Our Homeschool Summer Break – Year 4

If you’ve been following this series (if not, start here), you’ll probably have noticed a pattern by now. We seem to keep ping-ponging back and forth between work-focused summers and play-focused summers, always trying to find the sweet spot.

Year 3 was a summer of virtually no advanced planning and no academic work. So, you probably won’t be too surprised when I tell you that Year 4 was the complete opposite. 

(And, according to my oldest son who was just reading over my shoulder a minute ago, Year 4’s summer was “horrible!”  Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.)

Summer Break Continuum showing Year 4 towards "All Work" end of diagram

Since I was about to have a 4th grader and a 1st grader, I felt pressure to make sure we weren’t “wasting time.” After all, fourth grade is “upper elementary” which, if you round up, is essentially Jr. High. And we all know that Jr. High sets the stage for High School at which point you’re really just preparing for college…

So, based on this Nervous-Nelly line of thinking, we had about 3 months to get my oldest career-ready and living on his own!

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit for effect. I’m not quite that high-strung. Here’s the reality of what we did that summer:

  • Fast Five” and “Super Six” – This is the closest to year-round schooling that I’ve attempted. The intention was that the boys would have a few, quick “Summer Activities” for each day and, once those were completed, they were free to play. My oldest had six activities (“Super Six”). He read the Bible for 15 minutes, read other books for 30 minutes, practiced piano for 15 minutes, and then chose an activity from the STEM Jar (a math or logic puzzle or question) and the Copywork Jar (a Bible verse or quotation to copy). He also started Jr. Analytical Grammar so we could get a head start for the following year. My younger son had five activities (“Fast Five”) – a similar list but shorter times and no grammar. Although giving things cute names usually helps, no name could disguise my academic intentions.
  • Vacation Bible School – Since they loved it so much the last year (and because I didn’t want to be deprived of my prime school planning time) my boys participated in VBS again. A great week was had by all!
  • Dodgeball Camp – This summer we let the boys each choose a park district camp and my oldest chose dodgeball. He had a great time and came away from it with all his teeth! Win, win!
  • Art Camp – My younger son chose art camp and absolutely loved it. And, as an added bonus, they did a bunch of messy projects there which gave me a break from doing them in my kitchen (if only for a week). 
  • Summer Reading Programs – We participated in several reading programs over the summer. You can check out more about some of the ones we’ve liked in this post.
5 Reading Incentive Programs and How They Can Work for Your Family
  • Fun Summer Traditions – We did as much of our usual summer fun stuff (pools, parks, nature centers, play dates, gardening, etc.) as we could cram in, but there was less time for it all because of the academic work and camps we were doing, too. 
  • Vacation – In the middle of the summer, we took an amazing trip with my parents and sister’s family to see the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, both in Kentucky. It was a very memorable and educational trip and a much needed break from our more structured summer routine.
Life-sized Noah’s Ark at the Ark Encounter (Williamstown, KY)

Lessons Learned

I think I learned more from this summer than any of the others so far. Here are the things I’m going to try and keep in mind in the future:

  1. Know your limits! Like Year 2, each of the things we did were good in and of themselves. But I tried to fit “fun summer”, “academic summer” and “try-new-camps summer” all in a single summer without acknowledging how much time each of those take up.
  2. Call it what it is! I tried to get away with calling this a “summer vacation” when really it was verging on schooling year-round (especially when I added the new grammar curriculum into the mix for my oldest). I’m not knocking year-round schooling – some homeschoolers have great success with that kind of schedule. But I’m guessing their success is partly because they’ve scheduled in other breaks and paced themselves for year-round academics. We did neither of those things.
  3. Keep the kids in the loop! I’d be willing to bet the parents who have success with more academic-focused summers have let their kids know what to expect ahead of time. What my kids expected (lazy days at the pool) and what they actually got (school to-do lists and sentences to diagram) were very different things. My bad.
  4. Know the warning signs! When you find yourself squashing good things for the sake of “finishing your school-work,” it’s time to stop and consider what it is you’re really trying to achieve. “Stop using your imagination to create clever inventions and get back to your monotonous grammar worksheet” is NOT something I want to hear myself saying to my kids.
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself! Even when your plans flop and you have a “lessons learned” list a mile long, remember to celebrate the good that happened, too. Even though we were overworked and I would kind of like a do-over for Year 4’s summer, we still had fun moments and the kids enjoyed their camps, family vacation and outings. We still grew and learned and played and did life together. And we’ll be better off next year having learned from the past. There are ALWAYS blessings from God to be thankful for – even in the midst of failed plans and sentence diagrams.

Stay tuned for next week’s post when we’ll catch up to current time. I’ll share my plan for what we’ll be doing for our upcoming Year 5 summer break!

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