Last week I mentioned in the Hip, Hip Hurrah! post that I would share some of the reasons why we take summers off of formal homeschooling. Today I'll try to explain why we have chosen the 'long summer break' calendar for our homeschool, and some of the activities we enjoy in the summer.
First the WHY
The weather is pleasantly warm for most of our summer months, and all of us would rather be outdoors than indoors 95% of the time. The rest of the time it's either thunder storming (which we enjoy watching from the covered front porch,) or its above 90 with a 95% humidity and we'll escape to the air conditioned house. We do run our air conditioning, usually around 75 degrees, but we also use fans a lot, both ceiling fans and box fans. One of the first things we did after moving to this house many, many years ago was to install three ceiling fans.
I need the break from the responsibility of making sure math and science assignments are getting completed every week, AND, we like to garden. Well, at least Arlene and I like to garden, and Emily can usually be persuaded to join us. This is a summer break from formal book learning, not a stick your head in the sand break. God has taught me many lessons from working in the garden. Tending my plants has given me greater insight into many of Christ's teachings . . . about the vine and the branches, the lilies of the field, scattering seed and good soil to name a few.
The girls need a chance to just be children. You may think that now that they're in their teenage years that it would be all work and no play, far from it ~ it's a lot of work plus a lot of play! They still enjoy riding their bikes, going to the pool, playing in the sprinklers, visiting the zoo w/Grandma, hiking through the woods, sitting on the porch eating ice cream, and spending time with their friends.
This is a homeschooling journey, not a sprint. God gives us times of refreshing for each person in the family. Sometimes those breaks happen all at once, and sometimes one person has a busier schedule than the others, and those being refreshed are able to serve the family in a new way. When you go on a journey, you make stops along the way: refuel the car, get snacks, drop coins in the toll booth, visit roadside attractions, and stop to sleep for the night. Home education is like that too. When you are working and homeschooling, you probably value those breaks more than some others do because you realize how short they are in relation to the length of the journey.
The girls like to do summer time activities like 4-H and volunteer work. Kurt and I do some volunteer work as well, and by stepping back form the bookwork, we can all focus on our hobbies and ways to serve others. The girls spend some time during the school year thinking about and planning their 4-H projects, but most years, the real work begins after the last official day of school in mid-May. Our State Fair runs most of the month of August, and we all enjoy attending several times during the fair. Often, the girls have had projects advance to the State Fair, and they want to go see them on display. Our state requires 180 days of attendance per school year. We have traditionally started the Tuesday after Labor Day and are easily finished around May 10th each year. There have been a couple years when I tried adjusting our schedule, and it didn't work as well for our family, so we went back to what works best for us. Isn't that the point of home education? Being able to tailor it to fit each child's individual needs? Sometimes it's about meeting the parents' needs too.
Summer vacation can be magical. The sun is up early and stays up late. We get up early and try to fit as many memories into each day as we can. Some days will just be ordinary ~ and yet ~ for a child who struggled through a particular subject that past year ~ any day without school is extraordinary! A long summer vacation is filled with endless possibilities. We ask the girls for suggestions as to what they want to do, and try to fit some of those into our schedule. When both parents are working it takes planning and patience to accomplish the scheduling necessary to both be off on the same days to do family activities, but it is worth it!
What do we do all summer?
We go outside. I would much rather sweat than freeze, but for the most part, our summers are moderate, and trees abound to give us shade in the hottest part of the day.
The girls and I are involved with 4-H. They work on and exhibit projects, I am a club leader. It is work, but FUN work, and the rewards of seeing the various children in our club grow and learn new skills is priceless.
We find water. Kurt loves to canoe, or we go wading, or sit on the dock, or find a pool. There is something freeing about being able to get as dirty or as wet as you want, and then wash it all off in the shower and go to bed bone-tired at night.
We grow strawberries, green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers. We go to the local Farmer's Market for other vegetables and fruits. Melons don't do well in our gardens, and cucumbers require too much maintenance. It's easier to buy them at the market and eat whatever's in season. We also grow a lot of flowers, mostly edible ones!
We hike, we walk, and we bike. There are several biking trails near our home, as well as a state full of parks to explore. We fill up our backpacks and head outdoors.
We visit friends. Near or far, we try to make it a point to spend more time fellowshipping with our friends. Cookouts, watching ball games, seeing a parade ~ they're all options!
Field Trips ~ we still do these in the summer, especially to nature themed areas. More hours of sunlight in the day equals more time to make family memories.
We like star-gazing. In the summer you have to stay up later to see them, but it is also warm enough to do so comfortably. We like to watch the Perseids meteor shower in August, but to really enjoy it, you need to start watching at midnight.
Painting, tree trimming, house repairs... they all happen more easily in the summer during our vacation than trying to fit them in during the school year.
Three months, plus a bit more
Yes, that's right, we take more than three months off every summer. Are there years when the girls need to work on math or science once or twice a week during the vacations? Occasionally. Like the summer that Emily had just mastered long division in April. I made her do a lesson each week that summer, because neither of us wanted the heartache or frustration of starting over again on long division. KWIM?!
We still learn during the summers, but not formally. We most definitely keep reading our Bibles and talking about the LORD. We focus on making memories and tying heart strings. We allow God to re-create us.
Summer vacation offers times of refreshing. It offers more chances to make messy crafts (outside) like stepping stones or woodworking. Summer vacation can mean parades, fairs, picnics, and long drives through the countryside in response to the question "Daddy, where does that road go?"
If you are working and homeschooling ~ take the summer off! You'll be glad you did, it just might be magical!
Need more ideas on what to do during your summer vacation? Click the picture below!