A few years back, we switched to doing school year round. I really, really like taking the month of December off. I like having us just work on our handmade gifts, and do lots of baking that month without the stress of trying to fit it all in around concerts and parties too. I like not having super bored kids in the summer. It’s ended up being a win-win.
So people ask me how I count my days. Do we do a few weeks on, a few weeks off or what exactly?
So here’s my fancy, smansy equation: we do school when we are at home and it makes sense. We don’t do school when we are not at home, or we are too busy at home doing other things.
It’s so ridiculously simple it works. So let’s say we are in the middle of gardening season, or canning season, and we need to spend 4 hours a day outside at least, working hard in the sun or over a stove. Do we do school later? No. I’m tired. Take a nap, read a book, leave me alone. Our “school” that day was gardening or preserving. We’ll hang out and eat popcorn. We’ll shell peas and talk about current events as a part of natural conversation. But we don’t “do school.”
But let’s say it’s raining outside on and off for 3 days. I don’t have any major projects to tackle, and the kids are whining that there is nothing to do besides watch t.v. and play on the computer, which they would happily do all day if I let them. Well, pull out the curriculum, let’s study some things. Too hot? Let’s go down to the cold basement and do a read aloud.
What about planting and harvest time, when Knut is gone during all daylight hours and then some? Well, take some school off and ride with Dad on the tractor. Sometimes they bring along reading, or read the paper to Daddy, which he likes. But overall, it’s just hang out time and shadowing Dad at work. It’s important. More important than our curriculum, in my opinion. They observe and participate in hard work and farming. They watch a small business and partnership at work.
What about in the winter? Do we take snow days off? What about holidays? Do we take off President’s Day? Do we take off days for conferences when the public schools do? Well, if we are cross country skiing that day, then yes. We don’t “do school” that day, unless you categorize it as a field day/physical education day. Most of the time if it’s too bad to drive, then we are home with little to do. That makes it a school day. Let’s say we have a field trip scheduled. Do we try to squeeze in a “make up day” for the curriculum to catch up? No. The kids don’t bring schoolwork to their week of summer camp, and if friends are over, put the books away.
So, you might wonder, how much do we get done with this lackadaisical method? Well, according to my curriculum purchases, we do about 1.25 years every year. So we are getting ahead a 1/4 of a year every year. Oops. Well, actually we’ve been doing this for a couple years now, so we get ahead in some subjects, and get behind in others. We are currently behind in composition (writing), grammar and Greek. I’m pretty sure they’ll live. We will likely catch up in those subjects by the end of the summer.
So I’ve stopped counting days. Completely. My state does not require it, and really I’ve decided the whole idea of counting school days is stupid. Every day should be a day of learning. Whether it’s learning how to play soccer, chemistry, or the comings and goings of Tom Sawyer, everyday should be a day of learning. Life and school have blended together so tightly that I honestly cannot separate them anymore. My head hurts even trying.
I’ve started to have to “ad-lib” for some of our curriculum because I don’t have the budget for 1.25 of a school year curriculum every year. I love to use Unbored to spur on some ideas. We can go to the library and get more books, or visit the used book store. I’m really getting the hang of this, just-keep-them-learning style of teaching. It has been working well for us. I wouldn’t say we are “unschooling” which is a term I hate. We do certain set curricula for history, English and math especially. We go off of recommended book lists for the rest from various sources.
So I don’t have a big push to finish up our curriculum this time of year. I’m bracing myself for “are you guys done with school yet for the summer?” questions, that I always struggle with answering. I usually just say “we do year round school” but then the question of time “on” and “off” comes up again, and it ends up being a long, drawn out discussion. Honestly, I enjoy these types of conversations, but Knut doesn’t always like being left alone with the kids in public places as I’m deep in a conversation and oblivious to it all.
So for my lesson planning this summer, I have something really fun planned out. For our read aloud during morning tea time (fancy word for a plain snack) I started reading aloud to them from The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. Knut got it for Solveig for Christmas a year or two ago. No one has read it, though they enjoy the pictures. I’ve tried reading it to her, but she takes it only in little bits.
I heard recently that the ideal reading age for introducing these original Pooh books is 8-10. That surprised me, as I have seen nurseries covered with the storybook characters. We’ve been reading it for about 2 weeks now, and every one of the kids is delighted with it, though I’ll say the older kids pick up on more of the humor than the younger kids. Pooh is actually quite a hilarious story.
Hmm…what else. We didn’t really finish David’s science book this year, so we are going to do some projects in there for him. Silje’s science this summer will be the job of finding a new species every day. (OK, not every day. Just every “school day” aka days we aren’t doing anything else demanding.) She’s getting a drawing journal. She will sketch the tree/plant/animal/insect that she chooses. Use her field guides to figure out the common and latin names, and if possible, secure a specimen to her journal. Hopefully at the end of the summer she will have a full journal. I would love for her to be able to identify several things in the woods behind our house. I’m hoping she has so much fun she can entice David to do a journal too.
Silje has asked me to put her on what she called “an intense reading program” this summer. (She was inspired by the book Do Hard Things which I referenced awhile ago.) She wants me to put together a “hard” reading list for her, and by hard, she clarified later that she wanted books that made you look at the world differently when you were done, like the dad in the Do Hard Things did for his sons. So I went shopping on my bookshelf and put together the beginning of a list, and here’s what I’ve started with. She’s already started Kisses from Katie and loves it. I’m thinking of searching the library or used book store for Animal Farm and perhaps something from Knut’s business bookshelves (per Silje’s suggestion). I want to pick Knut’s brain on that, and am thinking of something like Who Moved My Cheese or How To Win Friends and Influence People.
I’m also wondering if she might be ready for To Kill a Mockingbird. Too mature? I don’t know.
I may keep their spelling lists going too if they’re annoying me. I want to keep their handwriting in practice through the summer so I think we’ll be doing some letter writing just to change it up from their normal curriculum. I want to think of some creative way to get them memorizing some more poetry again. We haven’t been doing that the last few months.
And for my kindergartener, turning 1st grader, we’re going to work on reading/phonics some more. He’s still having some trouble getting some traction there. I think he just likes hanging with me too. I love this age. Solveig isn’t yet kindergarten age, but she is showing big signs that she’s ready to start reading, so I may teach her and Elias together some early readers.
And that my friends, is our homeschooling-year-round plan for the summer.
- Winnie the Pooh out loud to all kids
- Unbored book for inspiration
- Continue on David’s Science book, include little kids when they are interested
- Silje’s nature journal
- Silje’s “intense reading list”
- reading with Elias and Solveig
- occasional math/spelling work when the kids get annoying
- poetry memorization, maybe…somehow
- letter writing
- hanging out on the farm with Dad
Bible camp and a family reunion out in North Dakota are on the calendar too, so it won’t be all serious business. Actually, we are rarely serious business, so it’s really just business as usual.