By Leah Courtney
I’ve chosen over the years to continue our homeschooling through the summer. It’s often too hot in our area to go outside and play during the middle of the day. Without some structure and focus the kids cry “Bored!” and want to sit in front of a screen all day. When we keep a loose schedule and have some planned learning activities, all of us seem to enjoy our days a little more.
I do like to veer away from traditional “doing school” in the summer, however. The kids—and often I as well—need a break from a regular curriculum with textbooks and tests and assignments. Instead I like to incorporate activities that can provide learning opportunities without using a structured curriculum. Here are a few ways apart from regular school work that you can keep your kids learning all summer.
Although most of my children love to help out in the kitchen and have opportunities to experiment with cooking and baking, I don’t let them do it as often as I should. When we’re in regular schooling mode, I often don’t have time or make time to let them cook. We’re busy with schoolwork and extracurricular activities, and it’s just easier for me to do the cooking and hurry on to the next thing. However, cooking can be very educational.
Reading a recipe, problem solving, experimenting with how different ingredients work, learning about nutrition and the foods our bodies need, are all great skills that kids can learn by cooking. In the summer, when we are less busy with traditional school work, I can make time for the kids to be in the kitchen. I let them help with supper. I let them bake. I encourage them to cook on their own (as their age and ability allow). Cooking can be a very valuable way to learn.
Another great thing we’ve done to help kids keep learning is to encourage them in money-making endeavors. They could plan and carry out these projects any time during the year, but it seems we’re often too busy to make time for this during our regular school year. Being an entrepreneur can teach valuable lessons, both in academics and life. I’ve found it easier to find time to encourage some of these money-making ideas when we have free time in the summer.
A basic lemonade stand is often what we think of when it comes to kids making money. There are many other projects that kids can undertake, that will teach them life skills and maybe help them make some spending money as well. They can make jewelry, baked goods that family and friends can order, or care for pets while their owners are on vacation. Older kids can do yard work or wash cars or babysit. Having the opportunity to make money with an endeavor like this can teach problem solving, math skills, money management, and more.
For the past several years my son has volunteered with our church’s recreation outreach camps. Although it’s a volunteer position, and he doesn’t get paid, he’s learned so many valuable lessons and skills by being a part of this. It’s also given him a good work ethic, and it’s kept him busy instead of allowing him to aimlessly sit in front of a screen all day.
Although this volunteer experience is for teens, younger children can volunteer with your help. Visit a nursing home and read to patients. Offer to sort clothing for a shelter or thrift shop. Volunteer to visit a children’s home and play with children for an afternoon. Volunteering helps kids to learn skills related to the area they’re volunteering in, but it also teaches moral lessons such as helping others and being grateful for what they have.
Learning doesn’t always happen when you’re using textbooks, worksheets, and tests. Learning happens as we live out our day-to-day lives when we try new experiences and make daily decisions. Summer time is a great time to give kids these nontraditional opportunities to learn new things.
Leah Courtney is a homeschooling mom of four. Her days are filled with being a mom, homemaker, and teacher. In her (very rare) free time, she enjoys blogging, reading, and reviewing books and curricula. These days she’s learning the joys of being a mom of teens. You can read about her family and homeschooling life at As We Walk Along the Road.