Should I Plan an Educational Summer?

Cute boy, lying in the park in a fine sunny afternoon, reading a book
Tatyana Tomsickova Photography / Getty Images

My family homeschools mostly year round, typically taking a six-week summer break. Other families school year round minus the long summer break, while others stick to a more traditional school year with a June-August summer break.

Those who take longer breaks may purposely plan a variety of educational activities during the summer such as:

  • A summer reading program
  • A math problem or vocabulary word of the day
  • Weekly math drills
  • Summer unit studies
  • Summer field trips

If you don’t school year round (or if your year round schooling includes a longer summer break), should you plan an educational summer? It really depends on your particular family dynamics. There are pros and cons to filling your summer with formal learning activities.

Pros of planning educational homeschool activities during the summer

It can help prevent summer slide. Summer slide is a term that refers to the tendency of students to forget previously learned concepts when they take an extended summer break. It’s what necessitates so much time spent on review in the fall.

One of the advantages of year round schooling or planning an educational summer is that you can skip the review in the fall, allowing you to cover more material in the same amount of time as those who adhere to a more traditional school year schedule.

It can prevent boredom. While your average kid wouldn’t label schoolwork exciting, sticking to a familiar routine with planned learning activities can prevent cries of boredom.

Summer can provide a wonderful opportunity to have fun with educational options that don’t fit well into the typical school year, such as art, drama, hands-on projects, and science experiments.

With so many summer camp options, it can also be a fantastic time to explore alternate educational opportunities.

Potential camps might include: sports (basketball, bowling, gymnastics), electives (art, drama), or even subject-based, such as a science camp.

Some kids need structure and routine. Some kids really need a predictable daily structure and many homeschooling parents have found that this can best be achieved by maintaining the structure and routine of a regular school day year round.

For other families, maintaining routine may mean delving into more low-key, fun summer learning within the boundaries of their regular daily schedule. For example, kids might maintain their basic daily homeschool schedule while taking a break from their regular curriculum. This might mean keeping their math skills fresh playing online math games in place of completing their math textbook or replacing assigned reading with self-selected titles.

It can provide time to shore up weak areas. Summer can be an excellent time to focus on a student’s weak areas. From skip counting to multiplication facts to reading, if your child has a particular area of struggle, a few weeks or months off from your regular schoolwork to focus on mastering that skill can be hugely beneficial when resuming school in the fall.

Pros of NOT planning educational activities during the summer

Kids may need time for information to percolate. While some children greatly benefit from time to focus on shoring up a weak area, others may need time for the concepts they learned or struggled with the previous year to percolate in their minds.

For some kids, focusing on an area of struggle breeds more stress, negativity, and resistance to the subject. Often a child who struggles with a particular concept simply isn’t developmentally ready for success in that area. Being able to put it aside for a few weeks – or even a few months – can result in successfully acquiring the skill when addressing it again. I’ve seen that happen in my own homeschool with skills such as reading, spelling, and long division.

Both the teaching parent and the kids need a break. Sometimes both the teaching parent and his or her students need some down time to relax, indulge in hobbies, and enjoy some family time. Homeschool burnout is a very real concern when the teaching parent doesn’t get a break or allow time for self-care and investing in his or her own hobbies and interests.

  

Having a few weeks (or a couple of months) away from the heavy responsibility of being solely responsible for your children’s education can be so rejuvenating. Even after 14 years of homeschooling, I am not immune to doubts and worry-induced insomnia, but those feelings rarely occur during the summer months, in part due to the fact that I’m not negatively comparing my homeschool to traditional schools – everyone is on break!

For homeschooled children, the summer months with their increased free time can provide time to invest in their own hobbies, read “fluff” books, and discover new interests.

Summer is a time for making family memories. Sure, you can make family memories any time of year and for homeschooling families those memories can – and often do – involve school time. However, the warmer weather and the freedom to stay up later and sleep in, coupled with vacation days for the work-outside-the-home homeschooling parent (which may mean both parents), often results in memory-making moments that may not be possible during the school year.

The slower pace of the summer months along with fewer (for most of us) regular commitments allows for impromptu family time in addition to the typical family vacations that may be on the agenda.

We need time to just be the parent. Homeschooling moms (and dads) wear many hats: teacher, guidance counselor, cook, taxi driver, and janitor, just to name a few. I have often said that one of the most difficult aspects of being a homeschooling parent, for me, is spending time with my kids outside of school time.

Especially when they were younger and the days were more mom/teacher-intensive, by the end of the school day, I was just ready for the downtime that many introverts require in order to recharge. In addition, there was dinner to be prepared, papers to be checked, and baths to be given.

The summer months can afford a much-needed opportunity to put the teacher hat on the shelf for a few weeks and just be the parent. Build forts, blow bubbles, wander the mall with your teenager – indulge in family-friendly summer activities and take advantage of the opportunity to simply be with your children.

Whether you decide to plan an educational summer or enjoy a reprieve from the responsibilities of homeschooling, don't feel guilty. If your educational plans don't quite meet your expectations, that's okay. If doing nothing sounded like a great plan, but your student really needs to practice his math facts, that's okay, too. 

Summer is a great time to enjoy all the flexibility that homeschooling can afford - whether that means knowing the schoolwork will still be waiting on you next fall or sneaking in some skip counting in the swimming pool. Enjoy your summer!
 

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Bales, Kris. "Should I Plan an Educational Summer?" ThoughtCo, Jun. 7, 2016, thoughtco.com/should-i-plan-an-educational-summer-4051668. Bales, Kris. (2016, June 7). Should I Plan an Educational Summer? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/should-i-plan-an-educational-summer-4051668 Bales, Kris. "Should I Plan an Educational Summer?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/should-i-plan-an-educational-summer-4051668 (accessed October 21, 2017).