Our family has been homeschooling for more than 12 years now, and, God willing, we’ll be graduating our older daughter next spring. When the girls were little, we could finish all of their curriculum before the official summer break time, but as they grew older and had more things competing for their time, it’s become customary to have at least 1 or 2 subjects that need to be finished over the summer. I’ve developed some strategies to keep us from going crazy or making my kids feel like they never get a break from school.
First off all, if it looks like we’re not going to finish everything by the beginning of June, I start decisions which subjects we need to finish off. For my younger daughter, this usually means getting the easy stuff out of the way. You have a book analysis due for the last quarter of school? You have a couple of five-paragraph essays to write? Knock that stuff out, because English and Literature are easiest for her. I might let something else slide a little, knowing that with a little extra time, we’ll get through it (hello, Geography?) But having most of the courses finished helps us all feel like we’ve accomplished something. At the same time, though, I know that my older daughter struggles with math, and she doesn’t want to do it any longer than necessary. So for her, I might let the easier subjects go and focus on ripping off the band-aid that is Geometry. If she can finish that, it won’t loom over her head like an anvil hanging over Coyote in the Looney Tunes shows. One way or another, if I know I can’t finish it all, I start picking and choosing what I want to spend my summer doing.
When we get to the end of co-op, I try to take a week off for sanity’s sake. Usually at that point, we’ve spent the better part of 3 months running to soccer practices and games, dance classes and rehearsals and recitals, and a million things at the church. EVERYONE needs a break, if only to reset our brains. At this point, I know that we can either take an official break or everyone will take mini-breaks and get half the work done for about three weeks. Take the official break and put the books away for a bit.
I try to take a look at what we have to do and see if I can spend a couple of weeks and just knock out an entire subject. It feels really good to check off the whole thing and put it away, so if I can ignore everything but that subject, I do it. You have two chapters of Geography to read and a test? Great. Spend this week reading and get it over with! You’re only a few stories away from the end of your American Lit book? Super! Read that, put that book away. All you have left for World History is one chapter. Good golly, knock it out!
Sometimes there are a couple of novels to read, and guess what? Reading by the pool (or at the beach, or at the park on a picnic) is a thing! When you homeschool, you don’t have to actually be at home. Grab some books and go hang out at the pool for a while. (Just remember to keep tabs on your kids’ progress; set a goal for finishing a chapter or two before taking a swim break.) Almost any subject can be brought out into the world and done outdoors, so don’t feel like you have to be at home or in the library to get anything done.
And use that local library! If you need a change of venue, but maybe your child has ADD and can’t do stuff at the pool or beach, then head to the library for a half-day of work. Our beautiful new library has study rooms that can be reserved, and we’ve used it for studying and testing. These allow us to talk to each other about the lessons without disturbing other patrons.
Homeschooling gives our family great flexibility in how we study and learn, and one part of that flexibility is being able to finish our lessons over summer break when necessary. Knowing this and keeping these strategies in mind helps me stay sane when our schedule blows up in April and May, preventing us from finishing everything “on time.” But knowing we have this time to tie up loose ends also gives us the freedom to travel during the traditional school year and to teach subjects that best match our children’s learning styles and strengths.
What about you? If you homeschool over the summer, what are your strategies for finishing it up and staying sane?
Copyright 2016 Christine Johnson