Our Homeschool Summer Break – Year 5

our homeschool summer break year 5 title on grass background

I’d like to start this post with an apology for any neck injuries you may have sustained by following this series of posts.  It’s been like watching a tennis match!

Back and forth I’ve gone, trying to find the sweet spot for our summers. More academic? More relaxed? Over-scheduled? Lazy days? Seems like we’ve tried it all.

We’ve finally caught up to real time in this series – we’ll be heading into our 5th official homeschool summer in less than a month! 

It’s been so helpful for me to review where we’ve been so we can decide where we’re going. I highly recommend all homeschoolers – all parents, really – take some time to review past school years and summer breaks. The lessons you’ll learn about what works and doesn’t work will be so helpful for future planning!

Ironically, based on what I’ve learned has worked for our family so far, our plan for this summer will look a lot like our very first summer! I guess we’ve come full circle!

Summer Break Continuum showing Year 5 on "All Play" end of chart

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Our best summers have been those with a framework of fun activities (vacations, camps, some goals for our days) and lots of planned spontaneity (intentional but somewhat optional activities). 

Keeping that in mind, here’s what I’ve got planned for our upcoming summer:

Summer Reading Program

My kids love reading so we might as well get some free books while we’re at it, right? The Half-Price Books summer reading program is one of the easiest we’ve done as far as record-keeping goes. No specific book lists or complicated rules. Just add up the minutes. Easy peasy.

5 Reading Incentive Programs and How They Can Work for Your Family on cartoon background with boy reading book

VBS & Summer Camps

We’ve consistently had great experiences with our local Vacation Bible School (VBS) and our park district’s camps. To keep from over-committing ourselves (or going broke), we’ve let each of our boys choose one week-long camp in addition to VBS. My soon-to-be second-grader has picked an art camp and my almost-fifth-grader is taking a campfire cooking class at a local nature center. This will give some structure to our summer and give the kids each some time apart for unique experiences.

Marching Band

My oldest had a great time in our homeschool band this school year and has decided to try their summer marching band. This will involve a one-week band camp and a handful of parades. He’s excited to try something new and his younger siblings are excited because parades = candy. So I think that will work out well. 

Required Daily Activities

Although we’re leaning towards the “all play” end of the continuum, there are still skills and habits I’d like to see happen every day. We’ll do daily Bible reading as a family and individually. My kids will also be continuing with piano practice (we’re still fans of the Bastien Piano series) and percussion practice for my oldest. And I’ve decided not to set a minimum daily reading time since they read all the time anyway – we’ll see how they do with the freedom to read as much or little as they want this summer.

The Usual Summer Stuff

By keeping a tight reign on the camps and commitments, we should have plenty of time to take part in our traditional summer fun stuff. I can already hear our pool passes calling to me from the pool bag! We’ve also got vacation plans in progress and free time to spend with family and friends at parks, kids’ museums and nature centers. And our garden is already in full swing! (Thanks mostly to low-maintenance edible perennials that show up with out me doing a thing — oregano anyone?)

vegetable and herb garden in spring
Gardening is an AWESOME learning opportunity!

So, that was the easy part – the “framework” and the fun stuff. 

But I’ve still been trying to figure out a way to work in a little more intentional learning without making it seem like a “list of schoolwork.” 

I’ve tried fun-looking to-do lists… too school-y.

I’ve tried having them pick daily copywork & STEM activities out of jars… sorta fun (they liked the element of surprise) but the activities were too much like work (for me and them).

I’ve tried summer workbooks… okay, but not super fun.

I’ve tried directly suggesting they work on certain learning activities (as in “why don’t you practice those multiplication flashcards!”)… yeah, right.

If only there was a way to encourage my kids to do some hand-picked learning activities without A) having to do much prep work and B) having them recognize it as mom-suggested “school stuff.”

Well, maybe… just maybe…. there is!

Enter strewing.

If you haven’t heard of strewing, it’s basically just purposely leaving certain things (books, activities, etc) in your kids’ path where they’ll find them. Unschoolers tend to use it and it works well with child-led methods. I’ve read about it in the past and I’ve left things out from time to time, but I’ve never really made a serious effort to try it. Check out this post for a quick explanation and some examples of strewing in action.

I’m hoping this might be a good way for me to get educational-ish activities in front of them without pushing or nagging. I’m building a list of fun and educational things I’ll be strewing around the house for them to find and explore. So far I’ve got:

  • Documentaries – mostly onYouTube, Pureflix & Netflix
  • Crafts – YouTube art tutorials, art supplies and craft project idea books
pile of homeschool games, puzzles, books and art supplies
Part of my secret strewing stash for summer!

The best part is, this doesn’t have to cost a lot! A couple of items in my summer strewing stash are new. But most of them are things we already own (but haven’t used in a long time) or super-inexpensive finds from recent local homeschool sales and garage sales.

And so we don’t just get caught up in a “gimme-more-material-stuff” habit, I plan to mix in natural and non-store-bought things. A bowl of pinecones, a new recipe to try or some pieces of scrap wood will hopefully help spark their creativity.

This past week, I did a test-run of the process (that is, I forgot to put a book away and they found it). The book was called Top Secret – full of secret codes and ideas for wanna-be spies. 

It worked so well!! 

They spent days – DAYS – playing detective, writing out coded messages and creating their own detective kits with hidden compartments. And they’re showing no sign of stopping. Brilliant!

So, with that huge, accidental success under my belt, I’m optimistic for summer. My plan is that on days we’re already busy, I’ll skip it or just leave out a new book for quiet time reading. But when those whiny summer “Mom, I’m bored!!” days roll in, I’ll be prepared with worthwhile activities they can explore for hours (a mom can hope, right?).

I’ll do a follow-up post in a few months to let you know how this all turned out! Happy summer planning everyone!

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our homeschool summer break year 5 title on grass background

Our Homeschool Summer Break – Year 4

Our Homeschool Summer Break Year 4 on grass background

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.)

Continue reading “Our Homeschool Summer Break – Year 4”

Our Homeschool Summer Break – Year 3

Our Homeschool Summer Break Year 3 on grass background

Last week I promised you a summer on the other side of the continuum, so here it is! The summer of our mega home renovation! When all bets were off, plans were non-existent and I was living way, way outside my Type-A, Planner-Person comfort zone.

You can see more about the renovation, including before and after pictures, in this post.

I didn’t try to plan a more relaxed summer. I didn’t decide that we needed less formal school-ish work. By the time I had my head far enough above water to think about our summer homeschool plans, it was already August. 

Continue reading “Our Homeschool Summer Break – Year 3”

Our Homeschool Summer Break – Year 2

Our Homeschool Summer Break - Year 2 on grass background

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.

Continue reading “Our Homeschool Summer Break – Year 2”

Our Homeschool Summer Break – Year 1

Our Homeschool Summer Break Year 1 title on grass background

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. 

Continue reading “Our Homeschool Summer Break – Year 1”