I turned in all of my reporting paperwork due to our county department of education a few weeks ago, which means that we are officially having summer break in the house right now. But unofficially, we are continuing to do work that looks very similar to the work we’ve been doing for several months, now. I’ve kept going because we have had a rather peaceful, laid-back approach to our schooling, which has been wonderful, but does require consistency in order to not get too far behind with some of our core skills, such as math and handwriting.
After 9 months of giving homeschooling a shake, it turns out that we are more naturally an unschooling family, so summer looks much the same as the school year, only with a noticeable drop in travel. We are traveling less this summer for two key reasons. First, we purchased a house a few months ago, and that has caused our monthly housing expenses to increase significantly. That means less money for travel, plain and simple. But the second reason is because summer is when everyone else fits in their vacations, and we learned this past year that going on vacation when everyone else is at work/school is AWESOME (such as spending the day at LEGOLAND and never once waiting in line!). We will do some quick stints up to Dollywood this summer since we are season pass holders, but we are saving up to take larger trips later in the fall.
We are, however, encouraging our friends and family who are taking their vacations now to come and see us. Summer is a great opportunity for us to host folks, show off our great city a bit, and spend quality time together with people we love. Our new house is much more spacious than our last one, which makes playing host more of a joy and less of a hassle, as well.
homeschooling during the summer
So on a typical day, what sorts of structured activities are my girls (ages 6 and 8) doing? Here’s a glimpse at what we did just yesterday (affiliate links included at no cost to you):
- 2 chapters from My First Bible, along with discussion (my master’s degree is in theology, so this is great fun for me!)
- 2 chapters reading aloud from a larger novel (currently reading Rump and very highly recommend it)
- 1 page each of math worksheets from Daily Math Warm Ups (my oldest strongly prefers worksheets to online math work, as it turns out, and my youngest is fine either way)
- 1 page each of handwriting practice (both children were taught cursive handwriting first in Montessori school, so my oldest practices print writing since she never learned it, and my youngest practices cursive writing).
- Older child reads independently for 20 minutes (currently graphic novels are her jam)
- Younger child reads 1-2 books out loud to me (currently anything by Mo Willems is her jam)
- Older child reads a shorter book out loud to younger sister
- 1 educational DVD from the library (recent example: What is Hinduism? from the Understanding World Religions DVD series )
- History lesson of some sort (currently working through Usborne Encyclopedia of World History and Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History)
- Younger child completes 2 mazes
- Older child does one page of Building Thinking Skills
- Older child completes one word ladder
- Work on memorizing multiplication tables through songs. My oldest is a rising fourth grader, and is a bit behind in math due to anxiety, so I backed off of the pressure for a bit this year, and she has finally asked to learn her multiplication tables, which is an exciting step forward! I highly recommend this teacher on Youtube, who uses popular songs to help kids learn. My rising first grader, who at this point is a full year ahead in math, is learning them at the same time.
- We also head to the library to get a pile of books at least once a week (sometimes twice!). I typically have about 50 books and DVDs checked out at any given time. This is a great opportunity for me to do some “strewing,” which means to put some interesting books out there for the kids and to see what resonates with them.
- It’s also my job to pay attention to what the girls are asking questions about, and to become a reference librarian for them. We might watch any number of educational/informative videos on Youtube (I do pay for the commercial-free subscription service so that watching videos is a joy and not annoying) just based on what they are asking questions about at the time.
When I look at this all laid out, I can’t help but think that it might sound like a lot of worksheets (which is heading in the opposite direction of unschooling!), a lot of structure and a whole lot of time. But it might surprise you to hear that all of this can be finished in 2-3 hours (a little longer if we are watching an educational DVD). It honestly just doesn’t take that long, friends! We work on it in bits and pieces throughout the day so that it never gets too overwhelming. And as for it being too structured to be called unschooling, my view on that is that there are as many ways to school children as there are to parent them, and for now, I’m simply following the lead of what my kids want to learn about and want to do, all while making sure that we don’t get too far behind in a few very key skills. Even with those skills, I’m much more lax than what you might encounter in a more traditional school setting. I’ve found a rhythm that keeps me from totally freaking about whether or not my kids are learning what matters most (ok, I do still freak out about that from time to time, but I’m working on it), and my kids are not too overwhelmed by it at all and seem happy with the pace and with the work. Perhaps we are atypical unschoolers, but when it comes to unschooling, I’m not too sure that “typical” is really a thing!
So what are my kids doing the rest of the day? I’d love to tell you that they are doing self-directed art projects, or heading into the kitchen and whipping up fun things like muffins and cakes, or building forts outside for hours. Sometimes those cool creative things happen, sure. But the truth of the matter is that more often than not, they are playing Minecraft and Roblox like it’s their job. They love these games to no end, and they bond with their cousins who don’t live nearby by playing together at the same time while chatting with each other through Alexa. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how much the girls are actually learning playing these games, so I don’t stress out too much about them. And I just (as in last night) learned about the educational resources available. I’m going to look into that this week to see how I can leverage something they love so much to help teach some important concepts.
I missed the boat on summer camp opportunities, which I do feel quite bad about, because they are great socialization opportunities, if nothing else. But around here they fill up very quickly as parents who are working full time need to find child care for their kiddos. I did, however, get us all signed up for an online opportunity that includes a treasure hunt component (there’s a real buried treasure out there worth $10,000, friends, and someone is going to find it!). It’s called Brain Chase, and it gets going in a few weeks. I’ll be posting more on it as I learn more about how it works! So far I know that our whole family will be involved in some weekly activities together (you have several options, but I chose community service, reading and cooking challenges). Want to join? Just code SPN10 to snag 10% off the cost. Yay for saving money, and double yay for the possibility of finding buried treasure!
Feel free to leave me a comment with any questions you might have about our daily rhythm, and feel free to share your own, if you like! I hope getting a peek into our day is helpful to you in some way.