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Make the Most of Summer Time!

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It’s imbedded in our culture: As days grow longer and warmer, thoughts turn to the end of school as we know it. Speaking from my own experience, even a homeschooling family that understands there is no beginning or end to learning until one has stopped breathing is surrounded by other families who, thanks to the school schedule, live from a different perspective during summer’s non-school time.

Reading outsideI learned quickly that in order for the theory of never-ending learning to play out peacefully it shouldn’t harbor even a slight resemblance to “school,” especially when a child’s friends call to ask him to join them at the swimming hole, or as they ride bikes past the front window. Now of course I’m not advocating summer continuing-ed to the exclusion of such necessary and pleasurable childhood activities. My point is that with a little bit of forethought and planning, your child can still enjoy such recreation, accompanied by activities in keeping with your family’s learning lifestyle.

You can start thinking, planning, and scheduling now for fun, interesting places to go, things to do, and projects to work on, keeping in mind that any plan should be flexible enough to change when the weather for a day or week just begs your presence on the beach or precludes outdoor activity, or when, as it always does, can’t-miss opportunity pops up when you least expect it. Factor in topics that you already know can easily light your child’s learning fire, but also take time to get your child’s very important input on what constitutes “fun and interesting” – interests often change as rapidly as her shoe size.

Consider your family’s finances so you base plans on a realistic budget. What can you afford to spend? If your answer is “not much,” don’t worry; there are many low-cost, no-cost ways to fill summer time. (If you need some ideas, head to your library and borrow a copy of Melissa L. Morgan and Judith Waite Allee’s Homeschooling on a Shoestring.) If your child is capable, save some household budget money with do-it-yourself projects that need to be done, then use some or all of your savings for an activity you wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.

Start picking up brochures and other information prepared for visitors to your town when you’re already out and about. Ask your Chamber of Commerce for a calendar of upcoming events. Check with local community colleges, nature and arts centers, libraries, gyms, and playgrounds to see what they have planned. What opportunities exist to help others by donating some time to civic, charitable, and volunteer organizations? Do the same for other nearby areas that can expand your options without pinching your pocket.

To further help spur ideas you might begin by simply discussing your family’s lifestyle with your child. Whether it’s rural, small town, suburban, or urban, talk about the qualities and offerings that are unique to your location. Does your child prefer quiet, at-home time, or being out and about among other people? Would he prefer to build a birdhouse in the backyard with a few good friends or to participate in a project with a larger group? Does your child thrive on structure, or does she like to If your personal preferences are different, talk about compromises that will help make everyone comfortable and happy with your developing plan.

Discuss interests, hobbies, and dreams so they become beacons toward choices that will be the most rewarding. Is she into sports? Does he like to create works of art? Would she like to sit in a fire truck? Has he wondered what it would be like to be a newspaper reporter? All of these curiosities and more can be satisfied right in your own community.

Just a bit of creativity can make even the more schoolish activities different and interesting. Take the book and spend daily reading time in the fort, or pitch a tent so you can read in there at night by flashlight. Practice spelling on the driveway with sidewalk chalk, in the sand at the beach, or on the patio door with dri-erase markers – with you both on the outside, of course! Write poetry while lying on a blanket in the yard so you can be inspired by the clouds drifting by. Grab a magnifying glass, drawing paper, and crayons – now flip over a big rock. Grow a plant. Put up a hummingbird feeder. Study an ant hill. Fill a window planter box with bubble soap, and then use wire to create your own bubble wands. Attend an outdoor concert at night. Study flora and fauna by climbing a mountain or rowing a boat. The possibilities, as they say, are endless.

Summer is a great time to get to those projects that are too time-consuming during the hub-bub of non-summertime routine. Dig up the projects you didn’t get to because you calculated that the lesson involved wasn’t in proportion to the mess it would create – and then tackle them outside! Likewise, think of projects too big for indoor completion. Research relative size and distances between the planets, then turn your front lawn into the solar system. Plan, draw, and paint a mural on the side of the shed, garage, or barn. Build a Space Shuttle or a giant Plaster of Paris map of Spain.

And of course you can fill that time with one of the most educational activities on earth – travel. If you have the time and resources for a two-week dream trip, go for it. But an equal number of learning experiences await you on weekend camp-outs, day trips to the nearest city (or nearest farm if you live in the city), or afternoons spent hiking state or national parks and forests. If your child is old enough (and you are hardy enough to handle it without physical or emotional melt-down), consider a solo bus, train, or plane trip to visit relatives or friends. (For my youngest at the age of fifteen, the first, unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity arose for him (only) to spend two weeks in a tiny, mountainside village in Italy. After I said yes to that, the bus trip to Texas the following year was a piece of cake.)

Because summer time is far-too-fleeting, a little planning will help you make the most of it. However you decide to fill it, just make sure to leave enough time to frequently imbibe fresh-squeezed lemonade in the shade of your favorite tree, toast your freedom, talk with your child about what you’ve already learned, and wonder aloud about what wonderful lessons the giant classroom of the world might offer you tomorrow.

Originally appeared in Home Education Magazine.
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3 Responses to “Make the Most of Summer Time!”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Parent at the Helm, Parent at the Helm. Parent at the Helm said: New blog posting, Make the Most of Summer Time! – […]

  2. Great ideas. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. […] can homeschool year round with Special Needs Homeschooling, and make summer an interesting change of pace with Parent at the […]

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