Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How to Homeschool Over the Summer, Without Losing the Summer Feeling

Many holistic learners will take an official break over the summer, suspending academic learning and focusing on the joys of water and warm weather. Perhaps in a perfect world we'd be able to join them, but we've strayed far from our goals and so we need to stick with a small amount of academic content. Plus, the way we planned our year, we're only midway through grade 2.

Most of all, however, is the fact that my boys are currently interested in the academic work they are doing. They instigated it, and having not spent 13 years in public schools they don't view summer as the time to lay around, listen to music, sip iced tea, and read novels they ordinarily wouldn't give the time of day to. No, that is all me.

Still, there has to be a balance. Summer feels different. We stay up later and sleep in. We're outdoors more in the mornings and evenings. It's warm in the house and we have less physical energy.

So here are some ideas for those who choose to pursue focused learning throughout the summer.

Movement: If you usually start the day with circle time, why not take up an early morning walk instead? It's still cool out (or at least cooler than it's going to be). You can chant rhymes while you walk, or just stop and watch snails trail across the sidewalk. Walking is rhythmic and relaxing.

Arts and crafts: We always step up our arts and crafts in the summer time. Painting is easier when we can do it outdoors and clean up at the hose. Hot summer afternoons are meant for exploring with colored pencils under the cool of a fan. Beeswax is softer and easier to use.

Nature: Summer is a great season for unschooling science. Let the power of observation supply the questions. Journal what you see. Use a great reference book or two to look up your findings; we love the big DK/Smithsonian visual guides with titles such as Animal, Human, Earth, and Universe.

Music: Find out if you have a summer concert series in your area. We find music both at our summer music festival and at the weekly farmer's market. We listen to more recorded music as well; what is summer without a soundtrack? Make music too; summer is all about singing around campfires and strumming guitars in the park.

As for immersing yourself in a culture? How about American culture! Celebrate summer with picnics, lemonade stands, swimming, BBQs, and porch swings. Listen to John Philip Sousa, march around, bang drums and crash cymbals. Go camping, go to the beach...heck, hang out in the cool of a movie theater. Make summer different!

Academics: If you choose to do academics over the summer, why not veer from the traditional Enki/Waldorf model? Choose a great children' novel, read from it daily, and go from there. Draw pictures, make up verses, study grammar. How about focusing on poetry all summer? We're brushing up on phonics in really short lessons, playing a lot of word games, and reading out loud daily. We're finishing up Little House on the Prairie and have chosen King Beetle Tamer for our next book, while Papa has been reading to us from Eldest.

We've pretty much unschooled math all year, but now the boys are asking for more concrete work. Horror of all horrors, we're going to buy a few workbooks. Holistic parents may hate workbooks, but a lot of kids really like them, and my guys love the Kumon workbooks best of all. We'll work with manipulatives and games too, and perhaps fit in a story cycle.

Don't spend a lot of time on academics. If you can, get it all done mid-morning and leave your afternoons fancy free. Leave a couple of days a week open from friends and adventures. Be willing to deviate from the schedule.

Think like an unschooler. If you can, put aside all of your goals and ideas and explore whatever your children come up with. You might think that they won't want to practice reading or brush up on place value, but in reality even these topics come up. Take their spark of interest and run with it.

Finally, if you can, try to let it all go for at least a month. Stick to a basic rhythm, especially if your children are young, but just go with the flow.