The theme song to a popular kids’ television show sings, “There’s a hundred and four days of summer vacation and school comes along just to end it.” That may or may not hold true for us homeschoolers. Since we have freedom to work with a much more flexible schedule than those in traditional school systems, we have a choice: to homeschool or not to homeschool during the summer months.
I have been homeschooling since 2000. Over the years, we have worked our calendar a variety of ways. In the beginning, I worked an office job, so our dedicated school days were only two to three days a week. To make sure everything was covered, we continued through the summer. However, as the years have passed and things have changed, we’ve discovered that a six-week-on/two-week-off schedule works pretty well. It allows us to have several terms and frequent breaks. It prevents burnout (for the most part!) and includes extended holiday and vacation time. It does mean, of course, that school goes on even during those hundred and four days.
Homeschooling during the summer can be a challenge, especially if, like mine, your kids have friends in the public school system—kids who are outside playing, swimming, riding bikes—while your kids are stuck inside doing math and phonics and spelling. I have found some proven ways to prevent distraction and keep my kids focused on their work, even when the warm summer sun is beckoning.
1) Heed the sun’s summon. Take the classroom outdoors. Younger kids especially enjoy this. Many science projects can be performed outside, like the Mentos-in-cola fountain and up-close insect inspection. You can even turn a day of weeding the garden into a lesson on photosynthesis.
2) Get an early start. My younger kids are up with the sun. If we get our work started and completed early, they’ll have the rest of the day to play with friends. That’s good incentive to get to work.
3) Have night school. Pitch a tent in the backyard. Rent or borrow a telescope if you don’t already own one and study the constellations. Remind kids God made those pictures in the sky and has counted all the stars. Listen for nocturnal creatures. See “Hooo” is out in the dark.
4) Include summer snacks in your curriculum. Make icepops with a variety of juice drinks and experiment with freezing points of various liquids. Make fresh lemonade. Discuss fractions while preparing ingredients. Add baking soda for a bubbly effect. Grind watermelon seeds finely, place in a tea strainer, and steep in boiling water to make tea. Research health benefits of drinking tea as opposed to drinking sodas.
5) Get out of town! Take a vacation. Now, I don’t mean for you to sit your kids down for textbook work while the rest of you see the sights, but there’s lots to learn wherever you go. Visit a historical landmark. Examine sealife at the beach. Study fossils in a cavern. Believe it or not, kids can even gain understanding of aviation, pyrotechnics, animation, foreign language, and much, much more at Walt Disney World Resort! Be sure to take lots of pictures (as if you wouldn’t) to incorporate into lapbooks and unit studies later on and collect brochures and postcards for research resources.
Will you be homeschooling this summer? If so, just keep it light and fun, and your kids won’t even realize they are learning while they play!