This week our family completed our eleventh year of homeschooling. Really? How did that happen?! The time has passed so quickly. It seems like just yesterday my son was doing beginning reading and now this week he turns sixteen and reads his Latin book for fun!
Going into our twelfth year, I will have all six of my children in formal schooling as my baby enters kindergarten and her eldest brother eleventh grade. It’s pretty stunning to reflect over that time. Through the years I’ve encountered different learning styles, different temperaments, and different school schedules.
For many years we did school year-round because that worked best for us. My students were all young, and most of their friends did the same thing.
In this current season of life, it’s worked out that we prefer a true summer break. My kids love the more relaxed schedule and the opportunity to play with the neighbor kids. I love having fewer items on my to do list and the chance to focus on projects.
While we don’t have “formal school” during much of June, July, and August, we are still learning. In fact, we have what I would call, the homeschool equivalent to summer school.
When I was in junior high and high school, I took classes during the summer, classes that were interesting, that I would have to take eventually, and which were much more fun during summer vacation since the teachers were more relaxed. This summer, I’ve created a summer school line up for my kids.
I know my kids pretty well. I know that they could spend all summer playing video games — if I let them. But, I won’t. So, that means they’ll get uneasy. They have this innate sense that they could be learning or reading or doing something productive. That’s one thing that my older boys (ten and up) are very cognizant of. They might not admit it, but they love to learn.
So, here’s how we set up our “summer school”:
1. A round of math for everyone.
After much trial and error, I’ve settled on Teaching Textbooks as our math curriculum for third grade and above. This makes math doable all year round. This past year some kids finished early, some are still working on the last grade’s book. My solution is that everyone will do math every week day. I’ve talked about this for months; the kids know it’s coming.
I’ve also purchased some math games, so that there are different ways to think about mathematics and make it a little more relaxed. The computer math is an on-your-own kind of activity and doesn’t take up more than an hour of anyone’s day.
Doing math in the summer is a great way to keep skills sharp or work on some remedial topics.
2. Books, books, and books.
Part of our weekly schedule will include a trip to the library. Our local library offers a summer reading program. We’ve been hit and miss for the past few years, but no matter. My kids don’t need incentive to read. (If yours struggle a bit, try keeping a reading log and offering prizes for a certain number of minutes or books read.) Our problem is that we run out of books quickly. I have to keep them supplied in abundance.
Reading a book aloud together is a great way for us to spend time together each morning. Over breakfast lately, I’ve been reading The Railway Children. Before that we read all the Mysterious Benedict Society books. Next, we’ll probably tackle one of these series.
Whether they are reading on their own or with me, we’ll have our noses in books.
Inevitably, each child has something that we could play catch-up with. One really needs to polish his math facts. Another could use a little more practice in grammar. A couple need to hone their writing skills.
We’re going to spend a few minutes each day working on that thing that was challenging this past summer, hopefully in a more relaxed way. One will do math drills on the ipad. Another will spend 15 minutes with me a few days a week to complete the grammar book. The others will write in journals.
4. Field trips.
San Diego offers residents free museum admission on Tuesdays. We’ve never taken advantage of this, nor have we explored the vast arrays of museums and gardens that are available to us.
I’ve cleared my calendar for Tuesdays so we can do just that, plotting with neighborhood friends to go also so that the kids don’t think they’re missing out on playing together.
5. Something new!
Each of my bigger boys has chosen something fun to learn this summer. My incoming 8th grader is going to study filmmaking through the Compass Classroom.
My soon-to-be sixth grader has decided on an at-home cooking school. He really wants to make ravioli by hand and how to make a naturally-colored red velvet cake, so we’ll be exploring those recipes together, one per week. (He’s got a list of eight things!)
These are self-driven topics for them that we might not have time for during the regular school year. Instead these will be their summer projects that they really want to do.
This all sounds more intense than it will really be. Most of these things will be self-directed by the kids, with a little help from me. There will be plenty of days when we sit around and “do nothing”. But there will be lots of options for learning and exploring so that no one gets bored.
Do you do any summer learning activities planned?
PS. In light of the fact that I’ll have SIX students next year: in kindergarten, second, fourth, sixth, eighth, and eleventh grades, this will be my last post at Simple Homeschool. At least for awhile. You can keep up with our homeschooling antics over at Life as MOM. I hope to pop my head in over here from time to time, too!