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Reclaiming Your Sanity This Summer

June 16–20, 2014   |   Vol. 119, Programs 66–70
Originally Aired: June 25–29, 2012 | Volume 112, Programs 36–40

Summertime is every school kid’s favorite time of the year! This week on Home School Heartbeat, Mike Smith shares thoughts on how to reclaim your summer from the frenetic pace of the school year and enjoy it to the fullest with your family!

“An important part of childhood is having the time to think about life, to explore the world at a leisurely pace, and to develop imagination.”—Mike Smith

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Are you enjoying your summer break from homeschooling? This week on Home School Heartbeat, host Mike Smith offers a few ways to make your summer more productive and more fun—and hopefully leave you saner by the time fall rolls around again!

Mike Smith: For most families, summer is a time to shift gears, ease up on the academics, and enjoy some hard-earned rest! Whether you’re stopping school completely or just changing your routine, summer can be a great season to try new things—like swimming lessons or a road trip.

But today I want to encourage you to take advantage of summer in another way. Most of us function in one general way. I might be disorganized, while you may be a “type A” who has the next year planned in detail. If you have children, chances are some of them have different temperaments from you!

This is a good time to experience life differently than you normally do. If you tend to meticulously plan every day, your family might thrive on a few weeks of spontaneous adventures. And once you get over the shock of not having your day mapped, you might enjoy the journey a little bit more, too!

On the other hand, if you’re less organized, your children may really benefit from participating in a structured summer activity. Whether it’s a weekly class or a few weeks at camp, learning to follow a more fixed routine is a valuable lesson for homeschooled children. And it’s one that they will need to have learned later in life when they leave your home. Why not give them a head start this summer?

Join me next time for more summer break suggestions! And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Last time on the program, we considered summer break as a great opportunity to try new things, or even new ways of doing things. Today’s suggestion is simple: you don’t have to do everything.

Sure, summer provides an opportunity for numerous activities—swimming lessons, sports clinics, summer camps, or catching up on a challenging subject with some tutoring. But think back to your own childhood memories. Do you remember mornings spent wandering through the woods, or afternoons where all you did was run through the sprinkler and eat popsicles with your best friend? An important part of childhood is having the time to think about life, to explore the world at a leisurely pace, and to develop imagination.

It can be easy to think that we need to provide every possible opportunity for our children. But we might accidentally crowd out the time and space they need just to be a child! After all, parents aren’t the only ones who suffer when the pace of life is too frenetic.

So this summer, give your child some breathing room. Make sure she has a library card and time to read. Does your child know how to entertain himself? Consider turning off the TV, computer, and the Xbox for a while. Boredom can be a powerful motivator for self-directed learning! Let your child discover the world outside, and the world of ideas. He’ll thank you someday when he looks back.

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Last time, we thought about the importance of giving your children time to just be children this summer. Having time to think and dream is good for children of all ages! But as your students get older, there’s another level of self-direction they can explore during the summer.

Even if you don’t normally use a child-directed approach to learning, summer is a great time to let your student really explore his own interests. That might be simple, like checking out books from the library on a topic that interests him. Or it might be a little more involved!

One local family has a high school–age son who’s interested in agriculture. Since his parents come from white-collar professional backgrounds, they networked with friends to find a family on the other side of the country who had a ranch where their son could work over the summer. The experience confirmed for the young man that he does want to pursue farming, so he’s applying now to study agricultural science in college.

While your student may not discover her vocational calling over the summer, this is a perfect time to branch out, explore, research, or volunteer. And as much as you may want a particular future for your children, it’s their own interests, strengths, and skills that must ultimately carry them forward. So give them a chance to start making their way by exploring what intrigues them now.

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: This week we’ve been focusing on giving your child both new experiences and the time and space to explore the world this summer. But there’s another gift that you can give your child that you might not have considered: take some time to rest yourself.

“When mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” the old saying goes. And it’s true. If you come out of summer still on the edge of burn-out, the start of your next school year is unlikely to be joyful or exciting. So this summer, find a way to make some time for just mom. Can you take your kids to the grandparents? Swap a weekend of babysitting with a friend? You might get out of town for a few days, or just create a day were you have the house to yourself. Taking the time to refresh and renew will bless your whole family.

And just as important as taking “just mom” time is taking “just mom and dad” time. Cultivating a healthy marriage is the best thing you can do for your children. This summer is a great time to prioritize spending time with your spouse.

Take advantage of the long evenings to take a walk together and talk. Is there an activity, like water skiing or camping, that you enjoyed together during your courtship or early marriage? Making time to do something fun together can go a long way toward building a better family. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: This week we’ve been considering various ways that homeschooling families—and especially the teaching parent—can reclaim sanity over the summer. Whether you take time to do new things, or do nothing at all, the summer provides a break from school and your normal routine.

But before you forget totally about the cares and responsibilities of homeschooling, there are a few things that you can do right now.

If you haven’t already done this, take time this summer to evaluate your past school year and plan for the upcoming one. You may find it helpful to draw a simple rubric for this purpose. How did each of your students do in each area of academics? If your student struggles in a specific subject, would a different curriculum better fit his learning style? Do you need to do a “summer intensive” on any particularly challenging subject?

But don’t stop at academics. How are your children developing emotionally, relationally, and—most importantly—spiritually? Take advantage of the summer break to pour more intensive time into a struggling relationship. Brainstorm with your spouse and mentors about how to disciple and encourage your child better in the coming year. And don’t forget to ask your child for their input, too!

Taking time to regroup this summer will pay dividends when you start next fall with a vision for where you want to take your family, and how to get there. And that, friends, is a summer well spent. But 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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