In the last post, I described the summer break we had after our first official year of homeschooling. If you read it, you may recall that I said it was a “fun and balanced summer.”
“Fun and balanced” sounds pretty good to me – so why, I ask myself now, why-oh-why did I try and fix what wasn’t broken?
Looking back on Year 2 from a Year 5 perspective, I think it’s ultimately because I let the “you’re-not-doing-enough” worry-monster get to me.
(Note: This is the same really annoying worry-monster that plagues all homeschool parents. He rears his ugly head, even after years of successful homeschooling, making you question if you’re ruining your kids’ lives. I’ve found it easier to silence him over the years as I gain confidence through experience, but he’s extremely persistent, so be forewarned).
I remember thinking that the previous summer had been all fun and games. This might be OK for a recent kindergarten graduate, I thought, but now that my oldest was going into second grade, it was time to get serious. And so, the pendulum swung from one side of the Summer Break Continuum to the other.
The added summer school planning and more structured days on top of the birth of our wonderful baby girl and the devastating passing of my mother-in-law two weeks later, made this summer a whirlwind of emotion.
Here’s a look at what we did the summer after our second year of homeschooling.
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- Local Homeschooling Group – Like the previous summer, we still tried to meet up with a group at homeschool park days but our attendance was sporadic and the group was going through some transitions, too. The kids still liked it (because, after all, playgrounds are fun) but it wasn’t as relationally-fulfilling as the last year.
- Local Events – Also, like Year 1, we still tried to get to some of our local events but it was harder with a newborn and our summer school work routine. I did take my oldest to our Park District’s performance of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which he loved. And another event our whole family enjoyed was a free Jim Gill concert hosted by our town. My kids have all enjoyed his music and he puts on a great kids’ concert.
- Parks, Playdates, Splash Pads & Gardening – We still fit in some of our tried-and-true summer activities, but the school work, the newborn’s schedule and sheer exhaustion cut into our free time.
- Review Workbooks – I had my boys (then ages 7 and 4) work on daily pages in summer review workbooks like this and this. They spent less than 15 minutes a day on these and didn’t mind them too much (although I’m guessing they’d rather have been running in the sprinkler).
- Art Curriculum – I felt like we’d spent a lot of time on crafts and art projects the past school year but hadn’t focused much on art technique. I found the I Can Do All Things drawing & painting curriculum super-cheap at a homeschool book sale and we went through all the drawing lessons over the summer.
- Emotions Curriculum – We used the Zones of Regulation curriculum, also used by many schools and counselors, which gives kids the language and strategies to improve their emotional IQ. I hope to do a full review of it in the future, but it really helped my kids learn healthier ways to handle big emotions like frustration, anger and anxiety. We’re still using the ideas they learned from this program today when they feel “in the yellow zone” or need to use a self-selected cool-down strategy from their “tool-box.”
Overall, the intentions were good and there was definitely still value and fun in what we did. Each of the school-y activities we did were quality programs – my boys didn’t mind a workbook page a day, their drawing improved and we definitely benefited from the Zones curriculum advice.
But, especially given the emotional roller-coaster season we were in, I think we could’ve used more free time to process and play and just be.
I do still think summer is a great time to focus on skills or subject areas that might get overlooked during the school year. But, if I could do it again I’d pick just one or two of the school-y things – probably only one for kids as young as mine were.
There are a lot of good programs out there but you can’t do them all. Remember that every choice has an opportunity cost – something you CAN’T do because you ARE doing something else. So, when you’re planning your summer ideas, prioritize what’s most important, keep the ages of your kids in mind and don’t forget to take into account your current season of life.
Check out the next post to see the pendulum swing wildly to the other extreme!
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