In our family, we are straight up traditionalists about the calendar year. No Bing Crosby tunes until December 1, white only after Memorial Day, and god-forbid we crack a math book in June, July, or August! The thought sends shivers up my children’s spines.
In all seriousness though, I need the summer break as much as they do. After a long year of school, we’re ready for laid-back days, sleeping later, and sun—lots of sun.
Even though these three summer months are reserved for more relaxing types of activities, there are still plenty of ways to sneak other types of learning that a math lesson doesn’t provide. Here are a few ways we mamas can give our kids the break they need this summer while giving their brains a gentle work out.
If I let my kids watch television before our homeschool day starts, I can count on the fact that they will turn into little zombies. But in the summertime, I’m more lax on this rule. When the kids shuffle downstairs in the morning, I will let them watch a couple of short shows before they eat breakfast. But so many cartoons are just plain dumb. I mean, if Daniel Tiger sings me one more life lesson, I might implode. But for every Daniel Tiger, there’s another great show that can actually teach your child something without their even realizing. We really like Wild Kratts, and it inspires my kids to tell me the craziest facts about animals. Two other favorites are Magic School Bus (seatbelts everyone!) and the classic Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.
The Lesser-Known Holidays
Go to a site like Holiday Insights for an almost daily list of national holidays. Pick a few each summer month to celebrate with your kids. Check out some books ahead of time to read with your kids or do a fun project.
For example, July 10th is Teddy Bear Picnic day. Pack a picnic and read about teddy bears while you dine a la fresco. Did you know teddy bears are named after Teddy Roosevelt? What a fascinating life to learn over lunch! Your kids will never know you are sneaking in history lessons!
July 24th is Amelia Earhart Day. I'm sure you can think of a handful of fun aviation related activities to celebrate.
I realized this year after a very disrupted school year how much reading and reading aloud to my kids is even more of a learning experience then I had assumed. We had so many upsets in our schedule this past school year, but the one thing that stayed consistent was our family read-aloud time each night.
Keep that going for summer and have some great book lists for your kids too. (Here are lists for K-2 and 3-5.) Give them little prizes for finishing books like Bazooka bubble gum or quarters. When you and your children slip into the pages of a book, you’re traveling to other countries or other times. You’re learning so much more than you realize! History, grammar, spelling, geography and science are just a few of the subjects you can cover by reading a great book. So keep reading through the summer.
I’m not the best science teacher mom, but summer can break all those stigmas. During the year, keep a folder or a Pinterest board of fun science experiments and break it out this summer. Have your children do experiments from those fun science kits in your closet or pull out some simple ingredients from your kitchen cabinets and have fun!
Check your local nature center or parks to see what they offer for summer camps. Our local parks offer many week-long day camps that cover a variety of subjects such as computer programming, cooking, science, and animals. You could also check the zoo or local theatres to see if they have special programs for the summer. Your kids will experience a different way of learning and have a blast while doing it!
Last summer, I decided to pull a bunch of art project ideas that I had been wanting to do over the school year and create our own summer art week. Monday through Friday, we created a fun art project and displayed them on the wall for the next several weeks. We talked about butterflies, Picasso, and the Colosseum while doing these projects, and we ended up with some fantastic art. If art is something that gets neglected during the normal school year, summer may be the perfect time to sneak it in.
The idea of strewing is to place books and other educational items in different places around your house for your children to see and become curious about. For example, place a set of cards about the presidents or a microscope by the fireplace, on the coffee table, or in the corner of the kitchen. Don’t say a word about these strategically placed learning tools. Just sit back and watch your children voluntarily reach out and learn on their own. It’s fabulous! And sneaky!
Insert evil mom laugh here as I secretly “teach” my children all summer without their even realizing it! Sorry kids, you can take the homeschool out of the calendar but you can’t take the homeschool out of the mama—or some metaphor like that.
About the Author
Alicia Hutchinson is the homeschooling mom to four. She and her children love reading and history and exploring outside. They are just settling into their new home in the Minneapolis area, where they just relocated from North Carolina.
You can read more about Alicia and their homeschooling adventures, current projects, and thoughts on motherhood at her blog Investing Love.