I never know what to do with summer break.
Wait. Let me rephrase that.
I never know what to do for our homeschool during summer break.
If I ever had the luxury of my own summer break, I’d know exactly what to do with it (i.e. unlimited ice cream, a beach and a stack of books)!
But I digress.
When it comes to planning out what to do for my kids’ education over summer break, I perpetually bounce back and forth between two extremes.
Part of me wants to live free and in the wild (like the Kratt brothers). Kids are only kids once so let them enjoy the summer and have a true break. They’re learning all the time anyway so maybe I should skip the planning and just embrace spontaneity and have fun.
On the other hand, what about the dreaded summer back-slide? We don’t want to lose educational ground during their off months! And without some kind of plan or schedule I truly would lose my mind. Maybe I need to keep up with some schoolwork over the summer or possibly even school year-round.
In this Summer Break series I’ll be describing what we did each summer and where each summer falls on the “Summer Break Continuum,” somewhere between the extremes of ALL PLAY and ALL WORK.
Hopefully reading about our experiences will help you find your ideal spot on the continuum and give you some ideas to try (or NOT try) during your next summer break!
Our Homeschool Summer Break – Year 1
Partly because my kids were young and partly because I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t plan too much structured summer work for my kids after our first year of homeschooling. This turned out to be a good thing.
At the time, I had a 6 year old who’d just finished kindergarten plus his 3 year old brother. The only school-ish thing I planned ahead was a homemade handwriting practice book for my oldest. (You can check out some of the pages I used and download them for *FREE* here — you’ll find them under “Step 3”).
We also worked our way through many of the LEGO WeDo builds and coding exercises. Since I was going to be teaching the WeDo class at our co-op the following year, this doubled as teacher prep!
Other than that, I just tried to fill our weeks with a mix of spontaneous and intentional fun summer things:
- Creative Kids Club – This was a free, monthly, online interactive homeschooling club that included fun projects and videos (it was hosted by CurrClick which unfortunately closed back in April 2019).
- Local Homeschooling Group – We met up at different parks throughout the summer which was a great way to meet people in the group and check out new playgrounds in the area.
- Local Events – Our Park District offers free, monthly lunch-time kid shows (like magicians, singers and other artists). My boys also enjoyed free LEGO and STEM classes at the library and music-in-the-park concerts hosted by our town. When you check out what’s offered in your area don’t forget to check your neighboring towns, too!
- Splash Pads – These are the coolest invention ever. They’re usually free to use, they’re great for kids of all ages and it’s easier than a trip to the pool (especially with young kids who need you in the water with them at a traditional pool). Don’t forget the beach toys, funnels and buckets for hours of fun (i.e. longer for mom or dad to rest on a bench)!
- Gardening – I generally kill indoor houseplants (I don’t mean to, it just happens) but have had success with our outdoor garden (I’m pretty sure it’s because God handles most of the watering for me). I learned right alongside my boys and we loved working on our gardening projects together.
- Day & Weekend Trips – We didn’t do any long vacations that summer but really enjoyed a short trip to not-too-far Wisconsin Dells with family, a few day trips to nearby beaches and a visit or two to kid’s museums with friends.
- Playing with Friends – They played with friends or neighbors a couple times a week and we saw family frequently, too. This gave the kids a good mix of time alone and time building relationships.
Overall, this was a fun and balanced summer. One of the main reasons for this was that we had mostly easy, optional activities (I even started a new Calendar category just for “Optional Events.”) Each weekend I looked at the week ahead, picked what worked and skipped what didn’t. Easy peasy.
Also, the handwriting review book took my oldest son about 10 min. a day so he didn’t mind. He was a voracious reader, even back then, so between his writing, reading and constant, incessant, unbelievably-never-ending questions, I’m sure he was learning plenty.
The added bonus was that this was also a very inexpensive summer. Once we figured out the kids had just as much fun launching sand toys from splash pad jets (FREE!) as they did at kid’s museums (most definitely NOT free!), we took advantage of all the easy & free things we could and splurged on just a few special outings.
In the next few posts you’ll see various ways I tried to do Summer Break differently… bouncing from too much school work to not enough structure. Some success… some bumbling… but ultimately always learning more about what works and doesn’t work for our family.