When it comes to our core curriculum, our family is pretty strict on making sure we’re completing the traditional courses. To give you some perspective, when comparing our methods to those of our friends in the unschooling school of thought, we are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Consequently, because we pack so much in during the regular school year and generally follow a traditional school year schedule, our summer breaks are a big deal. We really need them! But, there’s an issue with some summers. Because our life has varied greatly from season to season, some summers we, myself and my husband Shane, are more free than others. Typically, our summer breaks are three months long, and I much prefer the ones where we are at the pool or the beach with friends all day everyday during the week. But, depending on the season of our lives, we don’t always get that much free time, and when Shane and I must work extra during the summer, we desire to still provide our kids with a great summer NOT vegging out in front of a screen or bickering amongst one another thanks to boredom and too much idle time. It’s during these periods that we get creative, and implement “summer school,” essentially making a year-round schedule, records and all, but making this school only encompass (1) the fun stuff and essentials and (2) the extras that we’ve needed to do and haven’t had the time to do alongside our regular academics.
So, when we don’t get our first choice of hanging out by the water or at a park all day due to a busy season for Mom and Dad, our criteria for “summer course selection” is, first, it must be fun or life-giving for kids and parents alike. Second, it must require very little effort or time for Mom and Dad, mental or physical-wise and, at the same time, take up a good portion of daylight time for the kids. Then, if any activity does use some resources from Mom and Dad, it must be something that we really want, that we really enjoy, that is easy and that is employed within our limited breaks from work. Third, there has to be an educational value in it so that we can creatively attribute it as an academic course on record. Easy, right?! Summer is in session, and we’re excited about it, plus we’re logging all those extra hours of time, and these hours qualify for our reporting requirements to the state just in case we may need a longer break during the regular academic school year or we are able to breeze through our traditional school year curriculum in less time than average. Hooray! It’s a win-win scenario.
As an example, courses that my family has taken advantage of during busy summer months that meet said requirements above can be grouped into:
The extras that we need but don’t have time for during the school year like fun typing programs and easy Microsoft Office learning programs (from eReflect)
Supplemental core curriculum like fun spelling programs online that have games (like 7spell) and self-paced and fun history and science courses (from Veritas Press for history and from Supercharged Science for science)
The staples that include Bible reading, teaching and discipling (Gertrude Hoeksema’s Suffer Little Children and Show Me Thy Ways, collectively a six-year study, are excellent for discipleship), discussion and prayer, music practice (guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, etc.) and reading excellent books utilizing guides such as The Book Tree, Books Children Love and Honey for a Child’s Heart
P.E. that can include our regular year-round sports for the kids (we love jiu jitsu and kickboxing for self defense), outdoor water play in the sprinklers or on the slip-n-slide in the backyard, hiking, fishing, biking, or swimming for when Mom and Dad do get one day off, Ultimate Frisbee and ice blocking at the park with friends, or survival skills like learning to build and building a shelter
Strategy, math, and logic using games like Chess or Checkers, Clue, Catan, Monopoly, Risk, Battleship, Connect Four, Mastermind, Slapjack, Uno, Skip-Bo or putting together puzzles in general
Apprenticeship at work with Mom and Dad
For my Colorado friends, we have the civics and U.S. Constitution instruction requirement to fulfill. Our family’s regular academic study doesn’t always meet this requirement, so we often will supplement reading the Constitution directly bit-by-bit and discussing what we find using The Constitution Made Easy by Michael Holler. We do this in much the same way that a book study goes with a small group of friends, because to do a study using this method is easy, not time-intensive, relaxing and enjoyable. For the younger ages, we also will utilize Peter Spier’s WE the PEOPLE. Then, in similar, easy fashion, we employ CHEC’s U.S. & Colorado Civics and Flag Etiquette workbook for meeting our civics requirement from the state.
Then, when “summer school” is done for the day, the kids are on their own to pursue their hobbies that they especially like. Our son, Scott, is interested in story-telling, producing and directing so he works on small YouTube projects to gain experience. Our daughter, Sean, loves art and cosmetology, so we give her books and tools and she practices to develop her trade. Our youngest, Shannon, enjoys LEGO-making and cooking, so we give her many supplies to build and practice being a chef. If the kids put significant focused effort into developing a good product and seeking out and employing educational instruction in their self-guided field of study, then we can convert this into an academic course on record as well. So, it’s possible that we also record their free time as school depending on effort and intensity of study on their own.
Combining all these activities, we have an excellent summer, (usually) happy kids, and Mom and Dad being able to devote their extra time to essential tasks for which there is not as much time to do during the traditional school year.
As far as how all this relates to requirements and records, it’s our desire to be good stewards and submit to our authorities. We do this by ensuring we are at least meeting all state requirements under the homeschool statute, if not exceeding them, and we use creative means to fulfill requirements in a way that makes us happy! The result of our summer school is a varied day that really feels like play or good fellowship time with our discussions. For us, this is also a good means to help rid the family of boredom and guide the children into how we utilize free time when we have it and steer clear of idleness.
I put a picture of us having a grand time fishing one year so you can see a glimpse of our summertime fun. It’s an old one but one of my favorites. I wish you all the best in your homeschool adventures.