Summer break in Minnesota is like a holiday for all ages. And who can blame us? Before living here, I had never before experienced such a collective mixture of joy and urgency to capture every glorious moment of that summer sunshine. It is equally exciting and stressful. Whether working, stay-at-home-ing or a mix of both, life seems to revolve around how soon we can get the grill going, picnic on the lush grass or sit by the lake and soak in some rays.
As a homeschool mom, I have realized that life at home doesn’t change that much when school is out. I have my kids around me 24-7 no matter what time of the year it is. I can see how a break from all the structure and schedules would seem like a welcome experience when kids go to a brick and mortar school, but when you homeschool, structure in daily home life is essential.
When my kids were younger, we enjoyed several wonderful summers with hours playing at the water table and drawing chalk towns on the driveway. If that’s your stage of life, enjoy it fully!
As my kids have grown older, they have become less easily entertained, or perhaps just more complicated. Without some structure, expectations and boundaries, we end up with a lot more sibling rivalry and boundary pushing than usual. Not to mention the nine thousand requests a day for screen time.
Even during the incredible Minnesota summer season, my kids and I needed a little structure to keep some semblance of sanity in our home. So last summer I decided to try doing school all year round. Rather than a long summer break, we took a few shorter breaks throughout the year.
But truthfully, as a mom-teacher, I didn’t want to teach school all year long. I wanted a break, too! So I designed our summer school to feel very different from “regular” school. Our summer days were filled with fun and purpose, with a flexible structure that allowed us to keep learning while not missing out on everything going on around us. And at the end of the summer, it wasn’t a drastic change to slip back into the next school grade level. We loved it!
As we all know, the year 2020 has turned us all upside down and by now, most moms everywhere have experienced some kind of homeschooling. We and our children have all been home so much of the time already and we currently don’t have many of the typical Summer options and activities. So maybe it’s time for you to plan your own summer school!
I like to use summertime as the opportunity for my kids to learn things that we don’t have as much time for during the school year. We focus on three areas: creative, academic, and life skills. I plan out a few things to do for four days out of the week so that we can be flexible to participate in other summer fun.
That little bit of structure added to our summer days helps make everything, and everyone, a little more pleasant. Not to mention, some mental math work plus lots of playing in the sun makes for tired kids who will enjoy a good night’s sleep!
So, whether you usually homeschool or not, are you ready to plan your summer school? I’m excited to share what I’m doing this summer for ours, and that’s key! If you think it’s fun, then it’s probably a good plan and your kids will have fun with you.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
If you’re a mom who plans daily crafts for your kids and always has a stocked art closet, I admire you with all my heart. Personally, I just can’t find enough hours in the day for that type of thing on a regular basis, but during the summer I make an extra effort in this area. Besides, craft messes outside are much easier to handle! So pull out the watercolors, or that erupting volcano kit you tucked away. Try something new and messy like paper-mache, or something familiar like good old coloring books.
Every child has areas of improvement to work on and they will have a much better time returning to school in the Fall if they have been practicing during the summer. But here is an important warning: if possible, don’t call it what it is! It’s not math, it’s counting and sorting legos. It’s not grammar, it’s a silly story game to find the errors. If you have a child who actually loves worksheets and progress, then by all means create incentives for completing the work. One of the most important things you can focus on is reading, both reading aloud to your kids and discovering what type of books they will each get hooked on. Take advantage of our wonderful library system and fill your house with books!
I love the chance to focus on some specific skills that I want my kids to learn because in the normal rush of school-year life, I don’t often think to stop and give them a lesson on laundry or making a meal. Summer can be a more slower-paced time when I can take more time to teach them new skills or add to what they already know. Think of what you want your kids to know when they go to college. Which of those skills can they begin to learn at their current ages? From personal hygiene to family responsibilities, there is so much! Just pick a couple things!
Summer “school” doesn’t have to be burdensome or long. That’s the opposite of what you want. Instead it’s a fun way to keep learning. In our family, we want our kids to know that learning is a lifelong thing, not limited to books in a classroom, and that days full of purpose are more satisfying than days full of entertainment.
Undoubtedly, this Summer is very different from anything we have ever experienced as parents. How are you filling your summer days with your kids?