Summer Schooling

July 1–5, 2013   |   Vol. 116, Programs 26–30
Originally Aired: August 4–8, 2008 | Vol. 84, Programs 1–5

“Learning doesn’t have to stop with the end of the academic year.”—Mike Smith

What if you and your kids really need a break from homeschooling for the summer—but you don’t want to lose academic ground, either? Is there a way to balance diligence and fun over the summer months? This week, Mike Smith suggests various ways to stay academically engaged without burning out.

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Education should be happening all the time—and for homeschoolers, it can…even during the summer break. This week on Home School Heartbeat , Mike Smith discusses a fun way to keep learning all year long.

Mike Smith: Summer is here. For many homeschooling families, that means wrapping up the school year and taking a break. Not a textbook is opened until August, when Mom dives into planning for the coming school year.

Using the summer to rest and recharge is vital for families who follow a traditional academic calendar. But it can have an unintended consequence when September arrives—families find it hard to get back into the school routine. In fact, homeschoolers have come to expect a few false starts to the new school year. You can expect that students need review time in each subject before getting up to speed.

But you don’t have to sacrifice your summer break in order to eliminate the reentry phase. Instead, why not use the flexibility of homeschooling to your advantage by planning your own version of summer school? By having your children keep up with some of their schoolwork during the summer, you’ll need less review time in the fall.

Summer school also takes off pressure during the regular school year. If your child is overwhelmed by schoolwork or having trouble in a particular subject, you can reduce the workload and make it up during the summer.

With a slight adjustment to your daily routine and a bit of planning, you can make the summer months a fun and relaxing part of the school year. This week, I’ll be sharing ideas for doing just that. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: For homeschooling families, learning doesn’t have to stop with the end of the academic year. Summer is a golden opportunity to keep learning on a more relaxed basis. Why not use these months to pursue some activities that just don’t fit with the regular school year?

Summertime is flexible enough for activities that require extra driving or take a little more time. A field trip can turn into a day trip without any harm to your schedule. Your children can commit the necessary hours to a drama production or a robotics team.

It’s not just time-intensive courses that are ideal for summertime. Some courses are too short to mesh with the academic year. You can defer a biology lab or short theology unit until summer, when they will fit in around your other plans.

You can also treat June, July, and August as a teaching lab. Identify and investigate your child’s learning style. Experiment with different teaching methods. Try out a textbook or curriculum to decide if you want to include it in your next year’s lesson plans.

With the relaxed atmosphere of summertime, it’s easier to open up your home to others. You can turn hospitality into an educational opportunity by hosting missionaries, or by allowing a Bible study, choir, or play group to meet in your home.

This summer, add zest to your homeschool program by teaching something different. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: The main thing to remember when planning your summer homeschooling is to keep it relaxed and simple. The point is to enjoy your summer, not place a burden on yourself and your family. So, plan to study topics that excite and inspire you.

You’ll want to set a realistic schedule. Maybe you’ll only do school for one month this summer, or for an hour a day, or two days a week. You may decide to leave the mornings for outdoor activities, and teach during the afternoons when it’s cooler indoors.

During the summer, a little bit of homeschooling goes a long way. Instead of in-depth planning, try a more flexible approach—set your goals for a particular class, do a little library or internet research, and see where each day takes you. The more your children are involved in this process, the more they will experience the rewards of self-directed education.

Summer break is an especially effective time to catch up on challenging subjects. Maybe your daughter struggled with grammar during the spring. Instead of letting that distract you from your goals for the regular school year, you can focus on grammar when summer arrives.

Or, if your son is having trouble with math, cut back to half a lesson each day—but continue through the summer. By building slowly but steadily, your child doesn’t lose ground and can solidify what he is learning. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Are you the kind of homeschooling parent who tries to turn everything into a teachable moment? For you, a vacation is just a glorified field trip. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that approach! Summer vacations are a great way to have fun and learn at the same time.

Your children can learn valuable life skills while you travel. Let them research hotels online and use a map to plan your route. They can also keep track of the travel budget and make decisions about your itinerary.

Or, use your vacation to study a particular subject, such as West Coast wildlife or Civil War battlefields. This can mean planning a full-fledged unit study around your trip, or supplementing with just a few educational activities.

In the weeks leading up to your trip, research the subject and decide what sites you’d like to tour. Perhaps you could read some related historical fiction or plan to attend a local festival. Save up for a special activity such as dinner in Little Italy. And have your children use a travel journal or camera to document what they learn.

As you plan your summer homeschooling, remind yourself that flexibility is key. Whether it’s a library reading program or a road trip, be willing to adjust your plans, pursue rabbit trails, and let your children take initiative. Real learning will take place when you least expect it. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Before you decide exactly what your homeschooling plans are for the summer, ask your children what they would like to study. Summertime is ideal for letting them explore their own interests.

Maybe your child wants to learn horseback riding, or try some Civil War reenacting. Perhaps he’s fascinated by a particular author or composer. Maybe your daughter wants to pursue a medical career and wants a head start in biology. You may be surprised at what your child would study if she had her own way!

Once you’ve selected a subject, involve your child in the planning process. Talk about ways that he could begin researching the subject. Investigate possible field trips or museum visits. Try to accommodate your child’s preference of activities. You will get a new perspective on how he learns best.

Be sure to plan a wrap-up project, such as a portfolio, report, or scrapbook. Other fun ways for your child to document what she has learned are to give a family presentation or make a video.

If your child is not enjoying school, or is struggling with his normal school work, delight-directed study gives him the chance to experience the joy of learning again. By letting him learn about something that is important to him, you help him see that education is relevant and exciting. And when he becomes involved in the planning process, he can better understand how he learns.

In one summer, your child will gain knowledge that lasts a lifetime. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith

Michael Smith and his wife Elizabeth, along with Michael Farris and his wife, Vicki, incorporated Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983 and were the original board members. Mike grew up in Arkansas, graduated from the University of Arkansas where he played basketball, majoring in business administration. Upon graduation, he entered the U.S. Navy and served three years before attending law school at the University of San Diego.

In 1972, he was admitted to the bar in California and also has been admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States. He is licensed in Virginia, California, and Washington, D.C.

Mike and his family began homeschooling because their 5-year-old flunked kindergarten. This was quite a disappointment to Mike in light of the fact that he was preparing this child to be president of the United States by starting his education as early as possible.

His family’s life changed drastically when he heard a radio program in 1981 which introduced him to the idea of homeschooling. When they started homeschooling, they began homeschooling one year at a time to meet the academic and social needs of their children. After spending lots of time around people like Mike Farris, he became convinced that he had been called to use his gifts and talents in the legal profession to assist homeschoolers who were being prosecuted because they didn’t hold a teacher’s certificate or satisfy the school district that they could competently teach their children.

Mike came to HSLDA full-time in 1987 and has served as president of the organization since the year 2001. In addition to serving as president, he also is a contact lawyer for California, Nevada and Puerto Rico. All of Mike’s children are now grown, and three of the four were homeschooled. The most enjoyable part of Mike’s job is when he is able to go to homeschool conferences and meet what he calls America’s greatest heroes, homeschooling moms.

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