Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Planning for Summer: Details #1

Including today, my kids have 7.5 days of school remaining.  The end is near.  It is time for us mommas to band together and make a plan for the days and weeks that lie ahead.  Last week, I blogged on this very thing.  (If you missed that post, click here to head back there.)  It is a tricky thing to face down the end of the year and dream about what is to come. The end of the year always leaves me feeling a little bit sad... It seems to me that watching my kids magically transform from 3rd grader to 4th grader or :::gasp::: 8th grader to FRESHMAN, causes me more pause and sometimes more tears than their actual birthdays.

My sweet boy, who has grown from this...
to this... 
to this confident 8th grader!
High school, here he comes!

And once we get past that final day of alarm clocks and school clothes and morning rush and homework and teary good-byes to teachers and friends, we are staring down 81 glorious, unstructured, hairy, hopeful days of summer.

I mentioned last week that we always set academic goals for our kids to chip away at during those summer months.  As a former educator, it is hard for me to imagine leaving behind the thrill of learning for nearly 3 months!  I want my children to embrace a lifestyle of seeking knowledge and embracing the wonder of creation.  I also want to think through each child's strengths and weaknesses and make a plan that helps them to begin their new school year feeling ready and capable!

Some ideas:

1.  We have always bought "workbooks" for our kids to process through during the summer.  Most days they will do a page or two and show them to use to check for errors.  I have found that a lot of workbooks are set a level that is below the grade level listed.  Because of this, I usually buy workbooks for the year AHEAD of where my kids are going to be.  Be careful with this though... books can differ.  Since you are the expert on your child, you know best what will keep them moving forward instead of just practicing standing still.  My kids have not really fussed about this because it has always been a part of summer.  So, when I bring home new workbooks, they so strongly associate them with those long and lazy days that they are happy to see them come in!

2.  What about teens?  It can be awfully hard to find workbooks for older kids!  So what do we do with that?  We use a lot of online tools and tap into the interests of each child.  For instance, my oldest boy LOVES math and science!  We love what Khan Academy does and will have them go through a lesson or two each day on that site to explore new ideas and reinforce old knowledge.

3.  I like to look at the summer months as a season of relaxed homeschooling.  So, thinking about what we can learn together in terms of a unit can be helpful.  Consider reading some Little House on the Prairie aloud to your kids and then follow those books up with a trip to local living museum.  In the Chicago area where we live, we can visit someplace like Naper Settlement to meet a goal like that!  Or we take a trip to Springfield and try to figure out where the history of Lincoln meets Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Think about the things you wish your kids knew more about... then jump in with two feet putting together something to do or read at home and something to go see and experience!

4.  One of my plans for my 9 year old daughter is to have her take her love for American Girl books and translate that into historical knowledge.  We will make a big poster to hang in her room with chronological time spans typed across the top.  As she reads different American Girl books, we will have her jot notes about factual events and details from that era on the poster.  By the end of summer, she will have a broader view of American history while she strengthens her reading and comprehension skills!

5.  A few years back, I found a book on Amazon that contained many famous stories that I wanted to share with my kids.  The book was a read aloud book with the approximate time it would take to read each selection printed on the title page.

We had so much fun going through those tales together!   I will never forget reading The Ugly Duckling to my kiddos while they laughed HYSTERICALLY at the fact that the duck was actually called ugly.  Being raised in such a politically correct time, it was beyond their comprehension that such words would be used aloud!  What a fun and funny afternoon we shared as they learned that classic story and I studied their precious faces and we giggled and listened together.  I highly recommend reading together! As you choose your books to read aloud, do not worry that your child has outgrown hearing you read.  You are making memories together and igniting memories of the past, as well!  Do it for the love of story.  Do it for the love of sharing something together.  Do it because it is good and it matters.

6.  We intentionally gather books that will make learning easier in the summer.  We put them out to be used and referenced.  We have a great bird book on hand in case something flies by that we cannot quickly identify.  We have a book on rocks and minerals that my kids love to to peruse when they find a new, cool stone outside.  Think about the kinds of things your kids enjoy to learn about and put books and supplies out that will allow them dig in on their own.  We love Half Price Books for books like these!

During the summer months, I want my kids to continue learning.  They do not spend their days over worksheets and tests!  Instead, they invest 10-30 minutes each day on one or more of the ideas above.  We put a high priority on playing outside and while we want them to extend their academic knowledge, we also want them to embrace the slow, relaxing pace of the season ahead.  The key to fantastic summer is to find a way to balance the things our kiddos need and the things we know they want.

A lot goes in planning a summer to remember.  My next blog will talk about how we plan for opportunities for our kids to invest in their needed/wanted skills... including some talk of camp!  (Those who know me well know that I could blog for a year on the value of camp!)  So hang with me and think about the weeks and months to come.  What really matters to you?

Blessings on your day!

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