Are you feeling guilty because you need to homeschool this summer but don’t have the heart to sit your kids down to hours of book work each day? You are not strange or irresponsible. You are actually a mom with sense!
I know, I know, we love the idea of year-round homeschooling, but, truth be told, the warmer months were meant for much funner things that having our noses stuck in books.
To my mind, book work is for when outdoor play and activities are unpleasant, such as in the deepest part of winter or the dog-days of summer. Why not take advantage of the more temperate parts of summer to add in all sorts of learning that thrills a child’s heart?
Even public schooling counts time spent in physical education, special assemblies, science experiments, arts and crafts, STEM, STEAM, and on field trips (not to mention all of the accumulated days wasted in bureaucratic nonsense) as learning hours, so why can’t we?
Here are just 15 suggestions of ways to go about it:
Whenever I think of summers as a child, I think of the frogs I caught during some torrential Texas thunderstorms. They were slimy and wily, but they sure were fun.
Since we live next to some marshes and open fields, lizards, toads, and snakes have been caught our own children regularly. I try and keep old jars and other disposable containers on hand for such finds. There is something about observing a bunch of these (only non-poisonous snakes, of course) that makes you want to learn more.
You could also read about them in books such as in The Christian Liberty Nature Readers or Frog and Toad Are Friends:
Children (especially boys) and bugs just seem to go together. Ants, grasshoppers, crickets, wasps, cicadas, butterflies, and dragonflies are among our favorites.
One of our sons spent almost every day of an entire summer stationed near a marsh observing the lives and habits of insects. Jean Henri Fabre was among his heroes, so we checked out every book we could about and by Fabre from our local library.
When the bread man at our local grocery store learned about our bug studies, he suggested we preserve our captures by putting them in Ziplocs in the freezer, something we implemented immediately. Before long we had all sorts of containers filled with interesting bugs of all sorts.
As our son grew and developed he incorporated the design of insects into his art, just as they did during the Art Nouveau Movement.
There is just something about earning prizes that get children chomping at the bit.
The wonderful thing is that there are no requirements on what is to be read, so your children can choose what interests them, whether fiction or non-fiction (however, I still create parameters for my children, such as prohibiting “fluff” and nonsense).
This may be the single element that turns your reluctant, slow reader into a voracious, skilled reader by fall!
Psst–this is not only P.E., it’s also now considered “STEM” (actually, everything we used to consider playing is now categorized as STEM learning–I’m not kidding).
You can go formal with actual swimming lessons, but you don’t need to. If you have a hose and some dirt you have automatic water learning. Just turn the kids loose and watch all the scientific discoveries happening!
After the children are all tuckered out and showered (and the floors and carpets are cleaned), you can sit and watch YouTube videos about water and its uses and properties, such as for hydroelectric power, and you have a whopping, huge science bonanza!
One summer I was sitting in my office with the window open and listening to a recording of a Western Meadow Lark from Cornell University. I had my computer hooked up to a speaker system, so the sound was pretty loud. After a few minutes I thought I was hearing an echo, but then realized there was an actual meadowlark in our back yard that was answering the recording from my computer!
Cornell University is actually one of my favorite places to go when we want to find out more about the birds we observe around our home (did you know that this is where The Handbook of Nature Study is from?). This site has everything for bird watching, from the song recordings to ways to bird habits to good photography.
We also like to visit our local nature preserve and gather information about the birds specific to our location, such as the blue herons that we often see flying above us as they go from one marsh to another.
Drying and preserving flowers and plant materials is a form of artistic expression that was very popular during the victorian age and is still very popular today. there are many reasons for preserving plant materials, whether your interest is in drying flowers from an arrangement that has special meaning or preserving beautiful cut flowers, foliage, ornamental grasses, and plant materials from the landscape or garden. dried flowers are used in arrangements, wreaths, swags, pressed art, and other decorations.
There are so many ways to gather and preserve flowers, even to use as colorful potpourri to add to your home decor.
Oh, and did you know there is such a thing as “floriography“?
The language of flowers, sometimes called floriography, is a means of cryptological communication through the use or arrangement of flowers. Meaning has been attributed to flowers for thousands of years, and some form of floriography has been practiced in traditional cultures throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Besides botany, this could turn into an amazing voyage into some little known history (my children love to learn things that no one else knows about)…
What is a “Rock Hound”?
One who collects rocks and minerals, especially gemstones, as a hobby
I was born at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and when I was a little girl my parents trekked all over those mountains looking for rare rocks and gems. I have fond memories of sitting in the back of my daddy’s orange paneled truck and being bounced and jostled as we traveled down rutted roads, over creeks, and around huge boulders in our quest for geologic treasure.
But you don’t have to come to the Rockies to go on a rock-hounding treasure hunt–just about everyone has some rocks around their house and in their back yard. Our house is surrounded by a 2-foot wide swath of them, and over the years our children have built up various collections by searching through them all.
Guides can help. Here’s one that is engaging, with actual photographs (for easier identification).
Of course, this is all about geology, which is a fascinating study, especially from the perspective that the Bible accounts are true and are consistently proven by geologic evidence. If you are like me and were public-schooled, you are probably going to be pleasantly surprised by the information at this link on the Answers in Genesis site.
(Our family is blessed to know a gemologist at our church who is giving us a personal “class” at her shop this week!)
Gardening and Preserving
This is good, old-fashioned sweat-equity learning! Turning over the ground, planting, watering, weeding, harvesting–all great activities that challenge the body as well as the mind.
Schools count gardening as STEM all of the time, so it’s absolutely legitimate to count it for homeschooling STEM activity. Even if you live in an apartment, gardening is still possible–check out this link about the urban variety.
What do you do with your harvest? Preserve it! Canning, dehydrating, and freezing are among the choices here, and science learning abounds with each choice.
If you want loads of free information and advice, just about every state runs a university extension office. You’ll find experts there that can answer questions on everything from growing apple trees (and raising chickens) in your back yard to “gut microbiome” health.
When my children were all young, it was in the summer months that I got the most sewing done. One year I was able to take the month of June and sew 10 jumpers for myself and my girls. This was possible because had a nice back yard covered by a canopy of cool elm trees with a huge playset and sand to dig in. I would get the house clean and the children breakfasted early in the morning and then send them out to play for hours until lunch while I pieced together outfits on my $3 sewing machine.
As the children aged, I was able to include them in the process. I started with easy projects, such as doll clothes, and then those who were interested went on to learn more. One of my girls delved so deeply into seamstressing that she learned how to make her own patterns and sewed beautiful dresses for her and her older sister to wear at their brother’s wedding.
Some of my sweetest memories are from when I would sit outside the children’s rooms during quiet time in the heat of the afternoon and read to them. One summer it was The Princess and the Goblin. Another summer it was The Lord of the Rings. The kids and I would clean up and go on a walk while it was still cool, then we would lunch, clean up, and rest as I read. The nursing baby would drift off to sleep in my arms, the toddlers in their beds would eventually go out, and the older children would listen intently as we all went on voyages in our imaginations.
If you aren’t sure what to read, I included some amazing book lists in my last post.
Messy Arts and Crafts.
Finger painting, anyone? Well, not inside the house, but what about outside? We have a plastic picnic table under our deck that is perfect for letting little children express themselves freely. Just dress them in bathing suits and when they are done hose everything (and everyone) off!
Home Maintenance and Improvement.
Who says practical skills such as landscaping, painting, etc. aren’t bonified learning? What’s the use of having a PhD if you can’t change the belt on your vacuum cleaner? Young people would be much more ahead if they understood how to maintain a home before they owned one.
We have our children help when we paint fences, clean gutters, and take care of our vehicles.
My grandmother grew up during The Great Depression. Back then summers were long and hot, especially in the South before air conditioning. During the sweltering months she and her bothers and sisters had to be creative with their long summer waking hours. One of their favorite activities was to spread a blanket under the trees in the orchard and stare at the clouds. Each sibling would take a turn telling what picture, whether a horse or an angel or something else, each cloud made.
We live in a state that is known for its dramatic evening thunder showers, so one of our favorite things is to stand out on our deck and watch the thunderclouds form. Due to this simple activity we have become familiar with just about every type of cloud, from stratus to cumulonimbus. We’ve even done studies on how to predict the weather based on how the sky looks.
(Did you know there is such a thing as Cloud Physics? Per usual, the simple activities children naturally do are rightly classified as STEM.)
At a mile above sea level, we can see the Milky Way from our back deck. We simply spread a blanket out and lay down and look up.
Other times we use our telescope and take turns staring at the moon (and trying to take pictures of it with our cell phones–which is harder than it sounds).
The most fun is when there is a heavenly event, such as a meteor shower, and we pack everyone in the van and escape from the city lights to observe it better.
Turns out stars and the constellations they make are more than just interesting, they are part of God’s message to mankind. This page from Answers in Genesis contains enough information to keep a family pretty engaged this summer!
Here’s a video to stir even more interest:
Have a child who is struggling in reading, math, spelling, etc.? Feel you’re doing pretty well in most areas but you just haven’t found the time to get the basics of science or history covered? Why not take a single area of either tools or content and focus your entire energy on it for a month or two?
Get the kids to play and have a great time outdoors, then take only a half hour or so and do some phonics, or spelling, or math just once a day. You don’t even have to do it with everyone, just with the child who is most challenged.
Or, you could revert to doing maybe 15 minutes on something like Khan Academy or have the kids do two or three workbook pages a day (K12 Reader is a great site for reading and English, MathDrills.com for math, Teach Your Monster to Read for phonics, or why not use our Gentle Grammar free printables?) just to keep them from forgetting what you have worked so hard to teach them (in the areas of math and writing, especially).
Don’t forget to use this time for you, the teacher!
While your children are busy exploring and reading and doing all of the other fun things on your list, have a few books, websites (like this one), and videos qued up and ready to go.
Here are a few areas you could concentrate on:
- Homeschooling. Teaching from Rest is a newer book that has been setting many moms free. The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook and For the Children’s Sake are two classics that are well worth your time.
- Homemaking. Amy Maryon is an experienced, older mom who teaches both by word and example. Joy Forney has a channel that is interesting and uplifting. Here is a video list Joy compiled that is interesting.
- Spiritual encouragement. The devil does not want you to grow in the Lord, but he knows we’re often alert to overt sin, so he gets us busy as his best strategy to keep us from Jesus. A more simple schedule will give you the opportunity to create a new habit of giving time with Him prominence in your day. One of the things I like to do is to take index cards and write single scriptures, passages, or scripture prayers that I use whenever I have a few spare moments to meditate, pray, and commune with my Lord.
Oh, and while you are in the midst of all of this amazing learning, don’t forget to log it so that it counts! One of the best ways I have found to do this is with the system I developed years ago. You can find a free PDF download of some helpful record sheets here.
We are almost completely done with our latest project, The Record Book. Here is a picture of the cover:
Isn’t it cute? Inside are pages which give some homeschooling advice, tell you how to record learning that would otherwise be lost, and lots of inspiring homeschooling quotes. The bulk of the book will be made up of a year’s worth of recording pages like the ones offered for free on my site, just updated and improved.