Homeschool Through the Summer?
by Tammy Anderson
I had two of my kids at the dentist this week and the dentist asked if they were excited to be out of school. My kids just had blank stares. The idea of not having school is kind of foreign to them. Learning is something that we do every day, whether it is through formal instruction or exploration and play. Education, or "school," is something that happens all of the time, it is a way of life for our family. How could they ever be out of school?
To be sure, we do not have formal instruction every day, but most days (Monday through Friday, even through the summer) include at least math and reading. During the traditional school year, September to May, we include all of the standard courses, however we choose the curriculum, and then we supplement with other activities and courses that we feel are important. Summer is a great time to have less formal instruction and more exploration, we try to have more outside activities, science experiments, field trips, projects, and self-directed learning. We also believe that free play is crucial to a child's development and there is plenty of time all year for our kids to play and explore what they want.
There are several lessons we have learned through homeschooling our children year round.
1. Family Culture
As I mentioned, learning is part of our family culture, it defines who we are.
2. Sense of Meaning
Kids get bored very quickly when left with too much time to do whatever they want. They get grumpy and there is more contention between siblings. They also seem to lose motivation to complete their daily jobs and are more disagreeable and less helpful. With even a small amount of scheduled learning each day it helps prevent these undesirable behaviors. It helps instill in them a sense of being responsible, for themselves and their learning. It gives their days meaning and helps them to feel a sense of accomplishment.
They are able to retain what they have learned and do not require a month or more of review to reteach what was lost from a long break. This makes everyone happy and saves our valuable time for better things.
4. Self-Directed Learning
Summer is a great time to let them choose something that they are interested in and let them learn all they can about it. They can do research, make projects, schedule fieldtrips, and find a mentor. We do not put a time limit on when these activities need to be completed, they can take their time and really enjoy what they are learning.
5. We Take Breaks When We Need Them
Even though we know that there is learning happening every day, sometimes life presents us with unexpected surprises and challenges that require us to slow down or take an unexpected break for a short time. Events like illness, having a baby, family vacations, etc. are times that warrant a brief respite and having to have "school" should not be a source of additional stress. We can take short breaks now and then, as needed, because I know that we will more than make up for it throughout the rest of the year. Also these times are not completely void of learning. Think of the lessons learned from having a new baby in the home, visiting new places on a family vacation, or watching a documentary about the immune system when you are sick. Not to mention the time spent reading each day, seriously I have had to take books away from children who have stashed them in the bathroom so they can get in more reading. There are many benefits of schooling all year, I can't imagine not doing it.
So while having children who love to learn and don't know that there is such a thing as "no school" may make us seem weird at the dentist office or to the neighbors - that is, until they stop and think about how amazing this actually is - we wouldn't have it any other way. Our kids are happy, healthy, and ,yes, well-adjusted and socialized. They have plenty of time to pursue their own interests and activities and like all kids, they love playing with friends. Best of all our kids love to learn.
Disclaimer: Life in our home is not perfect. Not every day is sunshine and roses. Some days kids cry and some days mom cries. However, mostly things are good. We just have to remember to be flexible, do our best, and keep moving forward.