Each season has its own distinct flavor and feel. In our family, fall means soccer and FIRST Lego League. Winter means holidays, and hopefully an escape to somewhere warm for a week. Spring brings a couple of birthdays and typically a theater production. And summer: the season of sunshine, relaxation and being outdoors. In the past few weeks, I’ve been asked several times how our homeschooling changes in the summer. In her last , Davis described her summers as a homeschooled teen. In this post, I’ll share my approach to summer, particularly during the younger ages.
One of my favorite parts of summer is that I get a break from providing taxi service to the kids since the majority of our classes and activities follow the school-year. During the summer, when I do drive, we’re typically all going to the same place – the park, the beach, or on a hike. With more time in our schedule, and the late summer evenings, the kids tend to sleep in and we spend afternoons out and about. Our homeschool support group meets at parks weekly throughout the year, however during the summer, with the better weather and more open schedules more people show up.
Certainly, we continue to learn and grow during the summer. For a few years, we had a membership to the Root Connection, and the kids enjoyed joining me to pick up our food each week. We loved perusing the u-pick and children’s gardens, and eating a carrot right out of the ground. Learning where our food comes from is every bit as important as learning math and reading. Davis and I also learned how to can fruit a couple of years ago – and we love having home-canned peaches or blackberry jam in the middle of winter.
We also enjoy tide-pooling during the summer, and we’ve taken advantage of the expertise offered by the Seattle Aquarium’s beach naturalists. This is a great way to learn about Puget Sound and its marine life, and enjoy the sun! We’ve also taken advantage of free concerts and plays, including Shakespeare in the park. For my drama buffs, this is a lot of fun.
With more free time, there are opportunities to try new things without a huge commitment. My policy on summer camps, especially when my kids are younger, is not to do an activity they do during the school year, but to try something new. As a result, they have participated in a wide variety of camps, including art, horseback riding, gymnastics and theater. Sometimes they discover a new passion, and sometimes their curiosity is sated and they are ready to move on.
As far as more traditional academics: reading, writing and arithmetic, we do continue to focus on these during the summer. We are fairly relaxed homeschoolers, in other words, we don’t follow a formal curriculum. So the way we learn in the summer is pretty much the way we learn year-round. My daughters love to read, and I’m not about to tell them to stop just because the calendar reads July. I rarely give them required reading – they choose what they read, although I often give them suggestions. My son, who is still an emerging reader, is highly motivated by the King County Library’s summer reading program. We recently discovered Toon Books, which are comics for early readers and he is enjoying those. And I continue to read to him often. We also play a lot of educational games year-round, and these keep the kids exposed to math, spelling, geography and strategy. (In a future blog post I’ll share some of our favorite educational games.)
A major benefit of continuing to learn year-round is we avoid summer learning loss. According to a 2011 report published by RAND, Making Summer Count, “Research indicates that summer vacation may have detrimental learning effects for many students. On average, all students lose skills, particularly in mathematics.” By continuing to spend a little time each day on fun, educational activities at home, we avoid this.
But avoiding summer slide isn’t my main motivation for schooling through the summer. Frankly, our learning year-round is connected to our lives and relevant to what our kids and family are doing. We don’t stop doing things in the summer – we just shift what we do a little bit.