By Kathy Kuhl Summer: time for sun, vacation, lazing about—and homeschool? Yes! Even if you aren’t already homeschooling your child, I recommend summertime homeschooling. But the homeschooling I recommend over the summer may not be what you think.
I firmly believe that kids and teens need unstructured time. So by summertime homeschooling, I don’t mean sitting at a table all day filling out worksheets. Although, if one of your kids likes worksheets and you get some relevant to their needs or passions, I’d give a few.
What is summer homeschooling?
- 1-2 hours a day,
- hands-on activities,
- crafts and art,
- wilderness and survival skills,
- science experiments or demonstrations,
- learning stuff your child wants to know, but you haven’t been able to squeeze into the school year,
- Struggling readers should read aloud to you something that they can read easily and enjoy, perhaps two-four years below their reading level. An old favorite half memorized is fine. This reading lets them focus on flow, expression, even dramatic flourishes and voices.
Why homeschool over the summer?
- It’s a great way to try out homeschooling if you’re afraid to take it on year round. Back in 1995-6, our summertime “Kuhl School” (Kuhl is pronounced “cool”) gave me the courage to eventually homeschool full time.
- Summertime homeschool helps your kids retain knowledge. When I taught eighth graders math in a public school, it was common for us teachers to spend the first four weeks reminding our students of what they’d been able to do last May. If they can retain, you won’t have to retrain.
- One-and-a-half to two hours of homeschool each weekday adds structure to your summer days. It sweetens the unstructured play time that forms the bulk of the day.
- Because the high school workload can be heavy, summer is a great time to teach life skills you didn’t find time for during the year.
I taught my daughter how to use a sewing machine one summer. She used an earlier edition of The Best of Sewing Machine Fun for Kids. (All links are at the end of the post.) That summer was the beginning of a favorite hobby for her. In high school, she modified a pattern to make her own homecoming gown as she wanted it.
Another summer, my teens were each responsible to cook supper one night a week. Because I wasn’t full-time homeschooling, I had time to help them plan a menu, shop, and to coach them through how to plan the cooking times. That way all parts of the meal is ready on time, or at least close.
Homeschooling: one small part of your summer day
Another reason not to spend much of the summer day on academics is all the other good and useful things to do. Kids of all ages should help with chores. They should have other regular tasks, too, such as:
- private reading
- practicing music, dance, and sports
- volunteering in the community
- small summer jobs such as pet-sitting and lawn-mowing
Note: I would lessen homeschool and all these other duties if your child is going to occupational, physical, or speech therapy over the summer.
Take a couple weeks off
I don’t recommend homeschooling 52 weeks a year. Don’t wear your teacher hat 24/7/365. It’s not good for your relationships. First and foremost, be a parent.
As my education consultant advised me long ago, take a couple weeks off during the summer. That doesn’t mean you should stop reading aloud! Continue that daily and encourage your kids to write, but don’t have structured lessons.
More summer fun—that’s educational, too
If you have a child in school most of the year, summer gives you an opportunity to try some of the fun educational activities that homeschoolers can enjoy year round:
- Visiting historic sites: reenactors can help bring history to life. So can well-chosen historical fiction, read ahead of time.
- Fruit picking. (Okay, homeschoolers don’t do this year round. But they enjoy going midweek in the fall when the orchards and berry farms are less crowded.)
- Museums, especially air-conditioned ones on hot days.
- Hiking and walking
- Nature study: give your kids a journal and some crayons or colored pencils and encourage them to illustrate what they see as you hike.
- Summer concerts: these are often free. Check your local listings.
- Read aloud: yes, again, because it’s so important, even if your children can read well.
What do you do to keep your kids’ brains sharp over the summer? Please answer in the comment section below.
- Lynda Milligan and Nancy Smith, The Best of Sewing Machine Fun for Kids: Ready, Set, Sew – 37 Projects & Activities.
- Janice Van Cleave’s science books tell how to complete simple science demonstrations, which you can do at home in an hour or much less.
- Blood and Guts by Linda Allison also contains fun, easy little science explorations in how bodies work. Learn why, for instance, if you chew a saltine cracker long enough, it starts tasting sweeter.
- I can’t write about keeping kids from being bored over the summer, without mentioning a favorite children’s book. Enjoy the children’s classic and Caldecott winning Bored! Nothing to Do! by Peter Spier.