The case for a seasonal education

the case for a seasonal education ~simplehomeschool

Remember spring fever? I recall sitting in a desk looking longingly out the window, waiting for the bell to ring so I could answer the sun’s call.

We sense it in our homeschools as well, the shift in weather drawing us outdoors–away from worksheets and responsibilities.

What if it’s meant to be this way–this inner impulse and desire for nature this time of year? Maybe it doesn’t mean that we’re lazy or undisciplined after all.

One message most of us received from the traditional education we grew up with is that school days should follow the same pattern, no matter what is happening outdoors. It tells us to bring uniform productivity to our days–with math always followed by English followed by science followed by recess, and so on.

But I’d like to make a case for seasonal education–the idea that different lessons are best taught at certain times of year, and that we aid our efforts as homeschooling parents when we work with the seasons instead of against them.

Here is a list of the seasons and a few of the lessons they teach. (Apologies to those in the Southern Hemisphere–adjust these as needed to suit your situation!)

Spring


Photo by morning_rumtea

  • Science, including the following:
  • Gardening
  • Nature study
  • Experiments
  • Spring is also a good time for getting our environments/homes in order. (Think spring cleaning!)
  • The perfect season for a six month inventory, evaluating what each of our students need most

Summer

  • Family time
  • Travel learning (think vacations)
  • Building & nurturing bonds with extended family
  • Working together on projects
  • Summer doesn’t have to be completely without academics; hot afternoons are perfect for indoor study or reading times.
  • In our home we learn year-round, which gives us plenty of flexibility in all seasons. In summer I restructure our day so we have extra time outdoors in both mornings and afternoons. This still leaves us with a big portion of the day to devote to indoor learning pursuits.

Fall

  • Autumn is for beginnings; the perfect time for kicking off new starts and goals.
  • It represents a return to normal rhythm & routine after the expansiveness of the summer.
  • I like to do another six month inventory at this time of year.

Winter

  • Winter is the ideal time for stories and study.
  • Before indoor heating, the cold used to draw families together around a wood stove for warmth. After chores were done, time was used for the learning and studying that couldn’t happen in other seasons because of the farm work required.
  • It’s a time for drawing inward and passing on important life lessons.

Resources for a Seasonal Education

Many of the ideas included here originate from the book Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille. I highly recommended it–I find myself rereading and flipping through this book often.

The Waldorf tradition also emphasizes schooling through the seasons and celebrating seasonal festivals. Popular books include All Year Round, Festivals, Family and Food and The Children’s Year. Another helpful resource is The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder through the Seasons by Amanda Blake Soule.

It’s important to maintain basic rhythms to our days–after all, meals must be made and cleaned up no matter which season it is. But we can create our rhythms with an eye to maintain a seasonal education as well.

Let’s use these guideposts of nature to our advantage in our homeschool.

What impact have you found the seasons having in your homeschool?

This post originally published in April 2012.

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. What great ideas! I think this is definitely the case in our family, even though we aren’t formally homeschooling yet. My babes love to do whatever I am doing, so in the spring we are planting seeds, and in the winter we are curling up under blankets and reading a lot. It is amazing the different options available for homeschooling. Very encouraging!
    Heather’s latest post: We did it!

  2. I agree with your ideas. It seems that even our bodies were designed with a circadian rhythm that makes us want to cuddle up with books in the winter and learn outside in the spring and summer. With little children, it is easy to find educational opportunities in the garden or hiking, but as children grow it becomes more and more important to engage them in challenging activities to allow them to stay connected with the earth and nature. It is an important part of mental health for their adulthood that we can teach them while they are in our homes.
    Jen @ anothergranolamom’s latest post: The Case for Book Ownership

  3. My husband and I were just commenting last night about incorporating the natural rhythms of the seasons into our lives more. This post was very timely for that.
    Steph’s latest post: Four things not to say to newlyweds

  4. LOVE THIS. I agree completely. I always think about the children in school on days (like today) where the sun is pouring on the new blossoms. Our family is all about nature study. I mean, our children are young. YOUNG. They won’t stay this way forever… and what richer lessons can they learn than to find God in nature and embrace His creation in their soul? It is there we find balance in this crazy world build on achievement and worldly ‘success’. Amen, love these thoughts! Cassandra @ The Unplugged Family
    Cassandra’s latest post: The Pagan Easter.

  5. This is a great way to look at a year. Summer is also a great time to get a lot of PE time in – swimming, bike riding, hiking, etc.
    Heidi’s latest post: How To Homeschool

  6. Thanks for the teaching suggestions! As a former public school teacher, I dreaded Spring Fever, so I always try to take advantage of outdoor playtime during spring/summer/fall as much as I can. Children deserve to spend as much time outdoors as possible. I’m going to keep your seasonal teaching lessons in mind!
    ~Andrea
    Andrea @ No Doubt Learning’s latest post: Fun Games for Kids and a Game Giveaway

  7. I’m planning to school year round as well, so we can spend our hot hot summers learning indoors, but do lots of outside things in milder weather.

    Seriously, summer vacation in Texas is just not fair. We should have winter vacation instead.

  8. Yes, Jamie, I absolutely agree! As homeschoolers we have this opportunity to craft our own rhythms and to go WITH the flow of the seasons. I reevaluate our rhythm every season and make little adjustments so we are doing what feels natural in that season and also as a way to account for how my children are changing and what their current needs are.

    Also, in the spring and fall we often take projects and do them outside at the picnic table, do our read-aloud time on a blanket outside, etc.

    Winter is also a wonderful time for abundant indoor crafting and art projects and baking and garden planning! :)

  9. I have a thirteen year old son and this has been our first year homeschooling. I am considering purchasing the book, Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, that you recommended. Do you think my son is too old to start implementing this type of learning?

    • No I don’t, Heather. In fact I would highly recommend it, as you’ll see when reading it, the early year phases continue to be a part of us all life long–so you can nurture them even at an older age.

  10. Great article! Our son is just 10 months old but we’ve already decided that we will be homeschooling our children. The more I delve into the topic, and read amazing articles like this one, the more I realize that homeschooling really is the right choice for us. We just cannot expose them to the one-size-fits-all, everyday-is-exactly-the-same method of teaching…
    Sarah @ Nature’s Nurture’s latest post: HOW TO: Wash Grapes The Right Way

  11. I love this idea! Just in the past few weeks, I started thinking about how much we love being outdoors in the spring and how this will “mess up” our homeschooling once we get past the pre-k/k stage. I thought there must be some way to use that to our advantage, teaching science, gardening, and nature study in the spring, but I’d only just begun my brainstorming on how to make it work for the other seasons, as well. And now I see you’ve done a lot of the legwork for me! This post was perfectly timed – thank you!!!!
    Jacquelyn’s latest post: Surviving Pregnancy Exhaustion

    • Oh, so happy to hear that, Jacquelyn! Absolutely, no need to “mess it up.” In fact, your homeschool will be all the better for it!

  12. Great ideas! I’m feeling the call to year-round schooling so as to make our schedule more flexible overall. And you’re absolutely right that hot summer afternoons were made for indoor academic activities – unless we’re fortunate enough to be at the beach :)
    CC Jen’s latest post: Happy Easter!

  13. Wonderful!! I am mentally trying to prepare for our winter here is OZ. I don’t do cold well but I don’t want to hibernate either. I shall ‘naturally’ incorporate your seasonal learning idea as it seems so, well…..natural! Thanks. Oh, and I will definitely get a hold of that book to read.
    Paula Shillington’s latest post: A Piece Inspired by Spoken Word Poetry

  14. Excellent suggestions. I shifted this year to a monthly/seasonal mindset, so we spend a lot of time outside gardening and doing nature studies in the spring and fall. Now I’m thinking ahead to next year’s plan. It’s hot down here too (southern Louisiana), so I think now we’ll do more of our indoor academics in the summer when we really want some air conditioning. :)

    Thanks for the book suggestion. I haven’t read Leadership Ed and it looks interesting!
    Michelle’s latest post: Easter Plans and a Tip

  15. Thank you! I have a blog reply to this post and a link back to it of course! <3

    http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=4829236349870728344#allposts
    Kimberly C.’s latest post: Easy Homeschooling! Teach to the Season!

  16. Yes, there is a season for everything. And Spring is just such a magical time for nature study and science. It’s wonderful.
    Sara’s latest post: Sunshine to work in

  17. We definitely are like this too. I wrote an article on homeschooling with the seasons last year here: http://www.examiner.com/homeschooling-in-mankato/homeschooling-through-the-seasons

    It just makes sense to match our homeschooling lives to the seasons instead of fighting our natural impulses (and those of our kids!). Winter should be a time for more reading, projects, time curled up inside. Summer should be a time for more active learning and learning through adventures and travel. Spring should of course be focused on lots of nature studies and so on… It keeps stuff fresh and fun too!

    ~Alicia (HSing mom of an 8th grader, 6th grader, 3rd grader, preschooler and infant)
    Magic and Mayhem’s latest post: 7 Ways to homeschool when the kids have spring fever

  18. Um…I LOVE this! I actually think that we should look at structuring our whole lives around a seasonal flow of duties (which is probably a huge reason why our farming appeals to me so much!) The short, dark winter days are more for curling up with big books and heavy thinking inside. The longer spring and summer days are for being outside, learning life skills, doing heavy physical work and more experiential and exploratory learning. You know, may hay while the sun shines and hibernate when it’s cold. I think the more we follow the seasons in our life flow, the more physical and emotionally peaceful and rejuvenated we feel. I think fighting our natural reaction to seasonal changes by forcing ourselves into a monotonous daily pattern makes us restless and burnt out.
    Jamie (@va_grown)’s latest post: Updated Blog Design

  19. We have found that it is SO hot here (in Central Texas) during the summer, that it is best to homeschool then and take time off to do other family activities later in the year. There are too many poisonous snakes on the move and it’s miserable to be outside except in the very early mornings (or when swimming, but the pool does not open to the public until 1:00 pm.)
    This arrangement worked out nicely in some unexpected ways, as well. For example, our third grade social studies book from last year talked about where grains came from. A person in our area had planted wheat and that very evening after going over all the equipment used, he and his guys came in and harvested the wheat using those very machines.
    Another benefit is that the sun rises earlier and as it gets hot so quickly, it is easier to get the children up for schoolwork than in the Winter when it is dark and cold and beds are so soft and warm in the mornings. :-)
    In Fall and early Spring, we like to camp more frequently and do more outdoors and try to do studies related to that. In late Fall, we spend more time studying about early settlers and their reasons for leaving to come to America, and the birth of Christ. In late Winter / early Spring, we study more about gardening and bugs and such.

  20. Great post! I have been labeling our science lessons by season to best take advantage of the warm weather in the spring/summer, the early nights in the winter, and the colors of fall. :-)

  21. I am so with you on this. My kids spent last weekend building a tree fort (and then spent the next 3 days in it) and I realized that the whole process explored: building design, autonomy, ingenuity, problem-solving, collaboration and more.
    Chalk that up to homeschool and “summer school” is rolling along just fine.
    Rachel @ 6512 and growing’s latest post: the tree fort

  22. It’s like you read my thoughts! I love this list. We are planning to continue our education throughout the year. But as one who has always loved to follow and flow with the seasons I was just contemplating how to work our education into the seasons. Thanks for this post.
    Rita’s latest post: This Moment…

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