Do you school year-round, or do you follow a traditional, American school schedule? I love finishing up our school year by early June. I love having most of June, all of July, and all of August off for summer vacation. I need a break as a teacher. My kids really need a break as kids. We live in the mid-west, and we LOVE to enjoy the warm weather (I refuse to start school in August because it’s one of the nicest months for going to beaches! Lake Michigan finally is warm by August!). It also works well for my husband’s work schedule. He is a college professor. Although he works throughout the summer, it’s a much more relaxed schedule than during Fall and Spring semesters. I truly believe each homeschooling family should carefully consider and schedule breaks from school. Whether you homeschool year round, or have a traditional homeschool schedule with a summer vacation, having pre-scheduled breaks does wonders for productivity and being able to complete academic and family goals.
For those who have had a school year that has been on track for the most part, how can you be sure to enjoy summer vacation with your family? Here are some ways to get motivated to wrap up your school year and start enjoying summer vacation!
- For each child, make a list of what MUST be completed before completing their grade (e.g., math, handwriting, spelling, composition, reading, memory work, novels, science, etc.). Consider what really matters, and what resources you have around that are not as important. For the resources that you choose to not complete, decide if you will make them an optional activity for sometime in the summer or next school year. Or decide to donate/sell it; don’t hold on to curriculum that will only clutter your home.
- Print the list of what must be completed by the end of the school year. Print it for your fridge and then print a copy for your kids. Encourage them to “own” their list. Ask them if they want to decide to either completing one subject at a time, or do a little bit of each subject each day. Help them pace themselves. All year, I have had my children do most subjects each day. I was surprised when I gave my 1st grade son his list of what to do to “graduate” 1st grade, and he was excited to focus on trying to complete 1 subject per day. He completed his grammar workbook in one day, then his spelling in one day. He had a lot of handwriting pages left, though, and couldn’t complete it in one day. After working on it diligently over 5 days, he is done (and now he is faster at handwriting than before–I think it helped develop his fine motor skills better!). He still has to do math every day for the next few weeks to be completely done, but he is steadily completing other assignments–and he is excited to stay on track. He wants to complete things early, and he is not complaining because he is self-motivated to complete his goals. Our official day to be done with school is June 6, but he is determined to complete everything in May. That’s the beauty of homeschooling (especially if you are in a state that requires a certain number of hours instead of days of school). Your children can complete assignments early if they are motivated.
- Plan a summer bucket list with your children. This will help motivate them to want to finish their school work on time (or early!). Explain that you will start your bucket list after everyone is done with schoolwork.
- Encouraging siblings to encourage each other, and not flaunt when they are done with a subject. A sibling can say, “Yay, I am done with all of my spelling!” in a nice way, or in a bragging way. Teach siblings to respond with kindness, courtesy, and encouragement. Teach them to not be jealous. A sibling can respond, “Great job getting done with spelling!” It’s a win for the whole family as each child completes a subject; it’s helping the entire family get closer to completing school work in time for summer vacation.
- Give your children breaks at regular intervals. If your children are really motivated to get done early, they will likely work harder than they do on an average homeschool day. Set timers for them to work for 30-45 minutes straight, but then have a snack, recess, or free play time for 15-20 minutes. These breaks give their brains a break from intense focus, and then helps them be refreshed for the next 30-45 minute session of school work.
- A few times per week, explain, “If you complete (a subject/workbook, “x” number of pages of school work, memorize your math facts, etc.), then we will go to a park for the afternoon. As we continue to have beautiful weather, it’s easier to want to get work done in the morning, and then play outside in the afternoon (at least, here in the midwest! Maybe in more southern states it’s too hot in the afternoon…in which case, say that if you get schoolwork done in the afternoon, then in the morning, you can go to a park first thing and meet a friend). If the kids don’t have enough time to play outside sometimes, they are going to get stir-crazy indoors knowing how beautiful it is outside. Plan ahead for this. It also can help you, as the teacher, to have a goal to works towards; you probably want to enjoy the nice weather, too!
- If you want to get creative, create a visual chart for your family. Make one bar graph for your family. On the x-axis put each child’s name, and on the y-axis, put subject (e.g., subject 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.). Color in a part of the bar graph for each subject a child completes, with the goal of all children completing the same number of subjects for summer vacation. Or come up with another fun visual to complete as your family completes its goals. Don’t like charts? You could have a jar and pom poms. Color code the pom-poms for each child. For every subject the child completed, he/she puts a pom-pom in a jar. When the jar is full, everyone gets to go somewhere special (e.g., museum, zoo, etc.). Then start the jar over again until everyone is done with school!
You don’t want to be one of “those” homeschool families that never takes a break from school because you are always behind, trying to play catch up. If that’s you…try to plan for next year to see how you can streamline your homeschool and be more efficient.
Before I go any further, I recognize that there are reasons why any family could get behind in homeschooling, such as a mother being on bedrest with a complicated pregnancy, a child with serious medical conditions, a death of a grandparent, or a family being relocated for a job. When these things happen, it helps to have a plan for when to get back on track, which gives you more freedom to address the most important family needs at the moment. Homeschooling is a blessing; when these unusual circumstances come up, homeschoolers can often catch up very quickly to where they “should” be. When family life has no major crises happening, a constant goal should be to be right on track with school work, or somewhat ahead, of where you need to be to complete the school year on time. That way when things come up (and they come up for many of us), you can have more freedom to address a crisis without sacrificing a child’s education for several years. If you have gone through a really rough school year because of a crisis, I hope you can find a way to wrap up your school year. That way you can be at peace knowing your children completed their current grade, and your children can feel encouraged that they accomplished their grade level work. Maybe you can only take July or August off for a summer vacation, but it will be well worth it if you can make it work. Maybe you can find an on-line program to help a child finish up the school year. Maybe you can find a friend who can help tutor your child who is struggling to finish up math. Taking a break sometime this summer will help you and your children become refreshed be on track throughout next school year.
I hope these ideas help you come up with a “game plan” for how you will complete your school year. My best advice is to set a date to be done, make a list of what the kids need to complete, and then find motivating rewards to help all of you stay on track and reach your goals (e.g., summer plans, weekly park days, etc.). Your hard work will pay off, and you can soon bask in the summer sun with your family! Enjoy life, and enjoy family time.