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Back to homeschool

Both homeschoolers and schoolers alike are often interested to find out how homeschoolers work within our cultural focus on a “school year” and “summer break.” For as many ways as homeschoolers do everything else, we all have different approaches, but here is ours.

Until last year, I always had one kid in school. So summer was by its very nature different because our school kid would be home. Another difference was that while taking part in two school programs, we were very, very busy with school-related events during the school year, so summer seems more relaxed in any case. This year both my kids were in the same homeschool program, but somehow we didn’t have a more relaxed spring! What with spring school events, doing year-end wrap-ups with our teacher-consultant in our public school program, and other things like recitals that always seem to take place all at once, we were ready for a real break.

Another really important reason that we change our routine during the summer is the wonderful opportunity of summer camps. I’ve written before how if school were more like summer camp, we’d be doing school year-round as well! So when the camps are announced, we start scanning the possibilities and thinking about how to sandwich them in between travel, beach, swim lessons, and relaxation.

So as a result, in our family we do “take the summer off” from homeschooling in a formal way. This does not mean, however, that we take the summer off from learning:

  • Travel is a great way for kids to learn. You don’t have to do worksheets and tests to learn history, social studies, geography, and even math and literary analysis during your travels. This year we went to my kids’ father’s homeland — New York/New Jersey — for two weeks. We went to some great museums where they were presented with learning opportunities in a formal environment, and we did things like catching fireflies on warm Jersey evenings that promoted learning of a more experiential sort.
  • We didn’t go out for camps in a big way this summer, but my daughter did repeat her yearly visit to soccer camp. Of course she learned soccer skills, but she also learned important social and emotional lessons in an environment that is much more accepting of her big personality than a closed-up classroom.
  • We took time to work on long-delayed projects. My son and I started learning more about Arduino, a really cool piece of hardware that your kids can graduate to once they’ve learned the basics of computer programming and electronics. While we were doing that, my daughter got out our Snap Circuits, one of the best “toys” you can possibly invest in, and retooled her knowledge of how circuits work.
  • We spent a lot of time gardening and hanging out at my parents’ farm or down in the redwoods. Today’s kids are getting less and less time just to hang out in nature, despite the overwhelming research showing that they’ll do better in life if you just leave them alone sometimes.

The most successful thing we did to make sure that we didn’t just veg out during the summer was what has become an annual tradition: the Our Fun Summer poster. The kids and I sit down at the beginning of the summer with a pad of enormous paper and start to write down everything we hope to accomplish over the summer. We only took the poster down last week, and I’m satisfied to say that we did pretty much everything we wanted to do.

So now it’s back to homeschool. What that means for us is, first of all, reconnecting with the folks at our public homeschool program. This year reconnection took place at Blue Ball Park with a fair-like atmosphere — the older kids leading activities and crafts for the younger ones. The parents brought homeschooling supplies they were done with and exchanged them with other people’s cast-offs. (I scored a copy of Brian Jacques’ Redwall and a cursive practice book.) The teachers met with each group of kids and did a “get to know you” since there are always new kids coming in. Everyone perused sign-up sheets for school-led activities that they wanted to take part in. I signed up to help lead the film festival and the technology group.

So yes, Back to Homeschool does have meaning for us. But it’s not back to the grind, as it was in the old days. It’s more like a renewal of our commitment to living and learning together.

Posted in Education, Homeschooling.

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