I want to have a great homeschool summer. I don’t really want to do full-blown academics every day, but I do want to keep the kids’ curiosity alive and well and fuel their brains with lots to chew on.
It turns out that I’m not alone. I’ve heard lots of homeschool moms say recently, “We’re officially done for the year, but I’m going to keep going with at least some learning through the summer.”
We homeschoolers just can’t seem to quit, can we? Whether it be regular workbook practice, summer camps, or just an easy-going routine, many home educating families look for a way to keep learning alive and well through the summer months.
However, there’s just something about that summer vacation that I think we all long for. Is it possible to still feed our child’s hearts and minds while digging into the feeling of freedom that comes with summer?
I believe it is possible. Here are some different strategies to incorporate fun summer learning, depending on your family’s personalities and needs.
1. School year-round
If you are inclined to keep the workbooks open, this may be the best way for you to homeschool through the summer.
Typically, year-round homeschoolers will follow a 6 week on/1 week off cycle. This means that they don’t usually get a true summer break, but they get the breaks spaced more evenly throughout the year. This can be really beneficial if you need more flexibility during the year due to frequent traveling, medical needs, or other needs.
However, it can also be a drag to sustain full days of homeschool when the sun is shining and all your friends are out and about. A few ways to make year-round schooling more enticing is by:
- Choosing to do lighter, shorter days of school during the summer.
- Embracing unit-studies.
- Taking field trips and using them as academic opportunities.
Traveling is an amazing way to have a great homeschool summer. You can learn on the road, and your kids won’t even know they’re doing school. Try any or all of the following to jive the educational juices while sight-seeing or visiting family.
- Visit museums of all sorts (history, science, social studies, art, etc.).
- Hike, bike, canoe, walk on the beach, or otherwise get outside (phys. ed, teamwork, social skills).
- Gift your kids with cool activity books to do in the backseat, or play all those fun eye-spy or license plate road trip games (math, reading, writing).
- Visit relatives and watch all the learning happen naturally (awkward conversations with that cousin you barely know = social skills, cooking with Grandma = science, life skills, history, etc.).
Unschool is when you let your child take the lead in learning. Summer is the perfect time to let go and let the kids take the reins for a bit. This requires a little bit more flexibility and willingness on your part to embrace your kids’ desires and trust that the learning will happen. For example:
- Your kids say they wish they had a treehouse. You say yes– and proceed to help your kids pitch odd jobs to the neighbors to earn money for materials, encourage them to source a building plan from a reliable source, go shopping with them for supplies, teach them how to use power tools, and take a few weekends building. Will it be hard on you? Yes. Will it be inconvenient? Yes. But will it be an amazing memory that they will hold with them for their entire life? Yes! “The summer we built the treehouse” will become part of your conversations around the dinner table.
- Your daughter desperately wants to learn hip-hop. So you help her research studios that teach it, encourage her to make phone calls and ask questions, and have her come up with a list of what she’ll need to get started. (Shoes? Special clothes? A duffel bag for a change of clothes after class?) Have her figure out how she will earn money to pay for classes if you so choose, or ask the teacher if she can work off her lessons by cleaning the studio on a weekly basis.
- Your kids spot a gorgeous, shimmery green moth outside. None of you have ever seen it before. So you pull up an insect ID site online and learn how to name identifying features. You discover it’s a Luna moth. Next time you’re at the library, you check out books on the insect because you all thought it was so pretty. Look, you checked off science, and the kids didn’t even know it.
4. Slow School
You can have a great homeschool summer by embracing the concept of slow-schooling. This is a concept I don’t hear people talking about much, but I think we should be.
Slow school is aligned with other “slow” movements- slow food, slow fashion, etc. The idea is to get away from producing results in a fast and homogenized manner, and instead to focus on individualized learning at an individualized pace, using real-life experiences and rich materials as primary means of education.
You can make your homeschool summer more enriching, more beautiful, by thinking of education as a feast to enjoy.
- Savor the long days in the sun. Be curious about the wildlife you encounter. Spend a long time drawing in the sand at the beach. Make patterns, count seconds between waves or bird calls.
- Enjoy reading out loud. Make voices for different characters. Let your kids take turns reading. Talk about the book and the pictures. Don’t rush through it.
- Engage in long conversations about politics, current events, hard topics, controversies. Listen. See what’s going on in the mind of your kids.
5. Project-based Learning
Make summer learning fun by taking on one or two big projects. Most of the time, project-based learning includes researching, using a variety of disciplines to learn, practicing people skills, and getting your hands dirty in the real world. Here are a few examples:
- Raising money for a specific charity.
- Putting on a concert or play.
- Building a fort in the backyard.
- Starting a garden.
- Getting involved in your local government.
- Regularly serving at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
- Service projects for an elderly neighbor.
As you can see, there is clearly overlap between a few of these methods. And in the end, what does it matter if you call it “unschooling” or “project-based learning?”
Regardless of whatever route you take, you’re sure to have an excellent homeschool summer if you embrace learning that flows with the season you’re in right now.