If memories of last summer have you more worried than excited about what to do with your children this summer, you're not the only one.
Moms everywhere are asking the perennial question, "Should we homeschool over the summer?"
If you're one of the confused mamas out there, these gentle ways to school throughout the summer are the breath of fresh summer air you need.
As I read Consider This, by Karen Glass, I understood that Charlotte Mason was a Classical Educator. There are so many principles that Classical and Charlotte Mason education share; I believe I am now re-categorizing my homeschool method as Classically Charlotte Mason.
These gentle ways strike a beautiful balance this summer - no matter your homeschool method or style, they can benefit you and your children greatly!
First Things, First
You certainly don't need my anyone's permission, but in case you want it, I'll give you mine.
You can take a break this summer.
That's right. Put the books away. Forget about multiplication tables. Don't even bring up the word schedule. It's summer! Who needs 'em! There. Did that feel better?
Seriously, reward the year's work with an official break. This serves several purposes. First, grandma and grandpa won't think you're a stodgy parent for forcing schoolwork over the summer. Second, it gives your kids the answer everyone asks, "What did you do on your summer break?". And last, it's just plain necessary. Even God rested on the seventh day.
The real decision here isn't rather or not to take a break, but how long of a break to take. There are all kinds of statistics out there about how soon kids start forgetting what we want them to remember, so I'm not going to go down that path.
You're in the driver's seat. You know your kids. You get to make the call. You're welcome.
Deciding to School Throughout the Summer
Before you haul back out your planner and all the curriculum, I challenge you to think of summer schooling differently than your school year schooling. Rather than schedules and lesson plans, let's focus on rhythms.
Want to sleep in a little? Go for it.
Want to stay up catching lightning bugs? Delightful.
The break you've taken will have done its proper job of revealing to you a natural rhythm in your home. The challenge, if it is one, is to make the most of that natural rhythm. This will automatically require the art of gentleness in your efforts to educate.
You have to transform yourself into a living textbook. Or to put it in mom speak, you've got to be sneaky. Look for ways that learning that occurs naturally.
I'm not saying you must entertain your children all summer. No way.
What I AM saying is this: Make Memories!
Memory Making Learning
If quotes inspire you as much as they do me, let this be your guide for school throughout the summer, "Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” It's attributed to several people, so I can't confirm it's truly Albert Einstein. But, we'll go with that.
Further, Mr. Webster defines education as, "EDUCA'TION, noun [Latin educatio.] T
he bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations."
He MUST be talking about summer school! Why? Because our memory making focus will be on manners, temper correction, and all of the ways we lay down rails for learning.
That brings us to another quote, or two, "The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days".—Charlotte Mason
"Charlotte likened good habits to rails on which our children’s lives could run smoothly. It is the parent’s business to lay down those rails." — Sonya Shafer
Laying Down Rails
I want to preface this section by saying, if you've never laid down a single rail, you may not find this gentle at all. But, I can also promise you, if you take the time now, during the summer, to lay down rails, you'll be a happier mom when school begins.
Laying down rails is really a way of, as Mr. Websters says, forming the matters. We're not talking about what to do with the pinky finger when drinking tea. No, we're talking about those daily little things that when piled up wear us down. Things like:
- lack of diligence
- lack of candor
If you're wondering how this is going to go down, well, it can only happen little by little. Here a little, there a little. And that's why it requires gentleness. From you, dear mom, it will require the patience, goodness, gentleness, and self-control—all the fruits of the Spirit.
Here's a helpful little printable planner for you: LAID BACK SUMMER PLANNER
Creating Little Successes
"Success is a series of small wins."
Again, I don't know who said that (thank you, internet). But, you hopefully understand me. Our goal with gentle ways to school throughout the summer is simple: We want to use this time to create a strong foundation for next school year, make memories, and have fun.
In order to set that strong foundation, we need a little bit of direction. This involves intention more than scheduling. Insight more than curriculum. And a mother's heart more than any rod. I challenge you to open yourself up to your child's little rough spots and help them iron them out.
You can do this by making the goals close together and attainable. This is essential in the beginning. You can't go from inattention to full attention during one read-aloud. It takes practice. So, let's look at some specific gentle ways we can school throughout the summer.
Start with Math
Before summer begins make a list of the board games in your home that would be considered math enrichment. Something as simple as Yahtzee can work. Whatever you and your children enjoy. No pencil to paper. Just skills practice to keep the rust from settling in.
Need suggestions? Here are some fun math games for kids I recommend.
The skill: math. The rail: learning to get along, taking turns, stretching the attention span, and truthfulness.
We used summer as the official time for any child who "came of age" to get their own library card. I didn't turn them loose in the library (not a good idea in today's culture), but it gave them a sense of ownership.
I did give them each a book list. On the book list, I would list five books appropriate for their age or designed to train them in a certain habit. If they were struggling with lying, the book focused on truthfulness. You get the idea. These books were for quiet reading, car reading, and before bed reading.
I continued to use living books for read alouds, highlighting a certain character trait. We also listened to audiobooks that served this same purpose. I can tell you, nothing reveals pride in a child faster than know that the book you're reading is meant for another child. This happens with older kids who have witnessed corrections of youngers. Be ready.
The skill: literature. The rail: correcting the temper (pride), attentiveness, generosity, and loving kindness.
Summer lends itself beautifully to the study of nature.
You can keep things super simple, too. Give each child a summer notebook expressly for nature study. Use the Handbook of Nature Study as a guide, if that gives you confidence. But, just try to have fun. Look for ways to capture the moments. Some fun things we've done:
- collect lightning bugs in jars
- study praying mantis
- collect leaves and make rubbings
- gather around a large piece of poster board and all draw together an outdoor memory from play time
- follow the ants
- name the types of clouds that we can remember
- collect rain
- go fishing and identify types of fish
The skills: science and nature study. The rail: perseverance, observation, truthfulness.
A dollar store journal just meant for summer with some simple instruction is enough to keep writing a habit. The instruction can be as gentle as requiring the children to write in their journal three lines per day. You can provide quotes. Bible verses also work well.
The skill: writing. The rail: personal attentiveness, follow through, and responsibility.
At the end of the day, leave lots of room for play. Outdoor games that get the large muscles moving are ideal. The older children and teens can be referees for tag, the "mother" or "father" in Mother or Father, May I?
The skill: teamwork. The rail: getting along, usefulness, temper, fortitude, self-restraint, listening, and so many others.
It doesn't have to be complicated.
With a little before-summer thinking on your part, you can plan to school with gentleness and intention. In the end, you'll have kept skills sharp, worked on habits and made a lot of memories.
Resources for Schooling Throughout the Summer
Habits: The Mother's Secret to Success (Charlotte Mason Topics) (Volume 1)The Outdoor Life of Children: The Importance of Nature Study and Outside Activities (Charlotte Mason Topics) (Volume 2)Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable PeacePocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning(TM) : A Story for Mother Culture ®Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World (Julia Rothman)My Nature Journal~Kids Nature Log/Nature Draw and Write Journal: Draw And Write Nature Journal For Children; 8.5CYPER TOP 80-color Colored Pencils Set For Adults And Kids / Vibrant Colors ,Drawing Pencils for Sketch, Arts , Coloring Books (Cylinder)Hopscotch Set by JuicyBear - Fun Indoor or Outdoor Lawn Games for Kids with Handy Carry BagBubble Thing BIG BUBBLES Wand and Mix - MAKES 2.7 GALLONS! - Bubbles Biggest, Costs Least!Classic Yahtzee, An Exciting Game Of Skill And ChanceThe Book of Gardening Projects for Kids: 101 Ways to Get Kids Outside, Dirty, and Having FunMoby-Dick (Macmillan Collector's Library)A Wrinkle in Time: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet Book 1)Little Women (Puffin in Bloom)The Count of Monte Cristo (Bantam Classics)Pride and PrejudiceThe Swiss Family Robinson (Puffin Classics)To Kill a MockingbirdThe Complete Sherlock Holmes (2 Volumes)The Real Mother GooseThe Wind in the Willows (Sterling Illustrated Classics)King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table (Puffin Classics)Where the Red Fern GrowsThe Story about PingLentil (Picture Puffin Books)How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World (Dragonfly Books)2 Pack Classic Ruled Notebooks/Journals – Premium Thick Paper Faux Leather Writing Notebook, Black, Hard Cover, Large, Lined (5 x 8.25)Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-ExplorationThe Basket of Flowers (Illustrated)Jessica's First Prayer (Illustrated)The Giant Killer (The Roby Family)Teddy's ButtonThe Hedge of Thorns (Rare Collector's Series)Carson BugView Quick-Release Bug Catching Tool and Magnifier for Children and AdultsCamco 42803 Picnic Blanket (51