In our homeschool, even though we loosely follow the traditional school calendar, we do not take the full summer off. This fall I will start my twentieth year of homeschooling and somehow I still haven’t got the knack of planning and following through so that we are completely finished every subject by the time I do final grades in the first week of June. There are always a couple of subjects that we’re “close enough” but we still need to finish up over the following few weeks. I’ve also found that it’s helpful to have some structure and keep certain subjects fresh over the summer. And since we prefer having extra time off in the fall and around Christmas, we start our new school year sometime in August in an attempt to get a head start.
Here are a few ways we’ve adapted our school year so that we can still be doing some learning during our relaxed summer break:
Wrapping up the year – Unless your student is graduating, or has to write a final exam by a certain date, it really is okay to stretch out the year and finish up a few things after the official end of the school year. Especially if it alleviates some stress for you or your student! I’d rather take a week or two off to celebrate all that we did accomplish, and then come back to polish off those last couple of chapters in the science text than feel pressured to rush through it and perhaps not really understand.
Review and remember – Even if everything is finished, it’s a great idea to encourage lots of reading during the summer. Libraries usually offer summer reading programs that reward and challenge kids to read things that entertain and interest them. For most kids, math facts tend to get rusty with a long break, so maybe some math games or the occasional review wouldn’t be out of place.
Keep a little structure – Some kids need a lot of structure in their days, and may really benefit from keeping some of the routines of the school year in place. With younger ones, continuing to do a circle time or read-aloud at the usual time will keep them grounded and settled. Older kids might need to “earn” screen time by reading or working on some kind of school project that interests them. As much as we all crave and benefit from free time to just relax, we often need to keep that balanced by keeping some boundaries in place. For instance, my kids always reveled in being able to sleep in during summer vacation. But if I let them, they would sleep all day every day, and then they’d be up all night watching movies or something. Not good. So I let them have a week or two to sleep late each morning and then we started expecting them to be up and finding something worthwhile to do by a set time most weekdays.
Field trips! Summer vacations and summer downtime affords some great opportunities to go on field trips and learn something while having fun! If your family does a lot of hiking or outdoorsy things, maybe a journal, sketchbook, or photo collection of interesting things they see will keep them thinking and learning. Keep the brochure from visits to national parks or other attractions and use the memories to spark interest when you start up your studies in the fall.
Get a head start – For many years our big family vacation was in October, so by easing into the new school year several weeks ahead of the traditional school calendar, we were able to take two or three weeks off in the fall without getting behind. A bit of a head start is also a good thing just in case there are unexpected interruptions in your school year, and to allow a more relaxed pace.
The reality is, for many homeschoolers, a typical day in September or February doesn’t look a great deal different from a typical day in July. Most often it’s still mom and kids at home during the day. So it’s not that strange for us to get a little schoolwork done on some of those days. Enjoy the days off and the rest earned after a year of homeschooling. Relax and slow down the pace. And just maybe, find a few learning opportunities to enjoy during your summer break as well.