Written by Beth Corcoran, Contributing Writer
When I tell people that we homeschool year round, I usually get one of two responses. I often hear from homeschooling families, “Oh, we try to do that, too.” And then I often hear, “Why on earth would you do that to yourself and your poor kids?”
Well, don’t feel too sorry for my kids. They are managing just fine. In fact, summer time is our favorite time of the year to do school. Let me tell you all about it.
What Our Family Does During School Time
During the summer, I let my kids choose the subjects they want to study. We still do math and reading every day, but anything else we do is delight directed. I have 6 kids, ages 9 and under.
Right now, we are doing something called Hero Training Camp. It’s a fantastic VBS type program that focuses on strengthening your conscience to do what is right. We are also working through Opal Wheeler’s Great Musician series. Our kids really love those books.
When We Work
During the summer we have a much more laid back approach to our schedule than we do during the school year. Here in Oklahoma, it’s been over 100 degrees each day for who knows how long. It’s just awful outside. So the kids can only go out to play first thing in the morning and then late in the evening. During the rest of the day, we are inside the house or off running errands. We just do school when we can.
The Benefits of Homeschooling Throughout the Summer
I do not claim to be a homeschooling expert. I have only been doing it for three years now. However, it became very obvious to me early on that the traditional school-free summer was not going to work for our family. Instead, we have seen many great benefits in schooling year round.
(Note: Even if you do not homeschool your children throughout the regular school year, these concepts can still be applied to your family.)
Homeschooling throughout the summer has provided more structure for our days. We typically aren’t too rigid during the summer because I love to be able to drop what we are doing to meet friends at the park, and so forth.
But, the kids have some predictability in their schedule and that really helps. It is especially helpful if you have children like some of mine who have a real need for predictable patterns. My kids know to expect “field trips” each week such as library time on Mondays, farmer’s market on Wednesdays, etc.
When the traditional school year was created, it served a purpose. Much of America was rural at that point, and the children couldn’t be expected to be in school during planting through harvest time. They were needed at home to work. Although we live in a far less agrarian society, the typical August-May school year has become a cultural norm.
But our family got to thinking about this norm. What does it teach our children about the value of work and learning? We wanted our kids to see that there is the possibility to learn in everything we do. We never have to take a vacation from learning. And finally, we didn’t want our kids to believe that school and learning were so boring and tedious that they had to take three months off from it each year.
So my husband and I try to teach our kids that it is important to work hard at whatever we do. And we can learn about our world and still enjoy it, too.
Photo credit: natashalcd
Homeschooling throughout the year has been great for relieving pressure to get everything done. Since I have extra months in my school year, I don’t feel the need to fret if we have to skip school days here and there because of illness or behavior issues.
Also, because we have spread out our time, we can take more breaks throughout the year. If we are feeling worn down, we can take a week off of school if need be. I do, however, understand that this may not be the case in some areas where the homeschooling rules are tighter than they are here in Oklahoma.
Do you remember when you were a kid and you went back to school in August only to have forgotten everything you were taught the previous year? Flipping through my kids’ school books shows me that it is pretty much expected that kids will have forgotten a good portion of the material over the summer. It seems that the first half of a lot of books are geared towards review.
By continuing with the lessons and the drilling throughout the summer, kids don’t forget what they learned previously. Most of the time, we end up just skipping the first half of the textbooks since we don’t need the extra review. Instead, we are able to spend more time on working through new concepts.
During the summer, it seems there are many more opportunities to teach our children creatively. There are reading programs at the library, outdoor festivals, farmer’s markets, and all kinds of fun activities. (When it’s not 110 degrees, of course!) When I am actively searching for educational things to do with my kids, we are more likely to incorporate a lot of what our community has to offer.
We do try to take a vacation each summer, and we try to make our vacation something where intentional learning will take place. This year, we went to Yellowstone National Park. It was a very fun time, and on top of having an enjoyable trip, we were able to effortlessly turn it into a lesson about volcanoes and wildlife.
Learning can happen anywhere, especially if we are intentional. This is true year round, but the summer seems to have so much extra to offer.
So, if you’ve ever thought about summer schooling, I want to encourage you that it is really not scary. In fact, it has been quite a blessing for my children and for me. The schooling time can be quite formal or quite relaxed—whatever works for your family dynamic. It’s really just about turning the fun activities of summer into intentional times of learning.