I was flattered that you turned to me in your recent confusion and uncertainty, but I admit I wasn't too surprised to get your Facebook request for summer activity ideas for kids. You're not alone. Every year around May I start to ponder the changes that we'll make now that the end of the official school year is nigh and summer is nearly upon us.
Summer brings a lot of changes for homeschooling families, and it's the moms who typically have to make the most adjustments to survive. It's not just the temperature and humidity levels that are fluctuating -- schedules change, expectations change, work load changes. School year to summertime can be a tricky transition to navigate, so don't feel like you're alone in your confusion about how to handle these next several weeks.
First and foremost, it's important to look back on the past year and take stock of all you've accomplished in your homeschool. For the past nine months or so, your primary responsibilities have included lounging on the couch in your pajamas, checking Facebook, keeping your sleepy eyelids open just enough to determine if what's going on around you is Instagram-worthy, scanning Pinterest for recipes involving chocolate and peanut butter, perusing homeschool curriculum catalogs for all the latest get-smart-quick materials for next year, and texting your friends to set up homeschool mom get-togethers (for socialization's sake).
And your children have been working hard too. They've had a very busy year of unschooled interest-pursuing and free range adventuring.
It's no wonder you feel like you're ready for a change come June! Your reports to the school district are due soon and you're starting to piece together the picture that is the last year - you've hardly done anything at all!!
So, come on! Get out of those pajamas, get off that couch, and get your family ready for the best summer vacation yet!
Here are some of the things I suggest focusing on to get you and the kids out of the old homeschooling rut:
ALARM CLOCKS make for Early Risers! And I'm not talking about a gentle-approach alarm clock. It's the summer; the sun doesn't waste any time rising in the summer, neither should your kids. It's up an at 'em. An alarm clock like this one should prove that point. There's no lounging in bed when this baby is buzzing. Not only will your sweet little ones be startled from their pillows, they'll also get in their first task of the day - precision hand-eye coordination practice.
CHORE CHARTS for efficiency and self-discipline. Focus on products that emphasize responsibility, duty, and household contribution. Don't waste your money on chore charts that offer the opportunity to earn credits, or promise rewards, or have visual incentives like silver star stickers, or offer suggestions of "praise words" for encouragement. Chores are work. Work done well is by its very nature its own reward. If your children absolutely must have some sort of reward or incentive to complete their household work you can remind of the obvious: Dinner. Dinner is the incentive to get your chores done.
RIGOROUS PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: You've spent a lot of the past year letting your kids be kids. They've done plenty of sensory playing in the sandbox, inventing new and interesting hopscotch games, and wrestling in the basement without any clearly defined rules or boundaries. It's time to reign in that child-like energy and enthusiasm and teach focus and technique. Put away the pogo sticks, Sit n' Spins, and dodgeballs and consider real options like pull ups and squat thrusts, or perhaps weight lifting, or using something like these for a "sensational calorie-burning, coordination-building, leg-strengthening workout."
INTENSE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT: This is where you probably really have to ramp things up after the school year comes to and end. The summer affords mothers and children copious amounts of free time to dedicate toward expanding educational horizons and delving into new topics hard core. Leave behind your expectations of getting caught up in the math book, neatening up on handwriting, or regularly reviewing spelling words. (That's what you were supposed to be doing during the actual school year, after all...) My recommendation is to do your kids a favor and get them ahead. Everyone knows that kids today need to know how to speak a foreign language, or three or four, to be successful in their future careers. Check out the programs for really useful languages like Farsi, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. OR, solidify your child's prestige and your family's future wealth by schooling your child in a nearly extinct language, like Mulluckmulluck or Ho-Chunk. You truly can't go wrong with those options. Summer is also the time to get your liberal arts kids STEM-ed. Calculus for Kids, Pre-Med for Munchkins, and Quantum Physics for Your Cuties are some programs you might want to consider.
LIMITED SCREEN TIME and EARLY BED TIME: Following my guidelines for a successful summer break will leave your kids little time for TV, movies, and video games. You will have given their brains and bodies such a healthy workout, they'll practically be begging you to go to bed early in the evenings. It's not uncommon for kids on my summer system to flat-out refuse screen time even when it's offered to them from 8:00 - 8:07 on Tuesday evenings. There's just so much positive learning, character development, and physical conditioning happening that most students come to appreciate the detrimental side effects of entertainment. (Plus they're burned out from all the Liberty's Kids and Bill Nye they were force fed during the year...) An early bedtime will ensure that your kids are ready to be up and at 'em again the next morning and it affords Mom the two to three hours she needs to prep for the next day's lessons before she hits the hay herself.
It's really quite simple. You've been doing the "homeschool" thing for the past year and now it's time to do the "vacation" thing. So, if you've started counting down the days till summer, be sure you start planning out the ways to make summer count ;)