It’s the end of May, and while everyone else in the world is winding down their school years, our crew is just gearing up. Crazy right? I can remember as a kid how desperate I was for school to be out for summer, but I can also remember how, at the end of the summer, I was dying to get back to routine. Type A much? I know. And those first days back to school in the fall (or more realistically, the late summer) were always stressful for me- I struggled to remember everything from the previous year and I felt pretty discouraged at how hard I had to work at remedial material.
Flash forward to now, as a mom, the summer vacation has totally become my nemesis. I love my children. I love spending time with them. But holy geez acting as a cruise director/referee/snack police/sunscreen applicator is not for me. I just can’t. And I’m enough of a homebody to tell you that I’m not about to turn personal taxi-driver to these peeps and haul them from A to B to C for art camp or dance camp or whatever. Not my wheelhouse. What I am willing to do is offer some activities that will make my job as the homeschool teacher easier in the fall, while also cultivating in them an idea that learning is not restricted to a classroom, nor does it have to look like flashcards and textbooks. And the fun part about what we do is that it’s not necessarily a “things homeschoolers do” approach. In fact, everything we’re doing can be done with neighborhood friends who don’t homeschool, or who do, but do it in a different way.
So what’s my personal approach to Summer School at home? Check it out.
- This is enrichment. When I grew up, our public school system had an amazing summer enrichment program called Enhancement. I can remember taking pottery, cooking, sewing, tennis, acting/musical theater, and choir. Our parents also pushed us into other camps at our local university- I remember writing poems and short stories for Budding Authors and taking a four-week course on entomology in our local science and engineering school. That approach guides me now- we aren’t doing speed drills in math or learning the Preamble to the Constitution (there will be time for those this fall), but we are acting out kid-versions of Shakespeare plays complete with costumes and neighborhood participants. I may not be cramming in schedules and specific educational goals, but there is learning going on, and it’s fun at the same time. Seriously, you should see my kids’ version of Twelfth Night. It’s hilarious.
- We can do this anywhere. I just had a laugh with my favorite homeschool mom-friend about the fact that when we start homeschooling, we set up cute little school spaces complete with desks and posters, all for our kids to prefer to work at the kitchen counter or in their rooms. Total truth- the benefit of learning at home is that it isn’t school. So we use whatever space works. Our summer astronomy class has us outside on blankets in the yard at night, but we also have to prep for what we’ll see ahead of time- so the astronomy worksheets and star-gazing apps we use get tackled in the kids’ rooms or at our kitchen table. We can even practice Latin vocabulary words or states and capitals in games at the pool (think Scattegories where everyone has the opportunity to answer before jumping in). The only guarantee is that we won’t be sitting in the kitchen with a timer set while we do worksheets.
- We can incorporate lots of subjects at once. Our astronomy curriculum fits perfectly with Greek mythology, so we’re reading those stories as well. When we get to a constellation (like Hercules), we’ll read the corresponding myth in our D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths book. To help my daughter learn the Olympians, we’re also making notecard illustrations of each god/goddess and arranging them into a family tree. This lets my super-creative kid channel her artistic talent while also keeping stories straight. Art camp? Check. Similarly we’re tackling States and Capitals this summer and letting each kid plan their dream road-trip, coloring said road-trip on a blank map. They have to tell us what things they’ll plan in each state, based on facts they’ve learned along the way. Totally fun and totally effective.
- We can try subjects that might intimidate us in the school year. This year it’s Latin. I knew I wanted to use Latin in my homeschool to help build a foundation for language-learning, but truthfully, the concept of teaching my kid another language scared the hell out of me. But we introduced it two weeks ago and are able to do a little at a time now as part of our “Summer Enrichment.” She loves it. It’s mostly a DVD course paired with a fun workbook, and it gives her some fun things to recite to us each night (which she really enjoys). And if it hadn’t worked, I’d have been able to look at that subject matter and decide whether or not it really had a place in our homeschool at all.
- We have a reading bucket-list. This is probably my favorite part. My toddlers LOVE The Hobbit, and they can’t wait for us to finish it and start The Fellowship of the Ring. But my daughter is into The Penderwicks and anything by Roald Dahl. If we decide to drop everything else in our summer school, there will still be reading. I still do a tremendous amount of reading aloud with my brood, but I’ve also started leaving them to their own devices with reading, so long as they stick to great literature and don’t opt into a giant stack of Chuck the Truck books. My favorite way to get them excited about reading classic literature? Kids Illustrated versions. I love Usborne books Illustrated Stories, and thanks to being introduced to those, all four of my children have been interested in Dickens, Shakespeare, Stevenson, and Dumas. Once they’ve been exposed to the kids’ versions of these stories, the real versions are less intimidating.
But my favorite part in all of this? There’s no pressure when it comes to summer school at home. I’m not sweating lesson plans or creating daily schedules. We just all have the understanding that whatever we do will be built on what we hope to have completed by the end of the summer. Those things for us this year are:
- Introductory Latin
- Beginning Astronomy
- States and Capitals
- Greek Mythology
- Reading the classics
Notice how math is nowhere in there? We’ll be doing math all along, but in a very different context. These guys have the opportunity to earn and save money for trips they’ll be taking this summer. The only math they’ll be working on is how to budget for the things they want to do. That’s it. All of these subjects are really just goals that will hopefully inspire my kiddos to be inquisitive and eager to learn. I don’t want to spend my summer reminding them to go outside or turn off the TV. They know what I know- that we have fun stories to hear, nature to explore, and languages to conquer, and we if we can finish them by the time school comes back in the fall, we’ll have had a pretty amazing summer. Is it what everyone will be doing? Eh. Probably not. But we’re already that kind of family anyway 🙂 Here’s hoping you have a fun summer that’s full of what you love, with minimal whining from the kids.
Happy Summer, friends!