By Annie Gebel
Whether you have kids in public school, private school, or homeschool, you’ll occasionally need a change of pace. Both you and they get in ruts, get tired, or get bored with the same ol’ thang. Summer is a great time to shake things up a bit! After all, just a few weeks into the break they were so excited about, your kids can start to hang their heads like Eeyore. “Nothing to do.” You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? (And you said that in Eeyore’s voice, didn’t you?) Who wants to deal with pouting and whining? So, why not combat that boredom before it sets in with a summer of schooling from home? Don’t run! Hear me out…
You can do this! Maybe you’ve never thought about homeschooling. Maybe you have. Either way, if you are with your kids this summer and they learn something, that is homeschooling. That’s it! Summer is a great time to let go of any pressure you might feel to “do it right” and give it a go. Don’t be afraid of any stereotypes you might have and just go have fun! Embrace this chance and enjoy your summer. Here are some ideas to get your teacher juices flowing…
Just about every library has some sort of summer reading challenge. Kids can often get a small prize or be entered into drawings for larger prizes by reading a number of books. To make the challenges even more interesting, try a mix of fiction and non-fiction choices. Read some or all of your selections out loud and maybe even have quick discussions afterwards. Some kids may enjoy drawing illustrations to go with the stories or thinking of alternate endings. You could also pick books with movies made in their likeness and watch the movies after you read the books. You can talk about what the differences are between the two. And if your kids normally attend public or private school and come home with a summer reading list – win, win! Kill two birds with one stone!
Whether you take one big camping trip or head someplace every weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day, so many lessons can be learned in the process. Let your kids help with meal planning, shopping, and prepping. Maybe they can learn how to start a camp fire and why fire needs oxygen to burn. Kids can collect rocks, make creations with sticks, pretend to cook or sculpt with mud, or come up with ideas on their own that you and I could never think of!
Fairs and Festivals:
I remember the county fair being something I looked forward to for much of the year when I was younger. We lived in a state that had a five cent refund on pop cans and we’d collect them to get spending money at the fair each year! Walking the roads with a garbage bag taught us something about conservation and turning those cans in for spare change that added up to ride bracelets taught us about saving. You could sit your kids down and have them work a budget to figure out how much they need to save before the fair for food, games, and rides. Then just have fun!
Whether you’re headed to Grandma’s house or relocating this summer, put the kids map reading skills to the test. And don’t depend on the GPS – ours always puts me in the middle of some grass and asks me to, “Please proceed to the highlighted route,” every time we drive through Oklahoma City. Have your children figure out the mileage and let you know when to stop for gas – but check their work! No one wants to run out of gas. State to state, the kids can compare land formations, tell you what they know about The Oregon Trail, or quiz each other on state capitols.
Maybe your kids are interested in their heritage. Perhaps they could work on a family tree, conduct interviews of relatives, or simply gather stories. Genealogy can lead to lessons in history, culture, and geography. Facts can be used to create written family histories or even artwork. My daughter has been cooking dinners from the lands of her ancestors lately. Talk about a delicious way to learn!
Concerts or Theater:
There may be free or cheap concerts in your area that you could take the kids to. You can learn about different styles of music and instruments. There may be theater presentations that your kids could go see or maybe even be part of!
I tend not to like messes. So, in our homeschool we save our messier experiments for outside in the summer time. A few years ago we bought a selection of fruits and veggies and dropped them from our second story deck to see what bruised, what broke, and what busted open in spectacular fashion! You could put different foods in an ant infested area and see what they nibble on and what they make a path around. Maybe while you’re at the library you can get out a book or two with ideas in it and thrown on some lab coats, or a couple of Dad’s old shirts, and go at it!
Museums, Zoos, and Aquariums:
Many places have a free or discounted day during the summer to encourage families to visit. Why not take advantage? Feel free to spend your visits differently too. Rather than trying to see everything in a few hours, spend half your time in front of your favorite animal or exhibit with a journal. Kids can take notes on what they observe or questions that come to mind. Then head back to the library or engage their computer skills to research answers. If they like to draw, they could sketch and see how realistic or whimsical they can make their renditions.
There are a lot of things that can be done outside, or inside, that can be filed under this category. Give your kids some sidewalk chalk and a list of spelling words or math problems to go work in the sunshine. Tic Tac Toe, Hopscotch, or Hangman are easy and fun games to play. And, of course, you can see what your little artists can conjure up, too! A notepad and some graph paper can be a lot of fun. I used to sit in my front yard and keep a tally of how many cars of each color drove by in a time period and then graph it out and compare days of the weeks or times of the day. Good times, I tell you.
Reorganizing bookshelves by color, author, title, or size…it can all be an interesting way to pass the time and make it easy to clean out what isn’t being used. They can donate unwanted items or even have a yard sale and learn about pricing, customer service, and making change. Profits could go toward the fair or something else they’re saving for.
So, I did some brainstorming to get you started, but what can you do with animal shelters, gardening, summer jobs, sporting events, or geocaching? What ideas can you, or your kids, come up with for summer homeschooling?
Did you catch that? Did you forget that all these ideas are homeschooling? They do seem like a lot of fun…but they’re all chock full of lessons in life – not to mention a little science, math, language arts, history, art…
And while you’re playing…er, I mean schooling, you can play with your schedule as well. Plan activities weekly or write a bunch of ideas on paper and have your kids draw one when you’re looking for a way to keep them from whining. Do some with friends and others as quality family time. No matter how you do it, though, your summer can be one of easy absorption of information – and by my calculations, that’s homeschooling at its best.What a great way to send Eeyore packing and breathe new life into your relationship with your kids while you both learn something new! That’s right – you and your kids will soak up new facts, often without even realizing it. While you’re sitting with the idea of going back to school yourself, here’s one last idea:
Let your kids put you through your paces for an hour. I’m sure they’d get a kick out of making you learn something of their choosing! By teaching you something they’ve learned – it’s a great way to quiz them and see how much your kids have grown over the summer!