Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Summer break- the best part of home schooling

Ahhhh!  Summer break…we finally made it and I am so glad!  My favorite parts of summer break are: sleeping in, spending leisurely mornings in my p.j.’s ,  going to the beach once a week with the family, and summer school.  Yes, summer school.  I know that is not one of the more popular activities to make it on a “summer favorites” list but they say home schoolers are weird.  So weird, that even though I was counting down for weeks to our summer break, I am still excited about the prospect of summer school.   Summer school, for us, doesn’t involve any workbooks, or any papers to grade, or, best of all, any pressure at all.  Summer school is the fun part of learning without the pressure to get it right or make sure everything gets covered.
    One of our first years of home schooling I used our summer break to teach the kids about each of the states in the U.S.  We learned about one state each day of our summer.  We started with the facts- when it became a state, where it was on the map, what the state flag looked like and what the state bird and flower were.  We would read a little about the state’s history and what it was known for.  Then we did an activity inspired by what we had learned.  We panned for gold in California (using our anniversary edition Lego’s with the gold blocks), we made sunflowers with real seeds in the middle in Kansas, we designed our own mansions in Rhode Island.  The kids got so excited about the states that summer and watching them learn, I did too.  The next summer, which happened to be an election year, we did something similar with the presidents.  A president a day, each day of summer.  We learned about the political party each president belonged to, what years they served, and the vice-president(s) under each one.  Then we learned more fun and interesting facts about them.  We learned that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Constitution, that Andrew Jackson’s inauguration party got so wild he had to sneak away, that William Henry Harrison was only president for 3o days, and that William Taft was so large he got stuck in the bathtub once.  One year our summer studies centered around nature adventures we took around town with our home schooling group.  We met at different parks in the area and spent many hot but lovely afternoons trying out everything from cane pole fishing (using home made cane poles) to wading in meandering creeks with crawfish and turtles (but thankfully, at least that day, no alligators) to building our own fort out of palm fronds and stray branches.   We caught frogs, snails, and tadpoles, climbed trees and took nature walks, and had the most magnificent summer with our friends under the bright Florida sunshine, which ended up leading perfectly into Florida history which we studied that next school year.
    This year, we are not so structured or organized.  After a challenging year of school we need a little more laid back approach to our summer learning and since its summer we can have that.   So far, though our summer has really just started, we have already made our own movie- a version of the Three Little Pigs featuring a little not-so-bad wolf instead of the big, bad wolf who usually shows up in that tale, and worked on drawing still life scenes on our coffee table.  We are going to learn about tide pools by regularly visiting a local beach that is home to many of them and reading Holling Clancy Holling’s Pagoo.  Our only goal, this summer is to have fun together, to be creative, and to keep our minds active.   Call me weird, but I am looking forward to it all with great anticipation- I just love summer school!

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