It’s the mad scramble! Late spring is the potentially crazy time of the year when many families rush to book their kids in summer activities: camps, VBS programs, sports clinics, and swim lessons. Asking for time off work for taking summer trips to visit family far away. Making reservations for cabins by the lake or houses along the seashore for a summer getaway. What a family decides now may affect the course of the entire summer.
As homeschoolers, the frantic scramble of the world doesn’t have to determine our activities, pace, or emotions. But we do need to make choices for how our summers will flow. Summer’s warm days and longer evenings allow for outdoor activities and often extended travel, regardless of schooling choices. But unlike families whose children are in traditional schools and are only home during June, July, and August, the decision is a wee bit harder because we homeschoolers have more to consider!
Let’s explore some of the summer options we have. What suits you this summer may not be what works for your closest homeschooling friends or even what will work for you a year from now. Ask God to help you craft a summer plan that’s best for your family, whether it’s full-on school, 100% vacation, or somewhere in-between.
To School or Not to School
How much formal school should you do this summer? Some homeschool families intentionally schedule schoolwork year-round. They do all their subjects throughout the entire year, taking generous breaks as needed for holidays, vacations, visits from grandma, work schedules, and even the arrival of new family members. Others extend studies into the summer because they are playing catch up after their academics fell behind. (Full disclosure: two of my older boys needed June and part of July last summer to finish their respective high school science courses.)
Perhaps working on a subject or two during the summer is what your family needs. I’m a big fan of having my kids complete a math lesson at least three days per week so they don’t get rusty with their basic facts from addition to Algebra. I’ve known homeschoolers who have saved a year’s worth of science for the summer—reading, experiments, nature center field trips, and countless outdoor adventures.
In the summer, when normal routines are relaxed or even abandoned altogether, kids can get bored, make messes, annoy their siblings, and gravitate toward electronics. Acknowledging that, many homeschooling moms avoid the summer grumpies by steering their kids toward relaxed forms of learning. They keep it simple for themselves by selecting a unit study so all their children of all ages can enjoy the same topic. For example, in June they may each read age-appropriate books and watch videos about horses, culminating with a trip to a farm and a trail ride. Later in the summer, the topic might switch to photography, insects, chocolate (yum!), or nature studies related to a vacation destination. Years ago, I developed a unit study on the U.S. National Parks before our family headed to Mammoth Cave. I’m proud to say it’s since provided many other families with learning related to their summer vacations.
Another “lite” option is learning via lapbooks; Knowledge Box Central and Hands of a Child are two notable publishers who take the pressure off mom by offering hundreds of lapbook titles. Don’t be afraid to craft your own lapbooks (i.e., scrapbooks with a purpose) as your students learn about weather, culinary skills, Independence Day, your state’s history, or another summer theme.
Learning Happens in Real Time
Homeschoolers know that books and formal learning are great, but sometimes the best learning happens in the midst of real life. That’s why many families pause the curriculum each summer. Volunteering, starting a business, gardening, getting a new pet, hosting an international student, and attending summer festivals all create a rich context for learning. Parents can enroll children in a library’s summer reading program, VBS, or a day or overnight camp for enrichment. My kids have also enjoyed outdoor swim lessons, summer sports clinics, and academic camps offered by our community college (culinary camp, junior police academy, and CPR/first aid training). While summer opportunities can be pricey, I’m not afraid to ask for scholarships or if they’d allow me to volunteer to offset costs.
Rest & Relaxation
Maybe your greatest need for the upcoming summer is rejuvenation. If it’s been an especially demanding school year, give yourself the grace to admit you and your children need a break from formal schoolwork. Mom, how about some professional development?
- Read books and watch vlogs that relate to your children’s specific needs: learning styles, left-handed learners, special needs or gifted learners, or the high school years.
- Read titles that introduce you to wider options in homeschooling: 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy, Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys M. Hunt, Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola, You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick, or other titles you borrow from friends.
- Attend a homeschool convention or a used curriculum sale.
And what about personal development? Learn to play tennis, take an online course, join a book club, or maintain a personal exercise regimen. Challenge your mind and heart by reading the entire New Testament, How Should We Then Live by Francis Schaeffer or Mere Christianity or Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Establishing a daily, quiet “Mom” time models to your children the importance of lifelong learning.
Be honest—what do you and your family need most during the summer ahead? If it’s more academics, go for it. If it’s some time outside, enjoy. If it’s input from others, find a class or camp. If it’s personal enrichment, there’s plenty of grace for that. God has led you this far; step out now in faith and confidence to make a schedule for the summer months, knowing His love extends to June, July, and August, too.