We asked Julie Kirkwood, a local homeschooling mom and creator of the popular website Creekside Learning, to weigh in on keeping your child engaged in learning year round. Here are some of her thoughts and suggestions.
Learning All The Time
I’m remembering that very first year. We were a newly homeschooling family with a first grader, a preschooler, a toddler, a working daddy and a new-to-homeschooling, unrealistically overenthusiastic momma. It was chaotic and wonderful and it comes as no surprise to me now that we didn’t finish learning about everything I had planned that year.
Our family has been homeschooling now for almost six years. We never did quite fit with the school-only-happens-from-September-to-June idea. That first year, having never quite gotten to history, I decided we would make Ancient Egypt our summer adventure.
While I read to the kids about pharaohs and sarcophagi, they dug a mini Nile River in the dirt and played with toy crocodiles. They constructed pyramids out of LEGO and colored King Tut masks. I slipped in a few minutes of math and reading while I had a captive audience. We still went on vacation and spent a lot of time at the neighborhood pool, but our days at home had some structure and that was a very good fit for us.
We’ve been homeschooling year round, in one fashion or another, ever since. Sometimes math is our main focus, other times it’s moving forward with a child learning to read or a kiddo who just can’t get enough of science. I love that we don’t have to rush through curriculum to finish by a specific month. Our slower pace ensures that my kids don’t get burnt out and neither do I. Learning has woven seamlessly with life. This pleases me tremendously.
6 Ways to Keep Your Kids Engaged in Learning This Summer
- 1. Keep your favorite stuff on the schedule, and build on that. My kids’ favorite part of our day is when we all meet at the kitchen table at 10:00 every morning for hot chocolate (in cold weather) or lemonade (in warm weather) and I read to them. We transition into ten minutes of math and ten minutes of them reading to me. Then we head to the pool.
- 2. Save one delicious subject for summer. My oldest child loves history. He can’t get enough of it, so continuing history studies with him is a no-brainer. This can include some writing practice for him as well as geography. We schedule some awesome field trips too. He’s happy, mom’s happy. Win win.
- 3. Ask your child what they want to learn about this summer. My daughter asked to learn cursive writing, inspired by seeing a friend beautifully script her name. My younger son loves science, so we’ll keep going with that.
- 4. “School Lightly”. This is basically what we do in summer, as well as the week of Thanksgiving and the entire month of December. It’s about half our normal school routine. Because we learn all year, our light school periods don’t impact the entire year in a negative way.
- 5. Take learning outside to reinforce skills. Practice multiplication tables while jumping on the trampoline, make a clock with a hula hoop and sidewalk chalk on the driveway to practice learning how to tell time, read at the pool when you break for a snack.
- 6. Learn while you travel. Listen to audio books or audio curriculum in the car while driving. Visit historical sites that reinforce what you’ve learned recently. Practice geography skills that coincide with your travel destinations. Download apps that reinforce math, writing, geography or reading skills that can be played during travel, while waiting for food in restaurants or on rainy days.
I also take the summer to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t. Does curricula need refreshing? Are we doing too many outside activities or not enough? Do we have the resources we need for each child? And most importantly, are we enjoying each other and our time together? Homeschooling is just a part of this precious, priceless, chaotic, amazing parenting gig after all.
Julie Kirkwood is a homeschooling momma of three kids, ages 11, 9 and 6. She shares learning activities and homeschool encouragement on her blog, Creekside Learning. When she’s not drinking coffee and posting on social media, she can usually be found exploring the woods and creeks with her children and her camera. She and her husband make their home in Loudoun County, Virginia. Connect with Julie on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.