by Katie Julius
With Memorial Day dubbed as the “unofficial start of summer,” many homeschool parents may be asking themselves, “What am I going to do all summer?” Since we are used to having our kids at home, it’s not as big a transition between the school year and summertime. However, most extracurricular activities are on a hiatus during the summer, so you may find yourself looking for ways to fill your summer days. We’ve compiled some ideas here to help make your summer both fun and educational.
Some families continue to homeschool year-round, so other than their outside activities, their days look very much the same, no matter what time of year. While spending the summer doing school may not be appealing to everyone, there are several advantages. The first is that you avoid the “summer slide” when kids forget some of the things they learn because they’re not using those skills for several months. When we took the first summer of homeschooling off, we had a lot of review, especially in math and reading, once we started back again in the fall. It also avoids that struggle of getting back into the swing of your school routine after a long break. Homeschooling through the summer allows you to take breaks during the school year at unusual times. We take a break from our traditional academics during the busy holiday season in December and just before CHEA’s Annual Homeschool Convention since my workload is higher during that time of year.
If the thought of continuing your normal school schedule during the summer is not at all appealing to you, maybe doing a “lite” version of school would work for your family. Consider doing just reading, math, and Bible. It doesn’t have to be your normal curriculum either – something to keep the kids learning and using their skills. You could also pick a topic you are all interested in and do a unit study on it, incorporating good books, fun activities, and even a field trip.
Summer Reading Programs
Many libraries launch a special reading program during the summer where kids read books to earn prizes. There are also online reading programs. Pizza Hut is offering a special summer reading program called Camp BOOK IT! in addition to their regular BOOK IT! school year program where kids can earn free pizza for reading. A reading challenge like the one Pam Barnhill offers for free can also keep your kids reading throughout the summer months. It also gives them the opportunity to read books outside of their usual selections and in unusual ways or places (in the park, a restaurant, eating ice cream, etc.).
Summer Bucket List
Summer is the perfect time to try some new things. It also allows time for activities that aren’t always possible during the rest of the year, either because of weather or schedules. A friend of mine has a large chalkboard that her family uses to create a summer bucket list of activities they want to do as a family during the summer. Your list will be unique to your family, but it doesn’t need to be filled with lofty or difficult-to-accomplish goals. Fill most of it with smaller goals you know you can fit in your schedule — a beach trip, reading a certain number of books, or getting Slurpees on July 11 (7-11, get it?). Then add in a couple more involved challenges like a home remodel or redecorating project or hosting a special event at your home like an outdoor movie night or BBQ dinner. While the goal is to accomplish everything on your list during the summer, don’t let that be the only focus. Be sure to enjoy the activities and memories you are making as a family along the way.
Take a Class
If your kids (or you!) are interested in learning a new skill, finding a class during the summer shouldn’t be too difficult. In our area, you can find something on almost any topic–musical theater, sports, art, STEM, nature, horses, swimming, etc. Some classes, or day camps, are an intensive week-long program while others are just an hour per week throughout the summer. Vacation Bible School (VBS) is another option if you have kids who are elementary school age. One year, we spent our summer “VBS hopping” since the churches in our area offered their programs on different weeks. Middle and high school students are often welcomed as volunteers, so check with the church where their younger siblings plan to attend VBS.
Opportunities for volunteering abound, especially for teens, during the summer. Many cities have community service programs for teens. When I was a young teen, I spent one summer serving at the library during their summer reading program. I spent another summer volunteering at a pool as a swim instructor’s assistant. Whatever your teen is interested in, have them reach out to an organization that specializes in that topic and ask how you can help.
If you have younger kids, you may need to look a little harder for a place you can serve as a family, but they are out there. Places like food banks, farms, and pet shelters are a good starting point. Check with your church to see if they have any projects you can work on during the week as a family, too.
Summer was made for being outdoors! If you aren’t an outdoors person or family, this can be as simple as heading to a local nature center and going for a short hike or heading to a day at the beach. For those who have lots of experience with nature, planning a backpacking or multi-day camping trip might suit your family better. Water sports are a great way to get outside and beat the heat this season often brings to California—swim, kayak, SUP (stand-up paddleboard), water skiing, etc. Of course, there are also organized summer camps. Some of my best memories were made at summer camp as a child and teen. While sign-ups for these typically happen in the spring months, you can check with your church or contact a camp directly, if they offer their own programs.
While we do have the luxury of traveling during the offseason as homeschoolers, travel can still be a part of your summer plans. Whether you are staying local, planning a road trip, or flying across the country, there are lots of ways to make traveling during the summer fun while some learning also happens. When our family travels, I always look in the area to find what is nearby that is educational (usually historical or science based places). No matter where you find yourself going, be sure to check out the National Parks Service’s Junior Ranger Program or other similar state and local programs. My daughter loves earning and collecting badges from all of our family’s adventures. They even have some virtual and online badges that kids can earn if you aren’t traveling anywhere and are looking for something different for your kids to do.
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. Opportunities will vary depending upon your location, the ages of your kids, and your family budget. Regardless of how you spend your summer, it’s a sobering reminder that we only have 18 summers with each of our children before we launch them into adulthood. Make the most of it as you build your relationship with and disciple them.
What are your plans for this summer? Share in the comments below.