Summertime Tips From the Far Side
By Amanda Bennett
Summertime, summertime, sweet, sweet summertime—at long last! With two of our children through college and one high school student still learning at home, I can offer a hopeful perspective from the “far side” of the journey.
Like many of you, I love summertime and the break from homeschooling and hectic schedules. For our family, summer is the season for rest and relaxation. No formal homeschooling, no homeschool group meetings, just a light summer schedule for the clan. In fact, the summers have been one of the main sanity-savers at our house.
What makes the summertime break so helpful? First, you need to know that our entire family looks forward to summer break in a big way. Finishing up the school year is important here, and there are no cutting corners. Records are completed, reported, and stored, and finally it is time to just enjoy the summer. We all need the summer break—parents and students alike.
The perspective that summer offers is priceless for me—time to think, wander, watch kids in the pool without being preoccupied with what we need to do next, and just have fun. Like most teachers, homeschooling parents need a break to recover from a busy year of learning, social and church activities, family adventures, and daily routines. I don’t know about you, but I need time to digest all that was accomplished this past school year, and it is important to compare what was achieved to what our goals were for the year.
Summer can be such a healing and regenerating time for the whole family. Here are a few tried and true tips:
Enjoy your summer break from the routine. Work on crafts and projects that relax and rejuvenate. Read and study your Bible; the lessons there are new every day. Walk through the bookstore and look for a few interesting titles that have nothing to do with parenting or educating. For example, I have always wanted to learn more about Scotland, and I plan to read about Scotland this summer. Two fellow homeschool moms, Tricia Goyer (www.triciagoyer.com) and Lisa Samson (www.lisasamson.typepad.com), have new novels that I can’t wait to dive into. I happen to agree with Sir Richard Steele’s statement: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
Part of the fun of summer is the pure celebration of the season. Make some memories, and consider adding a few new traditions—perhaps a bike ride and ice cream sundae party every Friday evening or movie night and popcorn at home on Mondays. Here are a few of my favorite summer activities to inspire you:
• Build tree forts
• Take bike rides
• Savor ice cream treats from the corner gas station
• Slurp root beer floats together
• Blow bubbles
• Watch the clouds for wild animal shapes while lying flat on your back in the grass
• Conduct art contests with sidewalk chalk
• Enjoy a weekend barbeque with friends
• Smack your lips as you indulge in s’mores or ice cold watermelon
• Laugh through watermelon seed-spitting contests
• Be awed by Fourth of July fireworks
• Make homemade ice cream with the hand-crank ice cream maker
• Run through a sprinkler shower in the yard
• Go to drive-in movies with the whole family
• Splurge on cherry colas and onion rings at the local diner
• Dream up library day adventures
• Collect board games and extra pillows for sleepovers, and don’t forget to take pictures of the fun.
Gain a Healthy Perspective
Stop comparing. I remember spending the first few summers of homeschooling trying to figure out what I should do the following year so that our children would “measure up” to others in the homeschool group. It took a while, but I finally understood that this was not a good measure of successful homeschooling.
Take some time to figure out just exactly how you would define “success” in homeschooling. What will the end product look like? What do you want each child to know or be able to do? Keep a journal this summer, and make a list of what you think your child needs to master or accomplish before graduating from high school. Don’t limit your list to academic subjects; include life skills and character traits that are vital to his or her future success.
Get Organized . . . Again
Last but not least, use this time to plan the upcoming school year. Spend time in prayer about the coming year, asking the Lord for direction and wisdom. Take time to read magazines like this one to learn and gain insight into your current field of specialization: homeschooling.
As you plan, take a look at the definition of success that you have recently developed. What things do you need to incorporate into next year’s plan to move closer to this goal? You are working to equip your children with the important tools of reading, writing, and mathematical skills, of course. It is just as important to equip them with the tools to find answers to life’s questions, discern truth, and survive in today’s technological society.
Whether you are considering homeschooling, have just completed your first year of homeschooling, or are a veteran homeschooler, congratulations on your efforts for your children. Homeschooling is a part of our lives now, and we are living a life of daring adventure. Now it is time to enjoy the summer, and I mean enjoy!
Amanda Bennett is a homeschool marketing consultant, writer and homeschool mom. She travels and speaks at conferences and retreats, sharing her faith, homeschool experiences, and a contagious love of learning. Her groundbreaking unit studies have become very popular with homeschool families around the world. With two that have graduated from college and one teenager at home, she and her husband stay busy on their tree farm in Tennessee. Visit her websites: www.unitstudy.com and www.AmanadaBennett.com
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Summer 2009.
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Encouraging Words From Amanda Bennett
After seventeen years of homeschooling, I can honestly say that it has been worth every single step of the way. I still have some shreds of sanity, love my family, and I have experienced the same feelings of self-doubt, frustration, joy, and gratitude that every other homeschooling parent comes to know all too well. With that in mind, I’d like to share some tips that have helped make our homeschool adventure a successful one.
• Take time to count your blessings. Sometimes it helps to list them in a diary or journal so that we can see just how much we have to be thankful for. The Lord provides much that we often overlook.
• Simplify your life. Turn off or turn down as many distractions as possible: phones, neighbors, doorbells, computers, etc. Focus on this time, this moment with your child, your spouse, your family, and your friends. “Lord, teach us to make every day count.”
• Protect your time. Life is not a dress rehearsal; there are no do-overs. Learn to say no when you would have to sacrifice protected time, family time, date night, etc. The Bible says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
• Introduce your family to “keep it simple” cooking. I admit that I cook using the “smoke detector method.” When the smoke detector goes off, dinner must be done. (We are carbon-based life forms, after all. What harm could a few burned edges cause?) In this world of hi-tech appliances and gadgets, a few very simple ones have made me a hero in the kitchen: my slow cooker, bread machine, and indoor grill. These appliances work hard all day long so that I can spend my time where it counts.
• Understand that your success and your homeschooling will look different from everyone else’s. In case you haven’t heard this before, your family is unique and your children are unique! As a result, your success will be different from everyone else’s, and that is the way that it is supposed to be.
Homeschooling became much simpler for everyone when I finally understood that there was no single formula that I could follow, day in and day out, that would make our homeschooling experience successful and enjoyable. Once I learned that we were all works in progress, and that no two children were exactly alike, I began to relax and learned to be flexible in our approach to learning. Each and every step and moment is as unique as each precious child.
• Furnish and arrange your home for living and learning. I learned quickly about the value of not putting white curtains on the window by the dining table, where our science experiments were conducted; silver nitrate does not look good on white curtains.
* Keep enough open floor space so that the children can construct train tracks or racetracks around the room and down the hall.
* Put a vinyl tablecloth on your kitchen table for projects such as model assembly, soap carving, volcano building, and gardening experiments. Fun and learning happen all the time, and the kitchen table seems to be the usual gathering place.
* Clear storage tubs that are labeled (dolls, cars, blocks, racetrack pieces, cowboys, etc.) can make life so much simpler for both children and parents.
* If you have to carpet your home, try to choose carpet that blends well with your local soil, or as I say, get “dirt-colored” carpet when possible.
• Build relationships as a family. Even though the frantic pace of our culture squeezes in if we allow it, we need to remember that our family members are more than just individuals who share a common address. Treasure your time together, and work on getting and keeping your priorities in perspective.
• “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)