Summer Schooling – How to make it not quite so awful…

summer schooling sixmoresummers.comEvery family approaches school and education differently, and this applies to homeschoolers as well.  While some finish school earlier in the year than most public school students, others never really stop, and, to keep routine, school all year round.  I am the horrible mother who does the latter… But not to keep routine. We school all year because it keeps our brains engaged, allows us time to brush up on skills, or get ahead a bit for the following year.

This is not to say we don’t have down time. I like to have a few hours of planned school for each morning, and free time every afternoon and all weekend. Cause even mamas need a break, am I right?

I’ve found summer schooling is crucial for us, but it’s also tedious, and… Well… It’s sucky. Lots of days, it just sucks.

So, this summer, I’m trying to make it more enjoyable than previous summers, but also meaningful, accomplishing what we need to, a task that is not easily managed.

I started by considering what we needed to do, versus what I wanted to do, or what I thought would be helpful for next year. Then, I asked Laine what she wanted to learn about. Next, I sat down to try to figure it all out, and set a summer schedule that includes travel, camp, and adventure, where possible.

Some questions to ask yourself when considering summer schooling;

  • How much money do we want to spend? Do I have curriculum laying around that could be used?
  • What other commitments have been made already (like 2 weeks of camp)? You can’t plan to do more than you have physical time to complete.
  • What were weaks spots from this school year that need a bit of TLC?
  • What were bright spots that can be nurtured more fully with lots of focused energy?
  • Do you want to be very structured (using texts and workbooks) or more relaxed and fluid, using the un-schooling style of learning (like visiting parks and museums)?
  • What are your goals for summer learning? To be together? To create routine and structure? To remediate? To learn a specific skill? Include your child in the goal setting process. If we want them to love to learn, we have to get them on board with the plan.
  • Don’t be afraid to include things like; swimming lessons, daily bike rides, and quiet reading.  All of these things contribute to our kids knowledge base, and physical and mental health.
  • Decide ahead of time how strict your schedule will be.  Are there things that must be done each day?  Or, if a friend calls to play, can school be put on hold?  Discuss this with your child or teen before hand so there are no misunderstandings.

To possibly help you decide how to approach your summer, I thought I’d share our decisions for summer learning, and why we made our minds up to do these particular things.

My number one priority for the summer months (for us this includes May through Labor Day), is to be happy. It might sound a bit dull, but I simply cannot fight about school all summer long. Been there, done that, not going back. This is not to say disagreements won’t arise, but I foresee them being much more manageable after the careful planning this summer has had.

It was planned with a goal list that we both contributed to. My priorities were; American History 101 (since my immigrant child has very little knowledge about the founding of this great country), and preparation for next year’s logic class. Laine’s priorities include reading for pleasure, traveling, going to camp, and improving her photography skills. All worthy priorities, in my mind!

We agree that she needs to work on some grammar skills (although is will most likely be where we argue), and keeping up math skills isn’t optional. Neither of us like this, but (insert sigh) it’s just the way is has to be.

So our days will look somewhat like this:
We will usually start school in the morning.  Each day we will cover US History, probably for 45 minutes or so, and maybe longer if we are watching a movie.  We will also work on math for half an hour, approximately.  We will alternate between logic and grammar from day to day, and hopefully, Laine will have a bit of time to work on her blog and photo skills each day as well. We haven’t made a final decision about formal photography classes, but providing her with a consistent outlet to explore her passion, and opportunities to develop it, isn’t optional.

With that in mind, many of our days will have to include getting out of the house, exploring our state and surrounding areas, and giving her the physical time to snap (what will feel like) a million pictures!

To subsidize US history, we have trips planned to Greenfield Village in Michigan, an underground railway museum, and possibly Washington DC in the fall (budget approval pending!). We are also visiting family in Alberta in June which gives us the chance to explore the Rocky Mountains, and visit some Canadian Museums as well, such as the Telus Spark Science Center, and Heritage Park.  I’m sure we’ll explore museums and parks in NYC as well.  Laine’s also heading to camp, which is what she dreams of all winter, a goal of hers that I’m happy to help meet. Plus, I think camp is one of the greatest learning experiences she’ll have all year!

If you are looking for ways to keep your little ones sharp this summer, and to avoid the inevitable skill loss that rears its ugly head every fall, check out Super Teacher Worksheets.  Years ago, I would make Laine packets of summer worksheets to do each day.  It isn’t a free site, but at just under $20 a year, it’s a great deal.  They’ve got every subject covered – from math to language arts, and everything in between – at lots of skill levels, with answer sheets included.  Plus, you can print them to PDFs and use them again and again.  I was sad when we outgrew the site and we had to let our membership lapse.

I’m excited for our summer learning adventures.  Admittedly, I’m more excited than Laine, but hopefully she discovers a little fun in there somewhere too!  Here’s a list of the curriculum and resources we’ll be using.

American History – An assortment of texts, printable curriculum from The Henry Ford & Greenfield Village, movies, books, really a mish-mash of things that I hope works out ok!
The Fallacy DetectiveThe Fallacy Detective – An intro to logic for middle schoolers, this book explores common mistakes in thinking and listening to others
The Sentence – The cheapest grammar curriculum out there – it’s simple, quick, and to the point!math doesn't suck
Teaching Textbooks
 – We are giving this a try after years of using Math-U-See.  Yet another experiment I hope works out!
Math Doesn’t Suck – Danica McKellar is a genius.  Literally.  And these books are incredible.  My math-challenged daughter has fallen in love with the easy explanations of math concepts and step-by-step instructions.

I’m a constant list maker, and love to be organized
when it comes to our educational endeavors.
If you are like me, please download this free summer goal setting track sheet
and scheduler to help you with your summer schooling.

Happy Learning!

Planner Promo

4 comments on Summer Schooling – How to make it not quite so awful…

  1. Kate Riley
    March 31, 2014 at 5:19 pm (5 years ago)

    Hi! A friend just shared your camp post on facebook and I’ve enjoyed reading through your blog a bit! I particularly enjoyed this post on summer learning and I thought you might be interested in PBS Learning Media – which has thousands of digital learning resources (videos, interactive games and even lesson plans) that are all sortable by subject and grade level. Anyway, I look forward to reading more from you!

    • amygarwood
      March 31, 2014 at 9:34 pm (5 years ago)

      Hi Kate! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying what you are reading on my little slice of the www 🙂 I will definitely check out PBS Learning Media. Thanks for the great tip, and for dropping by!

  2. Thomas Jefferson
    March 29, 2014 at 11:31 pm (5 years ago)

    the HBO series “John Adams” is great! i have been watching it and while it is serious and sometimes slow it is very well done and tells the story of the formation of the USA. might not work for all kids but may be worth a try…. tv beats a book sometimes.

    • amygarwood
      March 30, 2014 at 9:07 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks, Thomas Jefferson 🙂 That’s a great idea! I’ll check it out! And I agree. Sometimes TV is the way to go!


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