by Karen D. Koch

When asked recently if we do year-round school, I answered, “It depends on what you mean by ‘year-round,’ or by ‘school’ for that matter.” By the time summer rolls around, I’m pretty desperate to catch up on my to-do list, and the kids need a break, so we don’t do much, if any, structured school, in summer months. But that doesn’t mean the kids aren’t learning. I’m just sneakier about it.Cheaper by the Dozen

One of my favorite books growing up was Cheaper by the Dozen. It recounts the true-story, humorous goings-on of a family in the 1920s. The father, Mr. Gilbreth, was a time and motion study expert with 12 children, so he trained them to listen to German and French records in the bathroom as they prepared for school, taught them all to type, and painted Morse code and constellations on the walls of their summer beach cottage on Nantucket with prizes for the kids who deciphered messages first.

While Mr. Gilbreth’s strategy was sometimes annoying to his kids, I like his mindset. There’s always something new to learn, and it doesn’t have to be tedious.

I don’t paint Morse code on the walls of the house, but what we do I prefer to call “summer stealth schooling.” Kids (and parents!) can learn all the time, and often learn better if we’re not doing worksheets or memorizing things. So even if the kids don’t think they’re learning anything, you know better.

Some suggestions for Stealth Schooling

  • Audio books in the car or at home
  • Lamplighter Radio Theater
  • Classical CDs, music from other cultures
  • Local plays (We went to see a homeschool production of Cheaper by the Dozen last week!)
  • Jonathan Park audio adventures (creation/science)
  • Adventures in Odyssey historical episodes
  • Documentaries (DVD, TV), pick your subject
  • Summer camp
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Learning new skills like baking
  • Concerts
  • Libraries/library reading programs
  • State Parks
  • National Parks
  • Local parks
  • Read-alouds all summer (last summer I read every Caldecott winning book to my youngest) – maybe a whole series like Narnia, the Rani Jungle adventures, or Cheaper by the Dozen.
  • Historical markers (“Hey kids, let’s see what this says!”)
  • Museums – so many, so little time
  • Gardens, planting, harvesting, identifying
  • Mission trip
  • Volunteering
  • County fairs/entering items
  • Language tapes (have to love Mr. Gilbreth)
  • Contests to enter – writing, poetry, photography (see HSLDA’s contests)
  • Putting on a play
  • Building forts
  • Sewing projects
  • Making up codes/messages/treasure hunts

Year round school doesn’t have to be math assignments and vocabulary worksheets. Remember that the world around offers an amazing variety of natural learning. I’m even considering having the kids listen to French and German CDs in the bathroom in the morning. . .I’m sure Mr. Gilbreth would approve.

Post replies for your ideas for stealth schooling. I’d love to hear them.

Karen Koch has been married to Monte for nearly 23 years. They have four children, two semi-launched into the world (19, 17) and two littles (13, 7). She loves to read and write and helps run a mother’s grief support group (Mourning to Morning). She serves as CHEA’s Communications Assistant and alternates between being wildly productive and horribly inefficient.

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