Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Summer school

A question from a reader:  What do you do homeschool-wise in the summer? Do we keep up our schedule, take a break, or what?

If you haven't noticed, I'm back on to homeschool topics right now, probably because that's what my brain has been thinking about recently. The upcoming summer is a big part of that thinking because the nice, neat lesson plans I made in August are soon coming to an end. I won't make detailed lesson plans for summer, but that doesn't mean I won't have some sort of plan in place.

I guess I've come to terms with the fact that we do school all year 'round. It may look a little different from how we do school in the fall, winter, and spring, but we are still learning. Because for us, school and learning are pretty interchangeable. (Having now just tried to write a brief critique of the word 'school' and given up, I'll have to tuck that away as a possible future post. Emphasis on brief... something I'm not.) Learning doesn't stop, it just relaxes a bit and moves outside a bit more.

But over the years, as the children have grown and become more numerous, I have found that it is helpful if I have a plan for guiding some of that learning. Unending free time always sounds really good at first, but eventually looses some of its luster often resulting in the time honored childhood tradition of filling ones time by picking on a handy brother or sister.

So what does our summer schedule look like? Well, first we don't actually sign-up for bunches of summer activities, both so we can be relaxed in our plans and our daily routine. Some of my favorite childhood memories are being able to sit down with a good book and being able to read as long as I liked. You can't do that if you are constantly having to run out of the house to get to the next camp or lesson or activity. That's not to say we don't do anything, but that we think carefully about what we agree to and put strict limits on it. For instance, some of our grade school types will be heading off to church camp for a week and B. will be a counselor at church camp as well as working on doing a week of building and repair at an AIDs/HIV+ clinic. (In the Bahamas. Tough life.) We're also planning a couple of summer trips and have guests coming into town. Other than that, the time we have at home is pretty much free.

I try to have a general outline of how a day will go so that everyone knows what to expect. First thing in the morning, after breakfast, we continue to do math. I have tried to take three months off in the past and it's just not worth it. It is the one subject that is painful to restart in the fall and the easiest subject to lose ground in. So we just keep doing it. Since it is how life works around here the rest of the year, it is just taken for granted that each day begins with math; it's just how it is. Doesn't everyone's? From there we move onto whatever our topic is for the summer. Last year it was Australia, this year it is looking to be electricity. We'll read books, do projects, build things. (J., in thinking about the book recommended by his aunt about the boy in Malawi who built his own electricity generating windmill has hopes that he can do that with everyone in the back yard this summer.) Then it's usually time to clean up and eat lunch, which is accompanied by me reading a book to them. The afternoon is making sure any household jobs are done and free time. Sometimes we'll go to the beach, or play with friends (those who have available time), or just relax at home. Oh, and lots and lots of library trips to keep the voracious readers satisfied.

For the next two months, I will do a little work planning how our electricity unit will work and finding resources. And I'm pretty sure that the whole excuse to do a lot of planning and research is one of my very favorite things about homeschooling.

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