhere that everyone is sure to see it on a regular basis.
Summer-themed activities like making homemade ice cream, build a sandcastle, catch fireflies, or have a water balloon fight are always fun additions but you do not have to limit it to traditional ideas. Use this slower-paced season to go to that aquarium, museum, or park you always talk about wanting to visit or try something fun that you might not usually have time to do like a zip lining course or an indoor rock-climbing gym.
The kids will be so excited to see each item get checked off the list.
Investigate Local Summer Opportunities
This may be an obvious suggestion but research your area and see what summer opportunities it has to offer.
I have heard wonderful things about the WinShape organization and this year they have a week-long day camp at a local church in our city. They offer overnight camps, day camps, family camps, and other events throughout the year at locations all over the country.
Public libraries can be an amazing resource and often times offer entire summer programs that include themed storytimes, craft days, animal encounters, and science experiences.
Often your local Parks and Recreation Department has sports day camps available to help participants sharpen their skills and have an opportunity to spend extra time playing a sport that they enjoy with their peers. Summer enrichment camps can be wonderful opportunities for kids to dabble in an area of interest such as acting or stage production through a nearby children’s theatre, experience hands-on science
exploration at a science museum, or dive into art programs through a local art studio or museum.
A unique adventure that I am looking into for my kids this summer is through our zoo. My boys are huge animal lovers right now and the zoo is offering a summer safari that includes a guided tour with a zookeeper, behind-the-scenes experiences, and their photo taken with an animal!
Ask around to see what experiences are available in your area. Some events might be worth taking a short drive.
Make it a Summer of (Fill in the Blank)
Summer means pool days and lots of outdoor fun for our family but I also like to think of ways that we can use our time wisely. Every school year it seems like one subject does not get the time and attention that it deserves. (who’s with me??)
Now that this school year is winding down, I am realizing that science has been really lacking during this last half of our year. My boys love science but it just seemed to keep getting pushed further down on the priority list. Instead of getting hung up on the idea that we are “behind,” my solution is to make the next few months a Summer of Science!
While we do school year-round, they will have a lighter load of core subjects like reading and math, but our main focus will be devoted to science. This will allow me the flexibility to get creative and for us to spend more time on those hands-on experiments that require more planning but definitely make science engaging and fun.
Mary recently recommended the Journey Homeschool Academy as an online science resource and it looks like a perfect fit to help us get a jump start on our science learning. Do you know they have free summer courses?
The best part is that you can give your family a Summer of ________ (fill in the blank with whatever would be beneficial to your children). If your school has been lacking poetry, make it a Summer of Poetry! Check out beloved children’s poetry books from the library, make it a point to read poetry everyday and have frequent “Poetry Tea Times.”
If music education has taken a backseat, Mary and SQUILT would absolutely make implementing a Summer of Music so easy! With a SQUILT membership, Mary has already planned a Summer of Song with live lessons, information packets, and suggested resources.
In addition, you always have the option to look through the lesson archives and choose themes that would interest your children. My boys have especially loved the months of musicals, music from the movies, and music from around the world.
The possibilities are endless for putting a little pizazz into whatever theme your family might have a genuine need or to just simply enjoy as enrichment.
Develop Those Interests
My boys have become fascinated with quite a few topics recently and summer can be a great time to help them find opportunities to explore their interests further.
A few months ago we put a bird feeder outside our living room window. Our whole family has loved observing our regular visitors and noticing when we get a new one. A fellow homeschooling mom and curriculum writer has put together a unit all about North American birds and I know my kids would love it. The best part is that her curriculum, Gather ‘Round, is specifically designed so that all grade levels can come together to learn about one shared topic. If birds are not your kid’s thing, Rebecca has units on space, oceans, continents, and more.
Archery is another new curiosity in our family. My oldest son received a bow and arrow for Christmas and has really enjoyed shooting at targets in the backyard. A neighboring county has beginner archery classes available soon and since he is busy with different sports commitments at other times of the year, a summer class is a perfect opportunity.
With three active boys, I try my hardest to keep those hands busy and productive. Recently I have really been looking into handicrafts that I think they would enjoy. This school year they were able to try their hand at needle felting and weaving but we never found the time to take it any further and try more projects. Summer downtime will be a great chance to spend more time developing these interests.
Whatever your children’s interests may be, summer can be the perfect time to encourage them to dig in.
A productive way to use a relaxed summer schedule is to refine a needed skill or routine.
For my family, we need to work on our consistency of household responsibilities, intentional quiet time and Bible study and strengthening sibling relationships.
During the regular school year we have so many things making demands on our time. I often struggle with the consistency of teaching routines that are outside of our regular academics. I tend to become more focused on the curriculums and projects and do not always do the best job of nailing down good routines in other areas.
Taking the time during the summer to put these routines in place while we have less distractions can really serve us well once we are back in the full swing of things. I follow the Clean Mama and I (try) to loosely follow her weekly household schedule. Her motto is “a little something every day” and with three kids pitching in on one daily household task, that is easily done when a good solid routine has been established.
If your family would benefit from adding more Bible into your days, you will love Kim’s studies at Not Consumed. Kim is another homeschooling mom that has written amazing Bible studies that specifically target the needs of our kids such as: establishing a quiet time, valuing sibling relationships, learning to obey, learning about contentment, and more.
A couple of years ago we completed My Brother’s Keeper, her course that encourages positive sibling relationships. It was fantastic for my boys but it also gave me tools on how to handle sibling conflict in a Biblical way.
Can you imagine how ready we would be to jump into a new school year with strong routines solidly in place and fresh Biblical truths in our minds? These are definitely worthy goals to work towards.
The average summer break in traditional school calendars is ten to eleven weeks. Luckily for us, we can spend those weeks however we see fit. I encourage you to think about how this time could serve your family the most this year. If you use your time wisely, eleven weeks is long enough to be productive and still have plenty of time left over for pool days, park visits, and trips to the beach.
I have no problem coming up with creative ideas on how to make the best use of my time and how to make homeschool exciting and fun. My weakness is that I tend to overestimate what we can realistically accomplish in a given time period.
This summer I am reining myself in and my goal is to choose ONE idea that we are going to work on outside of our academics. If we can take one task and give it time and attention and learn to do it well, I will consider it a success. Not to mention, it will set us up for a strong beginning when we are ready to jump back into our next school year.
What are YOUR plans for the summer? Do you take a complete break, or will you have simple homeschooling activities, too?
Let me know in the comments!
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