Homeschool in the summer.

To school or not to school, that is the question.  Ok, so maybe the question is more like..”How much school should we do over the summer?”

Whether you call it the “summer slide” or the “summer gap”, loss of skills during vacation has long been a problem for public schools.  Schools in the US originally had summers off because farm families needed their children to help during the growing season, but the days of being an agrarian society have long passed.  Every teacher can tell you that the at least the first month of every new school year is spent reteaching forgotten skills. So why do public schools continue this practice of more than two months off?  Who knows?!!

One of the best parts of this experience is that no one is telling us when to work and when to take vacation days.  The freedom this gives us is exhilarating. We don’t have to worry about a “summer slide” because we aren’t planning to take off two months dedicated to brain drain. But how do we balance the need to continue schooling with the desire to enjoy the good weather and the company of friends who are off for the summer?

One of the things we have decided to do is to try to focus on certain subjects.  We will have finished spelling and grammar for the year and will only try to review as the need arises. Geography will be limited to playing with our intelliglobe and what comes up in history.  We will also have finished our ancient history course so we will switch to some light American history and try to do more fun things like field trips and hands-on activities.  Our proximity to DC is a real plus for us since we can visit any number of museums and historical sights.

Most kids go backwards in reading during the summer, but Little Yoda will continue his reading course with just a few days off here and there and Samurai guy is never without a book so we don’t worry about his reading level.  (Usually the problem is getting him to stop reading long enough to eat and sleep!)

Math is another big skill loser from the holidays, but our boys will continue their math courses as normal.  We also need to finish science for both boys (due to a curriculum change half-way through) so they will do some science almost every day.

It sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?  But the thing about homeschool is that we never work as many hours as public school since we don’t have to worry about bathroom breaks, bus rides, attendance taking, etc.  We are able to cover a lot of material in  a short amount of time.  Even Samurai guy rarely spends more than 3 1/2 hours finishing his work.  We should easily be able to cut our work time down to two hours and have plenty of time to go swim with friends, laze in the sun, or take a trip to a museum.  And should something come up that requires a whole day off, we can easily switch the work to an evening or even a weekend day.  Oh how I love our flexible schedule!

Having a math meltdown and working our way through it.

I wish I could say that homeschooling is always sunshine and daisies, but that’s not how it really goes.  Some days they don’t want to work, or I am dragging and don’t want to work, and sometimes things just don’t go as planned.

Today Little Yoda was doing his math and he just wasn’t getting it. We have been working on adding 9’s to numbers. (ex. 26 +9)  Yesterday he went through this skill like he had been doing it his whole life, but now he was looking at me like he had never seen a problem like this this ever!   His frustration added to my frustration and we went in circles until we both blew up.  After we took a little break from each other we came back and talked about what was happening.

Part of our problem was that he just wanted to be finished.  He thought if he could just write down some numbers on the sheet we could move on with our day.  I explained to him that our goal is to never to just check off a task, but rather to have real understanding and learning.  I didn’t care how many problems he did or didn’t do, I just wanted him to truly understand how to add a 9 to a number.  So we got out the abacus and practiced giving a one to the nine to make it a ten and adding up the numbers that way in our heads.  I modeled my thinking aloud for him so he could see what my thought processes were as I moved through the addition.  After a few minutes of talking through the steps I gave him a few problems to do on his own.  He quickly and easily did all of them without a hesitation.  Success!

So in the end it wasn’t very pretty, and I really hate it when I lose my patience with the boys, but he did learn how to add nines to a number.  More importantly he learned that our goal is not to simply complete a task, but to truly learn and understand the skills we are covering.