School's Out - Summer Learning Fun
During our second year of homeschooling, we concluded our "school" year the third week of
May. Since we had started the second week of August, by that time we had met the one of the
main requirements of our state - 180 days of school. How did we come to start our school year
three weeks ahead of all the schools in our area? An interesting story that begins....
We had worked very hard in all of our studies, pursued dozens of activities and events, and were
ready to slow down. However, I was concerned about their forgetting all they had learned. I
listened to several mothers who homeschooled all year round talk about why they homeschooled
in the summer too.
"It's like pulling teeth to get them working again if all that time off,"one mother said to the
"Oh, I agree and all that reviewing of the work from the year before to get them ready for the
new work. It's a headache."
"Well, that's why we just don't break for the whole summer anymore. We take a week in June,
two weeks in July and a week in August. That's it. By the time the new school year starts,
they're in the groove and usually ahead of their school friends anyway."
This sounded wonderful to me but I also knew that the children of these mothers had never
attended public school or any school for that matter. They had no idea what they were missing.
My children, on the other hand, were from the mind set of "summer vacation" and "school's
out". They knew that everyone else would be free of school books for those 10 weeks.
I approached them about the second week we were into our summer vacation.
"You know, a lot of your friends don't take the whole summer off. Some of them school all year
round, with a few vacations in between. They never have to review and they're actually ahead of
everyone in public school,"I told them.
Well you would have thought that I had transformed into a character out of a science fiction
"No way,"said my son, my oldest. "No way. Summer is for swimming and sleeping late."
"You can still sleep late. We can have a less scheduled type of schooling. You can do the work
around swimming and riding bikes. It does rain in the summer you know. How about all those
days when you complain about having nothing to do?"
"I'd rather be bored. I don't want to work in the summer." As far as he was concerned the
subject was closed for discussion.
My daughter, two years younger than her brother, chimed in. She was always his supporter, no
matter what. "I don't want to work in the summer either. Summer isn't for learning."
So I had my answer. They wanted nothing to do with workbooks, textbooks or anything that
even faintly resembled "school".
A good friend of mine laughed as I told her about my experience introducing schooling in the
summer. "Well, they might enjoy learning without books. The summer is one of the best times
to learn and it's easier than you think."
After talking to her as well as other moms, I found there were more ways to learn than from a
Though they did not know it, the vegetable garden they had planned became a wonderful science
project. They loved gardening and as I watched them dig happily in the dirt, I mentioned to them
that it might be "fun" to keep records of how each vegetable was doing.
"Hey, I can use the notebooks I have in my room and we can write down all the vegetables we
planted,"my daughter told my son.
"Ok. Maybe you can just draw them every week and we can see how many inches they grew,"my
son told her.
"What about the plants that didn't grow so well?" my daughter asked.
"Maybe we could buy a soil tester from the garden center and see what the soil needs for those
to grow," I suggested, enjoying this chance to throw in some chemistry when they wouldn't even
The usual day trips that we took each summer took on new meaning as well. Without even
knowing it, the trip to the aviation museum became an excellent introduction to the planes used
during the world wars. The planes led to a talk about the famous men who piloted them and their
contribution to American history. It was such an interesting day that my son decided he'd like to
read about the history of aviation. A trip to the library that had spun off from a "history" lesson led to a chance to fill up on summer reading.
"Can I get more than five books?" my daughter asked me as she dropped a pile of books onto the
table I was sitting at.
"Sure. Get whatever you feel like reading,"I said casually. I watched as she and my son
wandered up and down the aisle of the children's room. After two and a half hours, we had a pile
of close to 40 books on the table for checkout.
The librarian smiled and shook her head. "You must be really great readers,"she smiled at them.
"I love books,"said my daughter. I love books too, I thought happily. What parent wouldn't agree
that books are one of the greatest teachers of all kind? Who hadn't heard that famous phrase
"Readers are leaders"?
Besides our fun day trips during the summer, we also had a big food shopping trip every two
weeks. Swimming wasn't the only thing that my son loved to do in the summer. Food was flying
out the window faster than the hot days of summer.
My daughter loves the produce section. Not only is she a big vegetable and fruit eater but her
main attraction is the produce scale. "I get to weigh the apples,"she yelled to her brother running to the scale. Wait, was this yet another opportunity for a lesson?
"How much do we have?"I asked cautiously.
"We have just two pounds of apples,"she smiled.
"Oh, boy, I forget how much they are a pound,"I lied sheepishly.
"I'll check the sign,"she wandered off.
"Mom, they're on sale for 1.50 a pound and we have 2 pounds. That's only $3.00."
"Really? Well, that's a good deal,"I smiled. Math lessons in the grocery store? Who would have
thought of that?!
What could be even better than educational day trips, library visits and supermarket shopping in
the summer? Television! No not the programming, but the lack thereof. Most of the sitcoms and
regular programs go on a hiatus for the summer, leaving behind a trail of "seen it" reruns. We
have a great cable package that includes what else but the history channel, discovery channel
and science channel. With much enthusiasm I announced that there was a show on the history
channel I just had to see.
"What's it about?"my son asks curiously. "Oh, it's about the Egyptians and how they
mummified their kings. It could get a little gory I guess so if you don't want to look at it, it's
ok," I sat down on the sofa intently, slightly ignoring them both.
"Oh, well maybe I'll take a look,"he says.
"If you guys are looking I might take a peek,"my daughter adds.
An hour later we are into a very detailed discussion of Egypt. My daughter pulled out the atlas,
bent on showing my son that he really didn't know where Egypt was.
"Can you find the Nile for me,"I ask my daughter with a confused look,"I don't have my glasses
on and mommy's never been good with maps."
"I'll find the Nile. You guys can't read this map. And this is the capital of Egypt,"my son tells
"So! Can you find the desert they talked about? I see it and I'm not showing you where,"she
Now they are both on the floor, kneeling over a large map that was folded up in the back of the
school cabinet for the entire year. Wasn't that the map I had asked them to look for last year?
Yet I held my tongue, just so pleased that they were "learning".
So it came as quite a shock one August day when they approached me as I was reading pool side.
They had been floating for hours in the pool, chatting and laughing. The one thing that I had
always admired about my children was their friendship. They had a wonderful time together.
Though they each enjoyed their individual play dates, they were also always happy to spend their
free time together. This was one of those days when just the three of us were at home, enjoying
the solace of our backyard. So I was stunned when they came up to me, dripping from the pool,
and asked if they could start their school work.
"Can we start school on Monday? We miss homeschooling,"my son asked.
"I miss my science book," my daughter added.
"Well, I guess we could get started. We can start out with half days for the first week or so, just
to get back into the routine of things."
"It doesn't matter. We just missed learning. It's been awhile since we learned anything, hasn't
it?" my daughter said.
"I guess you're right. We could stand a few good lessons," I smiled. And that was the beginning
of a whole new schedule.....and a whole new understanding of what learning really meant.
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