Back to School the Homeschool Way

The transition from school year to summer and back again can be as varied as homeschool families themselves.  As a homeschool parent, I’ve noticed some interesting trends around these transitions times.

In our homeschool, we don’t have an abrupt change from school year to summer break, which makes the transition easier and gives all of us more time to adjust to a slower tempo. We look forward to our summers because we can get outside more, play at the park, ride bikes, swim, and play in the sprinkler, all things that are kind of difficult to do in deep snow or sub-zero temperatures.

What summer looks like

Homeschoolers in the summer

When the kids were younger, there really wasn’t much difference in our days during the summer versus the school year because we were learning through play and our schedule didn’t change much. Mostly what changed was how much time we spent inside versus outside.

Now that they’re older it’s really nice to have a break from most of the activities they participate in during the school year. We enjoy hanging out, relaxing, and not trying to do too much. My husband teaches during the school year, so his summers are also less scheduled.

One thing we don’t do is participate in a lot of day-camps. Our city has plenty of opportunities for inexpensive summer camps for elementary aged kids (and a few for older ones), and these days we let the kids pick one each if they’re interested. The summers when we did more classes than that were much too busy and stressful.  This year, our two oldest chose a week of improv classes, while our youngest opted out. He would rather play with his friends and work on his own projects than do day-camps.

Lemonade Stand - Summer Homeschooler Fun

Travel makes a good transition at the start and end of summer

Instead classes, we take the opportunity to travel and visit our relatives. Our family loves to take road trips, and we have relatives all over the country. Some of the best times for travel for us are in late May and early September, when schools are in session but our homeschool and university activities are less.

Road trips are amazing learning opportunities, and they also make a nice bookend between the school year and the summer. This year we skipped the road trip, though, and went to Japan to see the sights and visit friends I’d made when I was teaching there after college.

Transitioning back from summer vacation is very different for us compared to our friends with kids in school. It means we can take advantage of smaller crowds in the parks, and it means the museums will have fewer families visiting but not yet a lot of field trip groups to work around. For us, the outdoor pools close and all the state campsites are booked on the weekends through fall, but it’s still a great time to get out and do things during the week. And we start to stand out as homeschoolers again, not just kids out of school for the summer.

Enjoyed a less-crowded museum during school hours

As we move into fall, we enjoy a slower transition

We get busier, but again, it’s a slower type of change. Saint Paul hosts our State Fair through Labor Day and so stays with the traditional schedule of school not starting until after Labor Day. Then there’s about a two-week gap before the local homeschoolers start up their activities, giving many of us time to travel. More places will start homeschool programs since the school kids aren’t available during the day.

We have a homeschool co-op that starts up on Fridays during the school year; our LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) group moves from morning to afternoon times; and we have to choose between things like book clubs, writing groups, and board game makers club. Last year the kids even took a class on book arts, including different kinds of printing and bookbinding.

Pressure Printing

And finally, there’s the work

The school year is work for homeschool parents. One of the things I love about homeschooling is that I get summer vacation, too! Because homeschooling is so individual, and because there are so many options and requirements out there, it can be pretty stressful choosing a curriculum or choosing what to do instead.
Psychology studies have shown that maximum happiness comes from having choices, but a limited number of them. Looking for secular learning resources does narrow our choices, but there is still a huge range of stuff out there. If we find something we like then we generally stick with it, like the Brain Quest workbooks, until the kids say they’d like to try something else.
We try to be cognizant of the paradox of choice for the kids, as well. We have our kids help choose what they want to work on during the year, but we give them parameters so they aren’t overwhelmed by too many options. Our area has several secular homeschool co-ops; we chose one that is fairly nearby and has several friends attending, and the kids choose their classes from the small range offered.
Geometry

Geometry

Learning is fun

Because we approach learning as fun and opportunity, so far the kids feel the same. So while we don’t rejoice that the school year is arriving, we do anticipate it with some eagerness. There are so many interesting opportunities, so many plays to see and friends to reconnect with and things to learn.

Back to school shopping is fun, too – I always love a good bargain on books and school supplies. The kids even look forward to posing for their homeschool ID cards, which means I get a good portrait of them every year.

Homeschooling really works for us

I love being around my kids — they are so fun and humorous and interested in things. When we tried sending them to kindergarten, even for a half day program, I missed them terribly. I enjoyed having one on one time with whichever one was home, but about two weeks was enough for me each time, and I should have just canceled the experiment right then. I am so glad that we’re homeschooling, and that’s brought back to me every year when I watch other families getting ready to send their kids off to school. What works is different for every family, and homeschooling really works for us.

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