Sweet Summer Days – All Year Long

IMG_1765My family moved at the beginning of the summer. We didn’t go far, but we traded a tiny house on a postage stamp lot for a larger one on an acre and a half outside of the city. We love it here. But the house and land had been sadly neglected for quite some time, so my husband and I spent a large part of the summer sweating in the sunshine, cutting down and burning what was dead and overgrown to allow the beauty to shine through. And right there beside us every step of the way were our four little children, hauling branches to the burn pile, pulling weeds, raking leaves, and more. We worked hard together, all of us fully invested in uncovering the loveliness of nature that surrounds us. Through it all, my children were learning a myriad of fascinating facts like how to identify a bob white by its call, how to tell the difference between poisonous vines and harmless Virginia creeper, how to tend a fire outside, and how to tell which way a creek flows even when its bed is dry as a bone.

One day near the end of July, I paused in my efforts to wipe my brow and watch my husband and little ones for a moment. I couldn’t help seeing the similarities between our summer break and the summer breaks of long ago, when children worked hard with their farmer parents to keep the family’s livelihood afloat. Laboring side by side with us, our daughters and son were also learning to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done and the perseverance needed to see a tough task through to its end. I was proud of their eagerness to help and hoped it would continue.

Homeschooling allows this side-by-side learning to continue unhindered once school days begin again. Families aren’t suddenly separated from one another, with parents and children each going their own way only to meet back up when they’re all mentally tired and worn out from a long day. They can continue working together, focusing on academics as well as the life skills that are so important for children to learn from their youth. They’re in the thick of daily life with their parents, working right there next to them and learning about hard work, perseverance, and respect from their most valuable teachers: Mom and Dad. In our family, Dad goes to work each day, but we can call him on occasion if we need to, send him pictures of what we’re doing, and even meet him for lunch sometimes. We aren’t cut off from him, and certainly the children aren’t cut off from me or from each other!

Recently, I was part of a conversation with several other homeschooling mamas discussing how to determine our priorities for our children’s educations. What do we want to emphasize during different stages of our families’ lives and how does that affect the way we teach them? Do we feel defeated when things like nursing the baby or reading picture books to the toddler “get in the way” of our academic goals, or do we appreciate the blessing in being able to teach our children how to prefer others above themselves, how to choose to be unselfish and thoughtful and helpful? Homeschooling allows us the wonderful freedom to pursue both academics and family life. We don’t have to put our family on hold in order to enjoy learning.

There is beauty and great value in family togetherness that is more than worth the effort and sacrifices necessary to make it happen. That’s just one of the reasons why we homeschool, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.

– Katie

Year Round Homeschooling

“Schoooooool’s out for summer!” …. Well kind of, but not really. For my family, we are what you consider year-round schoolers. I’ve had a lot of people ask about what our summer schedule is like, so I want to take a minute to share. First, I want to talk a little bit about why we do “summer school.” My oldest is a creature of habit. This could possibly be explained by his ASD diagnosis, but here lately I just like to think that’s how he’s wired in general and forget the little details. When we first started school it was like pulling teeth getting him to cooperate and do “table time.” With some compromise on both of our parts, we finally hit our stride in about October. Then December hit. We made it through our first semester!! I turned in our grades to our umbrella school and happily closed our books. We enjoyed a few blissful weeks of free play and play dates. The 2nd week of January it was time to get back to work and it was like starting at square one! I decided from then on, we would school year-round. Now that isn’t to say I don’t make summers special. We celebrated the “end of 1st grade” with our co-op group, and my son knows it’s summer and our schedule is different, but we still have “school time” and here’s what it looks like…

Summer 2018 Plans

-The 3 “R’s”
All summer we will start our day with morning work, which consists of Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmetic. For reading we continue our All About Reading (currently on level 2), writing is our PALS (Primary Arts of Language) curriculum, and math is Rightstart (hoping to finish level A before the end of the summer, PRAISE THE LORD!! ) I like to continue these because my son is technically behind his peers in some of these subjects, so the extra practice helps us catch up some. Also, these aren’t his favorite, so continuing them through the summer helps us not have that starting and stopping drama.

-Sports
We spend a LOT of time in the summer outside, and as a result we are practicing a lot of sports/physical education. We are wrapping up coach pitch baseball season, right in the middle of basketball clinic, and about to test for our green belt in Taekwondo. That doesn’t even include all the swimming! Lightening up on our science and social studies during the summer gives us the time to focus on these super important skills.

-Enrichment
One thing I wanted to work on most this summer was my son/s diet. He is the pickiest of picky eaters, and quite dramatic on top of that, so meal times can be quite the experience. So this summer we are cooking through a kid’s cookbook! We are using the Usborne Start to Cook. He makes a shopping list each week, reads the recipes, and makes them 100% on his own. Through cooking we are tackling several subjects in addition to getting him a little more comfortable around food!

On top of all this, he also has 20 minutes of independent reading time, piano practice, and a list of daily chores  that have to take place before he can have any screen time.

With all that being said, we still have lots of down time built in. What is usually 4 hours of structured learning in the school year is cut down to probably 1.5 hours in the summer, depending on how long our recipe takes.  It/s amazing how something as simple as opening books for an hour a day throughout the summer helps with our transitions. Now when my son is older and can understand better the concept of school breaks we might build in some more breaks, but for now we will keep on going!

Happy Summer, Everyone!!!

– Valerie