Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer School- Oh, yes we do.... here's what we're doing and why

Yes, we do indeed have school over the summer.
I do believe I'd lose the bits of sanity I tenaciously hold on to if we didn't.

Allow me to explain... it's not highly structured and it includes a great deal of fun.
Yes, school can be fun.
Who knew, right?

Here's What we do & Why we do it:

1. We do math 2-3 days a week
I give my kiddos a two week break after the official end of school in May and then we start back up with our math two days a week and sometimes three days a week. If they're math book from the just finished school year wasn't completely finished then we work on that... otherwise we pull out the book for the next year and get a jump start on the coming year.
This is great for many reasons- the main ones being:

a. Retention: My kiddos don't backslide with their math skills but instead remain sharp and consistent
b. Skipping ahead.... because we do math all summer and retain so much and because the first   chapter in the new math book is always review- we skip ahead. I have my kiddos take at least the first two tests in the new book as it's usually review. As long as they score
c. Creates wiggle room. Because we start the school year "ahead of the game" in math, we're able to have a bit of flexibility with our math during the school year. We can have late start days where we sleep in and skip math and I can declare surprise Get Out of Math Today free cards when I feel like it or when a kiddo really needs it.
this past school year, because of the early start, Ms. Books was able to go down to a 3 day a week math schedule for the last 6 weeks of school, which really helped her to be able to focus on her big end of year project for history/Language Arts instead.

2. Summer Reading [at the Library]
Yep, even my oldest still does summer reading! In fact, I do too! We don't make it to all the programs but we participate in the fun reading challenges and manage to check out a boatload of books weekly from mid-June thru mid-July. We also find that we explore further into the treasure trove that is our library. We find we dig more into the non-fiction books. Just this week, Ms. Books hauled home a sewing book and a few books on the Civil War (for research on a short story she's writing) and Mr. C brought home a book on Legos and another on the Titanic.
Summer also affords us great out of the norm spots for great reading... like poolside and beach side and under a sheet fort built over the clothes line, or on the porch swing....
We also continue to make time for a family read aloud in the summer. It's become a family tradition to read aloud these two (this one and this one) hilarious books every single summer.

3. Home Ec
We've got quite a few recipes we've been wanting to try and now is the time to try them out! Sassafras is plotting and planning to bake something yummy at least once a week. Ms. Books has some bread recipes she'd like to attempt and I've got a Pinterest board full of homemade ice cream flavors we've got to try. Sass also just received a popsicle maker and she's making plans to put that to good use this summer also.
Ms. Books' strawberry chocolate pancakes made just last week
Besides cooking, we'll do some home repair and revamps going on that the whole family pitches in with. Ms. Books has plans to make curtains for the girls room and Mr. Conductor's room plus teach Sassafras how to make a pillow case. She also plans to make a few more fun skirts. The Boy will help his Daddy make a shelf for me and a couple of other pinteresting type projects. 

4. Interest led learning
Because my kiddos are in the groove of always learning and learning is fun, they will often dig deeper into the things that interest them. They'll check out books and do internet searches and saturate themselves in it until they feel full. Summer gives us lots more time to explore these things. Often during the school year, the kiddos will make note of different topics they want to dig deeper into during the more freeing time of summer. What this looks like right now for us- Ms. Books is totally hooked on researching family genealogy, Sass is into nature study and sketching and the Boy is all about WWII planes.
We also take the time to look up some great documentaries on Netflix that we made note of during the school year and we make the time, during the heat of the day, to watch one or two a week.... which can lead to great discussing and even, gasp!, more interest led learning and another trip to the library! 

5. Gardening
I live with a pack of gardeners. I often wonder how I got to be so blessed. The kiddos love plotting, planning and planting the garden. Weeding not so much.... but we try to reward ourselves with lots of ice cream. Ms. Books is in charge of the watering and fertilizing schedule and keeps her troop of two marching. Of course someone always gets as much water on themselves as on the garden but that's part of the fun. The kiddos are great bug detectors and are all  about pest control. Mr. Conductor even raised a worm/caterpillar to a moth a couple of years ago. They love helping harvest the garden and everyone takes part in the putting up, whether by freezing or by canning. They really do love pickle making day as we make it a family event (with ice cream afterwards... we're all about the ice cream) and they enjoy snapping beans as a family while we watch a movie together in the cool house too.
Mr. Steady and the Boy are planning to start a worm bin again, Ms. Books is researching the best herbs for chickens and Sass jumps into everything garden related with both feet (right in the dirt). Gardening is great learning-- the science in the growing and the study of the weather, learning and researching what to plant where and about companion planting, figuring out how to make better compost and the way through to harvesting and canning.
And oh the character training you can glean from gardening, especially the trait of patience!

6. Field Trips 
Ms. Books painting the trim on the coop
We love field trips... so much so that we can make a field trip out of running errands.... like the time we decided to stop at the cheese factory and watch them make cheese while on a trip back from our favorite Amish store. We love to catch as many of the old car shows in our area as we can- we went at least five different ones last summer. Field trips can also be to farmers markets, the ice cream shop, to the big woods for a hike, camping, or to the big Lake for a swim. We have a free public museum in a big town 45 minutes away that's always good for a summer visit plus we have an annual family pass to The Henry Ford.... oh how we love Greenfield Village!

7. Farm Learning
This spring we acquired eight Dominique chicks that have grown into a little flock of lovely ladies. Besides learning to take care of chickens, the kiddos helped the Mister and Pawpaw build a beautiful chicken coop and run. Right now the kiddos are in negotiations with their daddy and Pawpaw concerning the purchase of a few pigs... 

I'm sure there are other things in our every day, ordinary summer life livin' that could be tagged as school related but I'm at a loss to think of them as we've created such a schooling/love of learning lifestyle here where everything works its way into the learning process sooner or later. I am ever so thankful that my children enjoy learning and do not find doing "summer school" to be a hardship.... um, except for the math.

Also- at some point in the next couple of weeks, my children will each be taking a standardized test. We do this every two years so as to keep track of what's going well and what needs more work or some tweaking. For those who wonder, testing is not a homeschooling requirement in our state. If you are interested in state regulations go here.

So what about you? Do you do summer schoolin'?
If you do, I'd love to hear about it!


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