Summer vacation is an antiquated idea. When a much greater part of the population farmed and relied on that as a way of life, kids were needed to work the fields in the summer, so school went on a hiatus. Today, unless you are running a large-scale operation without workers, you probably don’t need to put your kids out in the field all summer long to survive. It’s time to question the notion of taking ten whole weeks off from learning. That’s ten weeks in which your kids can forget a lot of what they learned. In traditional schools, it’s typical to spend a week or two reviewing at the start of the school year. You can avoid that waste of time by continuing schooling throughout the entire year.
This is not to say that you have to have a rigid structure and schedule in the summer months or that you can’t take off a week or two at a time. But, there is no real reason to completely give up learning just because it’s warm outside. Consider the great reasons to use summer as valuable learning time and use some of the ideas to get inspire you to create summer lessons that are both fun and valuable.
Get Ahead or Catch Up
If your kids were in public or private school, they would be at the mercy of the classroom, school, and district schedule. If they fall behind, it’s up to you to help them at home. If they are bored because the work is too easy, they are wasting time in school. As a homeschooler, you have the freedom to pace your children in the way that works best for each of them. If you schedule certain benchmarks and learning goals for the year and one child gets behind, you can catch up in the summer. If another child learns very quickly, you can help her get ahead.
When learning at home, you and your kids can both experience educational burnout. Especially if you are working with a strict, regimented schedule throughout the school year, it can begin to feel like schooling is all you do. If you break up your yearly schedule of lessons, taking week or two week breaks here and there, both of you get a chance to relax and recharge. Spread your lessons throughout the entire year instead of cramming everything into nine months.
Teach the Value of Learning
Hopefully, by teaching at home, you are instilling a greater value for learning in your children than they would receive in a school. Further that by showing them that a three-month break from education is not something to be desired. Our society places such value on that vacation time as if learning and going to school are chores that no one could possibly enjoy. Help your kids learn to love learning by keeping up with lessons, and making them fun.
Ideas for Summer
Use your imagination for your summer lessons. Now is the time to think out of the box and try something new. If it doesn’t work, that’s ok. Just try something else. Summer lessons should be fun, relaxed, and enjoyable. Also consider letting your children direct summer learning. This is a great time to let them explore their interests and discover new subjects and books.
- Read. Everyone loves summer reading. Have reading days in which everyone gets to read whatever they choose. Make sure you have a good selection of books for the kids to choose from. Or, take a trip to the library together and let everyone pick out their own books. Create an outdoor reading space with comfortable chairs, shady and sunny spots, and tables for setting drinks so that you can all enjoy the fresh air and warm, summer temperatures. As an added bonus, many libraries and bookstores offer summer reading programs. Children can participate in special activities or earn prizes for completing their reading goals. For example, if you live near a Barnes and Noble, your child can earn a free book  for reading eight books during the summer.
- Travel. Learning experiences don’t have to take place in the home. Summer is a great time for a family trip that can be both fun and educational. Take a trip to a city to see world-renowned museums. Go camping to learn survival and wilderness skills. Take a road trip to some of the national parks to learn about nature, geology, and history. If you and your children have been working on a foreign language, take a trip to that country to learn about the culture and to practice speaking the language.
- Play sports. Summer is great for physical education. Sign your kids up for some community leagues so they can get exercise, learn how to play sports, work on coordination, and learn how to work with others while making new friends. Swimming lessons are a great idea too. Knowing how to swim is a valuable survival skill, and summer is the right time to learn.
- Work on the garden. Maybe some remnants of the past survive today. If you keep a sizable garden, now is the time to be working on it by weeding, controlling pests, harvesting, and canning. Involve the kids in the process and make it a learning environment. Teach them practical skills about growing, preserving, and using food.
- Go to cultural events. Expose your children to arts and culture by going to symphony performances, museums, and theater productions. Maybe some of the events you would like to see throughout the year are too expensive. Many organizations offer free, sometimes outdoor, performances in the summer. Check out what your area has to offer. Some events may even be directed at kids.
- Tackle art or craft projects. Sometimes it’s hard to justify setting aside time in an already busy homeschooling schedule to devote to art or crafting. But, being creative is beneficial and an important lesson in itself. Summer is the perfect time to get into a project that may require large blocks of time to complete. Let your kids get into whatever they want. Maybe they are interested in woodworking and carving. Perhaps they want to create scrapbooks of your family vacations. Or, they might be interested in taking painting or drawing courses. If you let them choose, they will learn and have fun at the same time.
- Work. If your children are old enough to do so, getting a job can be a valuable lesson for the summer. Even if it is just part time, learning how to work with others, be on time, be respectful of a boss, and do a job well are immensely important life lessons. Working on volunteer jobs is also a great way to spend some summer time. You can probably get your younger kids involved as well, depending on the work.
- Go to the movies. Yes, movies can be educational. It all depends on what you see. If you don’t have a theater nearby or one with only limited showings, rent or download films to watch at home. You can watch movies that are based on books you have read and make comparisons. You can watch documentaries or art films and have discussions afterward. If you have a camera, encourage your kids to make their own movies. They can write a script, film, edit, and then hold a screening for friends and neighbors.
- Start a family business. The lemonade stand is the classic example, but run with any idea you come up with as a family. As long as it is low risk, you can help your kids learn math and business skills without spending much money.
- Create a fire pit. Construct a fire pit in the backyard for cool, summer nights. Teach your kids about how to start a fire. You can practice several different methods so that they can make a fire in any survival situation. You can also make meals over the fire to teach them a new way to make food when there is no kitchen available.
- Have television- and computer-free days. Set entire days aside during which your kids have free reign over what they do, with one exception: no screens. Watch them get creative in coming up with ways to have fun without the modern distractions.
©2012 Off the Grid News