Homeschooling Throughout the Summer
Written by Beth Corcoran, Contributing Writer
When I tell people that we homeschool year round, I usually get one of two responses. I often hear from homeschooling families, “Oh, we try to do that, too.” And then I often hear, “Why on earth would you do that to yourself and your poor kids?”
Well, don’t feel too sorry for my kids. They are managing just fine. In fact, summer time is our favorite time of the year to do school. Let me tell you all about it.
What Our Family Does During School Time
During the summer, I let my kids choose the subjects they want to study. We still do math and reading every day, but anything else we do is delight directed. I have 6 kids, ages 9 and under.
Right now, we are doing something called Hero Training Camp. It’s a fantastic VBS type program that focuses on strengthening your conscience to do what is right. We are also working through Opal Wheeler’s Great Musician series. Our kids really love those books.
When We Work
During the summer we have a much more laid back approach to our schedule than we do during the school year. Here in Oklahoma, it’s been over 100 degrees each day for who knows how long. It’s just awful outside. So the kids can only go out to play first thing in the morning and then late in the evening. During the rest of the day, we are inside the house or off running errands. We just do school when we can.
The Benefits of Homeschooling Throughout the Summer
I do not claim to be a homeschooling expert. I have only been doing it for three years now. However, it became very obvious to me early on that the traditional school-free summer was not going to work for our family. Instead, we have seen many great benefits in schooling year round.
(Note: Even if you do not homeschool your children throughout the regular school year, these concepts can still be applied to your family.)
Homeschooling throughout the summer has provided more structure for our days. We typically aren’t too rigid during the summer because I love to be able to drop what we are doing to meet friends at the park, and so forth.
But, the kids have some predictability in their schedule and that really helps. It is especially helpful if you have children like some of mine who have a real need for predictable patterns. My kids know to expect “field trips” each week such as library time on Mondays, farmer’s market on Wednesdays, etc.
When the traditional school year was created, it served a purpose. Much of America was rural at that point, and the children couldn’t be expected to be in school during planting through harvest time. They were needed at home to work. Although we live in a far less agrarian society, the typical August-May school year has become a cultural norm.
But our family got to thinking about this norm. What does it teach our children about the value of work and learning? We wanted our kids to see that there is the possibility to learn in everything we do. We never have to take a vacation from learning. And finally, we didn’t want our kids to believe that school and learning were so boring and tedious that they had to take three months off from it each year.
So my husband and I try to teach our kids that it is important to work hard at whatever we do. And we can learn about our world and still enjoy it, too.
Photo credit: natashalcd
Homeschooling throughout the year has been great for relieving pressure to get everything done. Since I have extra months in my school year, I don’t feel the need to fret if we have to skip school days here and there because of illness or behavior issues.
Also, because we have spread out our time, we can take more breaks throughout the year. If we are feeling worn down, we can take a week off of school if need be. I do, however, understand that this may not be the case in some areas where the homeschooling rules are tighter than they are here in Oklahoma.
Do you remember when you were a kid and you went back to school in August only to have forgotten everything you were taught the previous year? Flipping through my kids’ school books shows me that it is pretty much expected that kids will have forgotten a good portion of the material over the summer. It seems that the first half of a lot of books are geared towards review.
By continuing with the lessons and the drilling throughout the summer, kids don’t forget what they learned previously. Most of the time, we end up just skipping the first half of the textbooks since we don’t need the extra review. Instead, we are able to spend more time on working through new concepts.
During the summer, it seems there are many more opportunities to teach our children creatively. There are reading programs at the library, outdoor festivals, farmer’s markets, and all kinds of fun activities. (When it’s not 110 degrees, of course!) When I am actively searching for educational things to do with my kids, we are more likely to incorporate a lot of what our community has to offer.
We do try to take a vacation each summer, and we try to make our vacation something where intentional learning will take place. This year, we went to Yellowstone National Park. It was a very fun time, and on top of having an enjoyable trip, we were able to effortlessly turn it into a lesson about volcanoes and wildlife.
Learning can happen anywhere, especially if we are intentional. This is true year round, but the summer seems to have so much extra to offer.
So, if you’ve ever thought about summer schooling, I want to encourage you that it is really not scary. In fact, it has been quite a blessing for my children and for me. The schooling time can be quite formal or quite relaxed—whatever works for your family dynamic. It’s really just about turning the fun activities of summer into intentional times of learning.
I am in the wee, wee stages of planning to homeschool (our son is 10 months old….see I told you wee, wee stages!) but I appreciate your post. I am trying to learn as much as I can about homeshcooling so that my husband and I can make informed choices.
I like the idea of year round schooling especially since (at least at the present time) we take many mini vacations or long weekends to relatives homes which consist of a day or so “off” during the week. Summer schooling would allow for those breaks w/o the stress of needing to school during the beaks or play catch up to get hours/days in.
Of course, as you menitoned I need to see what Pennsylvania HS rules are but we have much time for that!
We homeschool year round too. It does take the pressure off and I completely agree about the kids losing ground over the summer.
Love this! We live in Oklahoma and it just makes sense that if we’re stuck in the house, out of the heat, we should be doing something besides watching cartoons and playing video games! Yes, we do our fare share of swimming and fun stuff too, and we try to make school a little more fun and relaxed during the summer, but we never completely take off. We like to take late spring or early fall vacations while everybody else is still in school and the “fun places” aren’t too crowded or overpriced. It’s a win-win!
We are just beginning to homeschool this year, but I do plan to continue through the summer. As a former school teacher, I remember remediating for the first two months of the school year to re-teach the kids everything they had lost from the previous year over the summer. I have created a schedule that allows for more frequent breaks – that also fall around important Christian holidays! My children, who have all just come from a public school education, are all excited, and actually crave the work! I have given them easy worksheets in their cubby every day (to get them used to school-at-home) and they ask for more! I love that the their fire for learning has rekindled. I pray it stays that way!
I’ve been at this for 3 years also, so from my little experience some form of schooling through the summer months is helpful for them and for me! I have 4 children, ages 7, 6, 3 and 1, so it is easy for me just to throw my hands up and say, “Finally, we’re done for the summer!” Then I would sit around and be lazy all day. But if I just keep 1 subject or 2 going, then it forces all of us to work at something. We usually stick to the “regular school months” for Math and Language Arts, and do history, science, health, music, etc. Right now we’re started into next year’s history book…and the kids are loving it!
I don’t have children, but I would like to make a comment about schooling year round. I went to a grade school that used the 45-15 plan. Basically you went to school for 45 days and then had 15 off and it was year round. In the 45-15 plan a school also saves money on having to build bigger schools since about 1/4 of the kids are on vacation at any given time.
I think year round is a great idea. It allows kids to remember more and it gives you a bit of flexibility throughout the year.
I am just starting to homeschool my son, who is 5 1/2. I decided to start our homeschooling morning routine (devotions, Circle Time, memory work, and a little tracing) this summer. It has been a success, and I think having the bare bones of our day in place will make adding in reading and math work a lot easier on both of us in August. I agree that schooling year round makes good common sense and takes a lot of pressure off! Great post!
W homeschool throughout the summer too! My kids go crazy and can’t wait to get back to school if we take two full weeks off! I enjoy being able to take time off whenever we need it. We’ve been doing our full regular schedule so far this summer, as I’m expecting baby #4 in September, and I’m sure it’s going to take us time to adapt to the new little one.
We generally do a four weeks on, one week off, with a long break around Christmas and Easter. I do have to admit, however, our schooling is more lax in the summer – something psychological, I think. That, and there’s catching up with play time with friends that attend school and there are summer camps and such. But I do think it’s better for retention and for less pressure if we go year round.
Do you have a curriculum that you use or would recommend? I’m wanting to start with my 5 year old twins & 2 1/2 year old in August.
I know you weren’t asking me, but in case it’s helpful to you, we are using Sing, Spell, Read and Write for phonics and Right Start for math. We are using Handwriting Without Tears for handwriting, and Veritas history cards and lots of songs for memory work (presidents, books of the Bible, geography, etc.)
We’ve used The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading for phonics and Math U See for math. After bring three kiddos through this age range, my suggestion is to have fun! Do unit studies about things that interest them. Go on lots of field trips and go exploring at the park. I may not have done it perfectly, but I love that my kids each walked away from this phase of life with a love for learning, which has paid dividends as they’ve grown older.
@jessica, We use all kinds of books for our kids. I am a firm believer in finding what meshes well with your beliefs and also with your kids’ learning style. We use a lot of Rod and Staff–mainly for reading and grammar. We use Singapore math, and we really like that. And we like Apologia science books. We do a lot of lapbooking as well. Hope that helps!
@jessica, I homeschooled my three grown children through high school. I used Semple Math and the Stevenson Learning System for language arts with my youngest. I wished that I had known about them earlier because I would have gladly used them with all three. They were both designed for special needs children so they use multisensory and multi learning style approaches to teaching the basics of reading, grammar and arithmetic. My youngest despite her learning challenges has an Associate degree in graphic design. She has a better foundation in arithmetic than either of her siblings.
I totally agree with your philosophy.
We don’t homeschool, and my child is on a year round schedule (6 weeks off in summer, 2 weeks in fall, 3 weeks at Christmas, and 2 weeks in spring). During the breaks, I made sure my son had plenty of math, handwriting, and reading to work on. We also tried to make most of our outings learning experiences (even if it was counting out the money in the grocery store to practice math). I wanted to make sure he retained what he had learned, but I also wanted to keep him from getting bored.
Whether parents homeschool or send their kids to a school, I think it is important to keep their brains active and learning over breaks.
I love your idea of keeping kids learning through the summer! I don’t homeschool but I do have my kids earn a school point Mon-Fri in the summer. For my daughter who’s 10, she reads for about 45 minutes and then does a page of math that I’ve printed off. For my son who’s starting Kindergarten, he practices writing his name every day then practices his sight words or numbers.
We are entering our 7th year of homeschooling this fall with my 11, 10 and 6 year old. We have taken summers off, mostly because I need the time to recover and plan for the coming year…or at least that’s what I’ve told myself! However, we do fight the “lack of routine” battle each summer. Every summer, around mid-late July, I start mumbling/grumbling to myself about the need for routine in our world, and my kids know that’s the cue that the return of school is on the horizon!! I like what you’re saying, but my kids have tended to buck the whole “schooling in summer” idea because their friends are all footloose and fancy-free. But if we kept things a little looser by not needing to do something everyday, and I sold the idea of a few extra days off during the school year, I wonder if I could get them on board? Thanks for sharing your story! It’s one of the things I love most about homeschooling-the wisdom we can glean from each other as we journey together!!
Way-to-go, young ladies! Looking back on almost 20 years of homeschooling, I would say that with young children you do want to continue some loosely structured school time in the summer and ‘learning as a lifestyle’ throughout the entire year with all ages. Be flexible while still following your state law. Make the schedule work for your family’s situation (which may be different from most others’).
Also, once your children are older and have part-time jobs, etc. You may swtich to the traditional school calendar. For each season of life, seek wisdom from our heavenly Father and don’t be afraid to try something a little “out of the box”. Your investment of time and energy into your children will pay tremendous dividends.
Shaping your child’s character is of utmost importance. Enjoy these gifts God has entrusted to you! 🙂 May God bless you!!
We go year-round, too, but it’s quite relaxed the whole time. Being able to take time off if people are sick is a huge bonus, but I also like the atmosphere of learning we get. Everything is “school!” It’s awfully hard for a kid to gripe about “school” when it means staying up late to stargaze and eat brownies, or spending the day exploring nature (and collecting botanical samples) at the beach, or just taking three or four days in backyard exploration and fort building!
my mother homeschooled 5 kids, 4 of us pre-k through graduation day (yes, i think she had some kind of super power). and being a farming family we always took summers off to help dad. my boys aren’t quite ready for school yet (2 & 4) but i’ve started looking at homeschooling and have actually gotten very overwhelmed at the thought. but i’m liking the idea of year round. thanks for writing about this. it’s so encouraging to hear how other mom’s teach their kids.
This is interesting. It would not work for our family though in the sense that my husband has the summer off. We therefore will be following the traditional schedule. This doesn’t mean though that the summer doesn’t have any learning in it of course. We use the time to do things that need doing like picking berries and gardening, which are educational, or going to visit family, renting a cottage, going canoeing and hiking etc., and in all these things we just naturally learn about things. For example taking nature identification books along, learning how to preserve and garden, etc. I am sure that most families do some or all of these types of things in the summer too. I like that summer gives us some more opportunities for different things we cannot do during other seasons. Not doing official school stuff in the summer gives us the time to do these things.
We homeschool through the summer, although I’m not sure my children know it 🙂
I’ve found that taking a 2-3 months break from subjects like math and phonics is just plain ol’ dumb for us…so we keep reading (but less assigned reading and more choices), and doing a few lessons of math a week – but maybe using more games than worksheets.
The main thing I do in the summer is use the time to teach life skills and subjects that fall by the wayside when our “real” curriculum comes out. My boys have been learning to bake more, and everyone has added a new breakfast or lunch dish to their list of accomplishments. They think it’s fun….but I call it education 🙂
My children have been attending a Christian school for the last several years – but we also “homeschool” in the summer. Like you, we do Math and English review while concentrating on new material in subjects in which they’ve expressed an interest. This week they read books and wrote about the Vietnam War; another week we learned about planets and the solar system.
My husband and I have just decided to homeschool our girls for the coming school year. I’m excited, nervous, and a host of other emotions, but we are looking forward to seeing what the year holds!
We take summers off, and try to start scaling back our schedule in May. All of our age eligible kids play baseball, so May is pretty busy. Also we raise as much of our own food as possible throughout the summer, which means a big garden, and several rounds of meat birds. This doesn’t mean there isn’t learning going on though. Everyone helps with the care & harvest of the chickens & garden. My children all have a healthy appreciation of where there food comes from, and how much work it entails.
Being a fairly agrarian family, the Sept. – May schedule works for us. This year however we are taking the kids and school on the road for Sept. & Oct. 11 kids, and 2 Mamas (The Daddies have to stay home & work) across the country and back! The big kids will have to keep up with Math, English & Science while we travel, but the best part will be History & Geography which will be truly a “living education”! You can follow our preparations and our trip at http://www.themamabus.com.
Most of our summers we have continued math and participated in the public libraries summer reading programs. Our children usually do volunteer activities in their teen years. They work at the library as Volunteens, counsel at church camp, dish wash at church camp, help with VBS, participate in summer mission trips (one parent accompanies them) and they do a variety of service projects.
When we lived in Oklahoma the summers were too hot for us so we schooled all summer and had more outside time in the spring and fall. If we do a little all of the time it becomes a life of learning and not just a separate part of our life.
This is a great post! My oldest is 4, so I’m just thinking about my homeschooling plans, but I love this thought. Thank you!
Yes I’m home schooling my kids on summer. We do a lot of reading, fun activities and physical activities. We also schedule a field trip and camping trip. And it feels good that they are totally enjoying it. Thank you for these great ideas. I will definitely follow them too. 🙂
Mothers have natural instincts that keep them in tune with their own children, and it is sad when mothers discourage that through criticism. Year round homeschooling is working just fine for your family…you have discovered how to make it fun. Go girl!
Learning can be fun when applied with a group of the same interest instead of learning alone at home.
very few home schooled children learn alone at home
A little different perspective on homeschooling year ’round. We don’t do any traditional schooling during the summer months (“bookwork”) throughout the summer. But we garden and can heavily during these months and the children are an integral part of that. The many of the hours that normally would be filled with more formal education during the dreary winter months are filled with hands-on life skills learning. We also participate in our library’s summer reading program and will occassionally play some games to keep fresh on math facts. This adds the much-needed structure to our day, fills my children’s time with constructive activity and teaches them life skills (like cooking, gardening, etc) that we struggle to fit in during the busy-ness of the school months. And it gives this busy mommy a break from lesson planning/work sheet checking, etc. 🙂
Thanks. I’m online this morning b/c I’m feeling discouraged. Last night in my small group everyone shared what their plans were for their kids this summer. All of them have jam-packed schedules, summer camps, trips planned. Me? No family trips planned (we did one in Mar this yr). We have no budget to send our kids to camps, unlike most of our friends who are double income families. I need to recognize the difference in our lifestyle during the whole year and learn to rejoice in the summer as a different season of hs’ing.
Kristen don’t be discouraged. We could choose to fill our summer fuller than it is but I don’t want our kids to be that crazy busy. We love to spend time together, picking strawberries, blueberries, laying in the hammock, going to each other’s (few) events. And, you have every day to spend with your kids instead of working two jobs. You have made great choices for your family. Be proud! 🙂
I agree, don’t be discouraged. There are lots of fun “free” things to do. Our family enjoys visiting the library, running through the sprinkler, visiting the beach nearby and using the sandtoys, going to the park, finding a hiking or biking trail nearby, having a snack or picnic outside nearby or far, etc….and you know what, when I think back to MY happiest childhood memories, those are the kinds of things that I remember most and had the most fun with! Being at home with your children is well worth it!!!
We homeschool throughout the whole year. However, we only do a 4 day school week (Monday-Thursday). The kids love having 3 days off every week and it ends up giving just a few extra days to the school year.
Thank you for sharing how you spend summers with your family. I am new to homeschooling but have a teaching background. I also was brought to thinking about why summer breaks were created and realized that children used to use that time to help their families in the harvest or planting. So it made me think about all the children this summer who were complaining of being bored with nothing to do because they were supposed to be on summer “vacation” from school. So I created a schedule for myself and my children where we would keep the time schedule of the school year (meaning going to bed as usual and getting up as usual) but adding purpose and fun learning to each day. No more “lazy days of summer” for us. I created a chart of the daily schedule like I would in a my classroom and my children love knowing that there is a rhythm to our day. When we forget, we check the chart to see what we should be doing. We do learning of things my children are interested in and do our trips to the library. Of course, I made the schedule flexible because we are still doing swim class, basketball at the park district, and vacation time out of town. I love it. I also incorporate chores, gardening, and cooking so they understand that all that counts as learning too. As we begin to transition into a homeschooling family, I love the idea of teaching them year round but taking breaks when needed. I’m very excited. Thanks again for this article.
We school year round and it offers us the flexibility to travel the country visiting family or taking vacations in the off season. We wouldn’t change it for anything.