It’s warming up. Summer’s here in spirit, if not actually in season. So… while that means that school ends for public schoolers, sometimes it doesn’t for homeschoolers.
I vote that no matter how you handle academics, you continue to school this summer. How? The fun way!
The main way we will be doing “school” this summer is through educational field trips (not just big ones). These are easy and terrific ways to keep your kids engaged in learning without interrupting too much of your normal school day. I’ve shared before why I think four day school weeks help keep field trips a possibility during the regular school year.
Summer opens up the calendar for homeschoolers too, usually. Even those of us who school year round (I think we are joining that now that we no longer live at a summer camp, but we will see how things play out here), end up taking time to visit family, friends, vacation spots.
Use every outing as a chance to teach.
While we don’t want to lecture our kiddos, we do want to use teachable moments as much as possible. Field trips do this perfectly. Even the little ones.
Taking a hike?
Look for plants & animals you already can identify and then be sure to take photos of some you don’t to research at home. If hiking at a park, see if there is a Junior Ranger activity. My kids love doing these and we all learn something new. If you can remember to do so, make a checklist of items to look for and hand these to each kiddo. Wee Babe LOVES this for some reason and he’s only four!
Going to see family?
Check out On the Way. This site will show you places of interest on your route, many of them educational. Be sure to research what kind of fun outings you can do while in your vacation city.
You can even make the drive it self educational. My dad made me and my sister crazy by asking us, “If we are driving 55 miles per hour and we have 120 more miles, how long will it take to get there?” Sigh. Hated it. Now, I think it’s a good idea. In moderation. Have your kids map the route, check off cities on the map as you pass them, figure out what the next town is, etc.
Checking out a museum?
While this seems easy since the entire event is educational, I’ve found that it is often an overload, especially for the younger kids. A way to combat this is by focusing on a specific aspect. If you are visiting a museum of natural science, choose one topic per “room”. Focus on that and allow them to branch out based on interest, but hone in to help with retention. If a very specific museum, then ask them questions about each display.
Visiting a theme park?
Ok, I have no ideas for this one. Suggestions other than some crazy physics activities that I couldn’t do anyway?
Learn the names of the different kinds of fish as well as any birds you see. Take a guess at the beginning who will catch the most as well as who will have the “lunker” (heaviest) and most total weight, then weigh and measure the fish. Keep a tally of the sizes. Maybe give a prize to the different winners.
Visiting a zoo/aquarium?
Ask the kids to figure where each animal lives (terrific continent and/or country lessons, depending on your kiddos’ ages) or eats or weighs. Ask questions at every other sign. I can ask a different kid something at each marker without overloading all of them by asking a group question at every sign (booooring), but they all hear the question and answer (sneeeeeaky).
And the big one…
Doing anything at all?
Have each kiddo narrate about the activity afterwards, as soon as possible. Honestly, I have just started doing this for activities and I’m thrilled. The kids, not so much. It reeks highly of work to them. Once I added the idea of drawing a picture too, the Littles became more enthusiastic. For the older kids, they had to write one paragraph about the event (it’s gonna go up…. shhhh!). This has obvious benefits: composition practice, handwriting practice, summarizing skills, recall, and on. Narration is a very good thing.
Make this fun for your kiddos, but for yourself too. I understand that sometimes moms just “want a break”. Truly. In that case, don’t ask or do as much, but do something. Build the neural connections in a fun way.
Lastly, reward your children (and yourself, if necessary). I am not above treats for great narrations, verbal praise for terrific searches for answers, and cheers for spontaneous math.
So, no matter what your days look like, take the time to help your children’s brains learn during summer activities!