All About Summer (Home) School

The Pros and Cons of a Summer Homeschooling Trial and Tips to Make It a Success

Summer Homeschooling
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If your children are currently in public or private school, but you're thinking of homeschooling, you may think that summer is the perfect time to test the homeschooling waters. But is it a good idea to"try out" homeschooling during your child's summer break?

There are pros and cons to a summer homeschool trial, along with some tips for setting up a successful trial run. 

Pros for Trying Homeschooling During the Summer

Many kids thrive on routine.

Many children function best with a predictable schedule. Moving right into a school-like routine may be ideal for your family and result in a more peaceful, productive summer break for everyone.

You may also enjoy year-round homeschooling. A six weeks on/one week off schedule allows for regular breaks throughout the year and longer breaks as needed. A four-day week is another year-round homeschool schedule that may provide just enough structure for the summer months.

Finally, consider doing formal studies only two or three mornings each week during the summer, leaving afternoons and a few full days open for social activities or free time.

It gives struggling learners a chance to catch up.

If you have a student who is struggling academically, the summer months may be an excellent time to strengthen weak areas and see what you think of homeschooling at the same time.

Don’t focus on the trouble spots with a classroom mindset. Instead, practice skills actively and creatively. For example, you might recite times tables while bouncing on the trampoline, jumping rope, or playing hopscotch.

You can also use the summer months to try an entirely different approach to areas of struggle. My oldest had difficulty with reading in first grade. Her school used a whole word approach. When we began homeschooling, I chose a phonics program that taught reading skills in a systematic way with lots of games. It was just what she needed.

It gives advanced learners an opportunity to dig deeper.

If you have a gifted learner, you may find that your student isn’t challenged by the pace at his school or is frustrated at only skimming the surface of concepts and ideas. Schooling during the summer provides the opportunity to dig deeper into the topics that intrigue him.

Perhaps he’s a Civil War buff who wants to learn more than names and dates. Maybe he is fascinated by science and would love to spend the summer conducting experiments.

Families can take advantage of summer learning opportunities.

There are many fantastic learning opportunities during the summer. Not only are they educational, but they can provide insight into your child's talents and interests.

Consider options such as:

  • Day camps – art, drama, music, gymnastics
  • Classes – cooking, driver’s education, writing
  • Volunteer opportunities – zoos, aquariums, museums

Check with community colleges, businesses, libraries, and museums for opportunities. A history museum on a college campus in our area offers summer classes for teens.

You may also want to check your favorite social media outlets for local homeschool groups. Many offer summer classes or activities, providing you with educational opportunities and a chance to get to know other homeschooling families.

Some public and private schools send children home with a summer bridge program that includes reading and activity assignments. If your child's school does, you can incorporate those into your homeschooling trial.

Cons to Summer Homeschooling

Kids may resent losing their summer break.

Children learn early to embrace summer break with excitement. Jumping into full-fledged academics when your kids know that their friends are enjoying a more relaxed schedule could leave them feeling resentful. They may project that feeling onto you or onto homeschooling in general. Transitioning from public school to homeschool can be tricky anyway. You don’t want to start off with unnecessary negativity.

Some students need time to reach developmental readiness.

If you’re thinking about homeschooling because your child is struggling academically, consider the fact that he may not be developmentally ready for that particular skill. Focusing on the concepts your child finds challenging may seem like a good idea, but doing so can prove counterproductive.

Many times parents notice a marked improvement in a particular skill or understanding of a concept after children have taken a break from it for a few weeks or even a few months.

Let your child use the summer months to focus on his areas of strength. Doing so can provide a much-need boost of confidence without sending the message that he's not as smart as his peers.

It can leave students feeling burnt out.

Giving home education a try with a heavy focus on formal learning and seatwork will likely leave your child feeling burnt out and frustrated if you decide to continue with public or private school in the fall.

Instead, read lots of great books and look for hands-on learning opportunities. You can also use those summer bridge activities. That way, your child is still learning and you're giving home educating a try, but your child can return to school refreshed and ready for the new year if you decide not to homeschool after all.

A sense of commitment may be missing.

One problem I’ve seen with a summer homeschooling trial run is a lack of commitment. Because parents know that they’re just trying homeschooling, they don’t work with their children consistently during the summer months. Then, when it’s time for school in the fall, they decide not to homeschool because they don’t think they can do it.

It’s much different when you know that you’re responsible for your child’s education. Don't base your overall commitment to homeschooling on a summer trial.

It doesn’t allow time to deschool.

Deschooling is a foreign word to most people outside of the homeschooling community. It refers to allowing children a chance to let go of any negative feelings associated with learning and rediscover their natural sense of curiosity. During the deschooling period, textbooks and assignments are put aside allowing kids (and their parents) to rediscover the fact that learning happens all time time. It isn't constrained by school walls or blocked off into neatly-labeled subject headings.

Instead of focusing on formal learning during summer break, leave that time for deschooling. That's sometimes easier to do over the summer without stressing and worrying that your student is falling behind because you don’t see formal learning happening.

Tips for Making a Summer Homeschool Test Run Successful

If you choose to use the summer break to see if homeschooling might be a good fit for your family, there are some steps you can take to make it a more successful trial.

Don’t recreate a classroom.

First, don’t try to recreate a traditional classroom. You don’t need textbooks for summer homeschooling. Get outside. Explore nature, learn about your city, and visit the library.

Play games together. Work puzzles. Travel and learn about the places you visit by exploring while you're there.

Create a learning-rich environment.

Kids are naturally curious. You may be surprised at how much they learn with little direct input from you if you’re intentional about creating a learning-rich environment. Make sure that books, art and craft supplies, and open-ended play items are easily accessible. 

Allow kids to explore their interests.

Use the summer months to help children rediscover their natural curiosity. Give them the freedom to explore the things that capture their interest. If you have a child who loves horses, take her the library to borrow books and videos about them. Check into horseback-riding lessons or visit a farm where she can see them up close.

If you have a child who’s into LEGOs, allow time for building and exploring. Look for opportunities to capitalize on the educational element of LEGOs without taking over and turning it into school. Use the blocks as math manipulatives or build simple machines.

Use the time to establish a routine.

Use the summer months to figure out a good routine for your family so that you’re ready whenever you determine it’s time to introduce formal learning. Does your family function better when you get up and do schoolwork first thing in the morning, or do you prefer a slow start? Do you need to get a few household chores out of the way first or do you prefer to save them until after breakfast?

Do any of your children still take naps or could you all benefit from a daily quiet time? Does your family have any unusual schedules to work around, such as a spouse’s work schedule? Take some time during the summer to figure out the best routine for your family, keeping in mind that homeschooling doesn’t have to follow a typical 8-3 school schedule.

Use the time to observe your child.

Look at the summer months as a time for you to learn rather than teach. Pay attention to what sorts of activities and topics capture your child’s attention. Does he prefer reading or being read to? Is she always humming and moving or is she quiet and still when she’s concentrating?

When playing a new game, does he read the directions from cover-to-cover, ask someone else to explain the rules, or want to play the game with you explaining the steps as you play?

If given the option, is she an early riser or a slow starter in the morning? Is he self-motivated or does he need some direction? Does she prefer fiction or non-fiction?

Become a student of your student and see if you can pinpoint some of the ways he learns best. This knowledge will help you choose the best curriculum and determine the best homeschooling style for your family.

Summer can be a good time for you to explore the possibility of homeschooling - or a great time to begin preparing for a successful start to homeschooling in the fall.