From Summer into Fall: a Gentle Transition for Homeschoolers

From Summer into Fall: a Gentle Transition for Homeschoolers

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.

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.

Seven Favorite Summer Field Trips

Seven Favorite Summer Field Trips for secular homeschooling

Seven Favorite Summer Field Trips

Seven Favorite Summer Field Trips for secular homeschooling

Summer is the perfect time for field trips where the whole family can learn together out in the world! The hustle and bustle of the school year has slowed, and many of us are doing a little homeschool-lite in between pool time and popsicles.

I’ve gathered seven of our favorite summer field trips that will make your summertime learning into memorable experiences for the whole family. These field trips and resources are available across the country. Check out the links included to find one near you!

1. National Parks

Become a Junior Ranger this summer or take part in some of the fun events available through our National Parks. Many parks also offer tours of the ground and historical sites. Find a National Park near you.

Not by a National Park? Each state also has its own park program. Find your State Parks.

Free Summer Programs for Kids

2. Presidential Libraries

Visit one of the fourteen Presidential Libraries open to the public. These are not your run-of-the-mill libraries. These spectacular museums hold the archives of our past presidents. Learn about the events that occurred during and around the presidency and the people who made an impact on our history. Plan a trip to a Presidential Library.

No Presidential Library in your area? Take a virtual field trip instead!

3. Recycling Center

Garbage and recycling lesson plansDid you know that many local recycling centers offer tours, even in the summer? Check out your county’s website or give your local dump a call to set one up. Your family will learn about the importance of recycling and what happens to all our trash that gets thrown away. Such a memorable experience!

Taking a recycling field trip this summer? Build upon your field trip experience with a free unit study all about garbage and recycling!


4. Art Museums

When the summer gets too long and too hot, cool off at a local art museum or check out galleries in your city. Art museums are temperature and humidity controlled – making them the perfect place to find a little relief from the sun. Plus you’ll love learning about culture, design, and history through paintings, photography, sculpture and more.

If you have an art museum near you, check the website for special summer classes and tours for kids. No museum in town? Check out these museums with virtual tours:

5. Police Department or Fire Station

Fire Safety Lessons for KidsIf you haven’t been on a tour lately, you might be surprised at what your local police department and fire station have to offer! Schedule a tour of the facility or find out about classes and special field trips for kids of all ages. Many fire stations also host summertime open houses. A great learning experience and a chance to meet your hometown heroes!

Visiting the fire station was our favorite part of our fire safety unit study!

6. Aerospace Museum

There is nothing that thrills my kids more than the though of blasting off into space. Find amazing science and history resources at one of the many fantastic space museums across the country (and the world), many of which offer special summer programs. Find a list of space museums for all 50 states.

When you get home, your little learners will want to know more! Visit the Kennedy Space Center online with Google Maps.


7. The Farmer’s Market or Local Farm

My kids just love visiting our local farms and farmer’s markets, and summer is when you get the best local produce. Talk to local farmers, see where your food comes from, and support your community! Check your area for you-pick opportunities and outdoor markets.

You may find that local farms also have year-round markets and tours available. Many farms have Facebook pages or websites, so check online. Or just stop by!

This beats your regular weekly field trip to the grocery store!

About the author:

Ashley Fox is a mama of three and homeschool enthusiast fueled by lattes and Florida Sunshine. She creates unique resources for eclectic homeschoolers on her site The Homeschool Resource Room.




More Posts About Field Trips and Summer Homeschooling

The Responsible Homeschooler
From the Dad Side: Back to School
The Best Science Field Trip Ever!

Seven Favorite Summer Field Trips for secular homeschooling