5 A Day for Summer

For homeschoolers, it can be hard to decide when the school year begins and ends, but because we live in a way that is very interconnected with our school-schooled friends and neighbors, we have found that found that for our household it makes the most sense to begin in September and end in June each year.

This does not mean, however, that there is no structure or learning going on in the summer.  In fact, I think that summer is a great opportunity to keep up skills, give a little bit of attention to weak areas, or explore rabbit trails which came up during the school year, and summer needs to be well used by families of children who will go to school in September as well.

My mother was able to make our summer fun and learning (and everything about our family life, really) feel like it just naturally happened to occur in the most brilliant way.  She is cool like that.  I, on the other hand, have to impose an obvious structure on things, in part because I am so often distracted that I can’t seem to make sure that the good stuff happens if it doesn’t happen on purpose.

So, the idea of 5 things each day makes sense to me, and my kids know about it and will have an assignment in each of the following categories to complete each day:

SKILLS – Growing up, we got a big workbook each summer, I guess it was a skills book at our grade level, and on rainy days we would sit around the kitchen table at the beach house and do it.  The book had stickers, which was all the incentive I needed.  My mother tells me now that by having ALL the kids in the house do a workbook, she never had to draw attention to one child or another who had struggled and needed some assigned review over the summer.  Well done, Mom.  By high school, SAT vocab flashcards while lounging in the pool were the norm.  Nerd-o-rama, but hey, it seems to have worked.

For my kids, this will be math and perhaps a little bit of writing, not more than about 15 minutes a day.

BOOKS – The very best summer thing for me was the trip to The Corner Bookstore before we would head away for a quiet week in the Adirondacks — there was no TV there (and no internet anywhere :)), but we got to chose and buy books, some from our school lists and some of our own selection, and it was heaven.  As I got older, my father would often read the same classic books as me, which added a lot to the experience.

In our case, we read off the school literature list for each grade level over the summer, so that during the school year I can assign fiction that ties in to our history curriculum and also just leave time to read stupid fun stuff like the Hardy Boys.  So, each child will have 2 or 3 assigned good books over the summer.  We are not going to do the summer reading program at the library, because I can’t count on getting there every week, but I think I will set up a little prize box and just do my own program.

With longer evenings, summer is also a great time for reading aloud.  Last year we read The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.

EXERCISE – Like my brothers and I before them, my kids will have a forced march to an icy pool every summer morning to work out for swim team.  They will wear their bathing suits so much that they wear them out!  I really just think that this is great for them and makes it easier to fall asleep at night even when it is light out long past bedtime.  Also, I loved swim team, and they do, too.  In our case, it is a nice way to be part of a community over the summer and see people everyday, so even though we have a pool in our backyard, we head to the neighborhood pool to swim.

MUSIC – My children who take piano will continue with lessons over the summer, so they will still have to practice piano each day.  I am also hoping to add some music appreciation to our longer summer car rides.  As much as I love that they love Billy Joel and Bon Jovi, it may be time for some more formal exposure.

ART – I am going to try to throw some art and craft projects at them over the summer, anything from drawing prompts to potholder looms.

With a baby due in mid June (any day now), our summer is going to be a little bit funky.  Therefore, my children know that the household routine will be to do their 5 things and then be pretty free and independent.  Some of this time will be spent watching TV or movies, I just know it, and I have made my peace with that.  This is just how it has to be this year.  But, with the 5 a day structure, I know that it won’t be 9 hours of TV and that they will have done plenty of good stuff before they flop on the couch.

Lest you think that we are tiger-summering, most of August will be TOTALLY unstructured.  We will spend some time “watching the grass grow.”  A certain someone may learn to ride his bike without training wheels.  We might take some day trips to the ocean.  I will order books for September and make each child a crate, and try to hold them (and myself) back from starting too soon.  Maybe we will take a rainy day and do a massive clean out of the school room.  We’ll do back to school shopping on a day when the crisp air conditioning at the mall makes it feel like a huge treat to be there.    Come labor day, we will put our feet back into real shoes and look forward to apple pie and the changing leaves.  To everything there is a season…

  • Kathleen

    I like this idea of the 5 things. We had sort of just petered out on the homeschooling year after a few visitors and a out of town trip, but this week I realized I needed to regain some structure. That can be such a challenge. Our goals are simple. A short phonics lesson for the preschooler and a little math and writing for the almost 1st grader. And lots of reading aloud. ARts and crafts is my downfall. Glitter and feathers and pipe cleaners are my nemeses. Thanks for sharing how you handle summer!

  • Mary Alice

    Kathleen, my kids just dug out a bin I have (topic for another post) labelled fun for a rainy day. I sighed as they pulled out finger paint, etc, but it turned out tO be great. Doing those things outside or keeping them for a rainy day helps me, my kids cannot have access to glitter everyday!!

  • Juris Mater

    A very ambitious summer with a newborn!! : )

  • maryalice

    Yes, it may be too much, but my thinking at this point is that having a plan for things to do will work better than just bumming around the house which seems to lead to fighting. If it all goes sour I will pack them all into the van and move in with my mother :)

  • Kellie “Red”

    It does seem ambitious for a newborn baby…but you are intense! There is NO WAY I would do anything art related when postpartum.

    We also do a simple summer routine around here. Piano, one “weak subject” per child, Spanish, and swimming. So really, it’s a 4 a day–AND I don’t have a newborn baby. I guess I’m a slacker :-)

    • maryalice

      But surely your children are going to read? And you will read to them? That is one of the things, so it is really not as intense as it sounds. The math skills that they will be doing is just a page in the MCP book that is the grade level that they finished this year, so it will be totally independent and take about 15 minutes, and the older two will do a few problems from the supplement at the back of their Saxon book. I will not be teaching any material. Piano practice requires no supervision from me, just a reminder. Art will be a project on rainy days but will often be continuing work on a craft they already know how to do or just drawing in a notebook, I’m sure that your children will draw this summer as well. The idea is just to have a decent list of things to do so they are not looking at me bored or asking to watch TV at 9 AM.

  • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com Katrina

    Great ideas here, I especially like that your kids will know what you expect every day and that many of their activities are independent. It doesn’t sound too overwhelming, except for the potential mess for arts and crafts.

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    Alice, I am inspired here. Summer for me is my chance to “homeschool” since the kids are in school during the year. It’s how I make peace with my inner self, knowing all the fabulous things you all are doing with your kids throughout the year. Structure will be essential for us this summer, especially with a new baby around. We implode without structure. What I like about the 5 things idea is that it breaks it down to themes and allows for flexibility as to when those themes are accomplished. We’ll probably set up a block system that blocks out time and we’ll insert activities as needed. For us, the music block will need to be addressed early in the day. We all love to put it off… :)

    • maryalice

      Totally, and when you put off practicing piano it just doesn’t happen…

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    I’ll also add that I’m learning the older kids really benefit from me sitting down with them and talking through a schedule. If they help create the structure, they have much greater buy-in. And I love collaborating with them! It’s so fun to see them learn to organize.

  • JMB

    Wow! Do you have someone to help you get the kids to the pool? I can’t imagine having to get myself, baby and all my kids out the door early in the am. Don’t mean to be a downer, we had a live in au pair who got me through the summer after my youngest was born. I don’t know what I would have done without her. I’m very slow in the am, and heaven to me is being alone in my house with baby while my children are happily engaged elsewhere.

    • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com Mary Alice

      I will have some family help for the first few weeks, when I am just physically recovering, and on difficult days it is possible for my kids to get rides from neighbors to practice.

      At this stage, being with my kids at the pool is not really a big effort, we live just a few minutes from there and can drive or bike, and once we are there all six children are occupied, leaving me free to either chat with friends or sit in the shade and read. Our pool is very small and the main swimming area is off limits to the little guys until their lessons, so the preschoolers can do either the playground or a little splash pool, and either way they are happy while the big guys are in team practice.

      I am hoping that some limited, very safe feeling socializing together with the sun will go a long way towards minimizing my PPD. We’ll see.

      Also, after Red advised that my kids not do swim team this year, I sat them all down and told them that some people thought it might be too much for me to get them to the pool, and that as soon as it became too much for me we would stop going, so it was going to be up to them to make it happen. This worked wonders! They are taking responsibility for getting ready, organizing the towels, etc. So far, so good.

      • JMB

        Good! I felt badly for sounding like a Debbie downer. Take it easy – these times don’t last forever:)

        • maryalice

          I think that the kicker for me may come when it is time to resume “normal” life in the fall, with the stressors of homeschooling and other activities and when the outpouring of help from friends and family lets up, my husband expects to be back at work on a regular schedule, etc. We continue to think about an aupair each year but for now just go with plugging in help here and there. I think at some point we will need someone full time, though, and an aupair may be the best way to do it.


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