We wrapped up our school year last week and will be taking it easy these next few weeks before we kick off our next school year. We homeschool year-round because we prefer intermittent breaks throughout the year, and if I’m honest, the thought of 10 weeks of unstructured time with my little ones just gives me anxiety.
I didn’t always get the social media memes that tended to pop up on threads in late August, the ones where the kids are headed back to school and the moms are cheering and celebrating. As a homeschooling mom, it always made me a bit sad when I saw those; but then I realized that if our time at home was an extended vacation for ten long weeks, I probably would be celebrating, too.
Trust me, I feel you. Being at home all day with kids is hard work. It wasn’t until I attended my first homeschool conference that I realized how many wonderful resources were available to me. I worked part-time and year-round up until my oldest was five, and I can honestly say that I didn’t have a whole lot of tools in my tool kit for our “at-home” days. We tended to go out quite a bit because it always seemed easier to be “out there” than at home with very little to do. Somehow the crazy wasn’t as chaotic if we were somewhere else.
But I missed a lot during that time. I missed those opportunities to grow with our son, to talk with him, to know him, and to see him. Those opportunities take time and focus, and I have come to discover that being out and about doesn’t often allow for either.
Three homeschool years later, and I absolutely treasure our days at home. I try to guard at least two to three days a week to just stay home with my kids without errands to run or places to be. Those days are always so much less stressful, so much more peaceful, and so much richer in conversation and bonding. I love living simply, and I long to give my children the gift of time to enjoy their childhoods. So, we don’t fill our hours with television or video games. We don’t fill it with rigidity. We fill our time with learning, sharing, growing, talking, and memories.
If you’re already busy booking camps and sports to keep your kids busy, I encourage you to take a moment to stop and consider some other alternatives as well. Here are some of my favorite “homeschool-inspired” resources that have helped me through the journey. I pray they inspire you, too.
1. Create a routine. As a homeschooling mom, I could not live without some sort of routine. Without one, it doesn’t take long before chaos creeps in and the kids end up on a whole new level of rowdy. Be flexible, and don’t necessarily pencil in specific time frames (unless that works for you!), but set up a routine that you can maintain for your at-home days. During our off-season times, it looks something like this: breakfast/morning basket (more about this below), crafting and hands-on learning activities, snack and outdoor play, lunch, quiet time, outdoor play/go for a walk, cook dinner, eat and clean up, screen time, bath, Bible, and bedtime. Not every day looks the same, but having a routine helps add variety and structure to our day. (I also love these day theme posters I found from Kayse Pratt!)
2. Read aloud to your children. It doesn’t matter how old or young your children are, read to them every day. Create a culture of reading and sharing in your home. Reading aloud develops vocabulary, writing skills, empathy toward others, retention of facts, and a number of other wonderful benefits, not to mention bonding with one another.
Find rich literature to share with your children, and set aside time each day to read and discuss what you’re reading. Don’t buy into the lie that it doesn’t matter what you read. Everything you read will either grow or hinder their moral imaginations. This blog post explains it beautifully, and if you need a little boost to get you going, check out this podcast. (It is awesome!!!) Here are some wonderful booklists that will provide rich reading experiences for you and your family:
3. Study creation science together. Most schools in our country credit a cosmic accident and evolution for the origins of our world. These teachings stand in direct opposition to Biblical teaching and often lead many of our youth to question or abandon their faith upon leaving for college.
Until I became a homeschooling mom, I had no idea about creation science. I had never heard about the scientific evidence that supported the idea of a young earth or that dinosaurs once roamed with man. As I dug into my research, I was blown away by what I discovered.
I strongly encourage you to put together some resources to read and share with your children. Compare your findings with evolutionary teaching and draw conclusions as a family. Give your children an “answer for the hope that is within them.” Here are some resources you might find helpful:
Creation Science, K-12: This guide is set up as a unit study that lasts 6-8 weeks and includes a thorough explanation of creation along with grade-specific activities for children K-12. The activities involve each of the following “subjects”: language arts, math reinforcements, science experiments, history and geography, art and music.
Evolution vs. God video (FREE!)
Answers in Genesis website and Answers books
Discover Creation website
4. Put together fun preschool activities for your little ones. I wish I had known about all of the wonderful activities there were for little ones when my oldest was younger. Children love to learn! If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out this post for some ideas to get you started along with two of our favorite resources. These blogs also have some great ideas to look into: Practically Hippie, Lonestar Signers.
5. Take nature walks. I had never heard about Charlotte Mason until I began to homeschool, and I fell in love with her educational philosophy. Her educational writings are so very inspirational, and she spoke so highly of the importance of having children spend time outdoors. We love taking nature walks and have found nature notebooks to be helpful in capturing all of our explorations. Find your nearest park or conservatory and head out once a week for some fun. Here’s a post with more information. For older kids, consider having them draw what they observe, write a poem, or reflect on their ideas through writing.
6. Teach and practice cursive writing. Cursive writing is becoming less and less popular as standardized testing expectations have risen. What many don’t realize, however, is the significant impact that cursive writing has on academics. When compared to manuscript and typing, cursive is the only form of writing that triggers the same part of the brain used in reading. Research has shown that when students develop their cursive writing skills, (with a proper grip!), their reading abilities also improve. Can-Do Cursive Student Workbook–Grades 5 and up is a great resource to check out for some extra practice this summer.
7. Create a Morning Basket. I came across the idea of a morning basket at this website where Pam elaborates further on Cindy Rollins’ ideas. I have found that with little ones it can be as simple as you want to make it. Fill a basket with all that is truthful, good, and beautiful. Fill it with Scripture readings, poetry, children’s literature, artwork, chapter books, Shakespeare, hymns, classical music, etc. and take some time each and every morning (or afternoon) to feast on goodness. This has been such a special addition to our morning routine, and the kids (and I!) absolutely love it.
8. Make time for Quiet Time. I wish I had learned about Quiet Time sooner. There were days that I barely made it to bed at night, and going full speed without a break was extremely exhausting and overwhelming. I had no idea how all the other moms out there did it.
Enter Quiet Time. It’s a short period of a time in the day, one hour or two, where each of the kids goes to his/her room to rest or work quietly on something. This isn’t screen time, and no electronics are allowed during this time. It’s a time to think. To reflect. To pray. To read or look at picture books. To play and imagine. To just be.
It took us a few trial runs to get it started as the kids “suddenly” became hungry, thirsty, scared, etc. during those first days, but after practicing over a few days, it soon became something they very much looked forward to. It is such a necessary part of our day for all of us.
9. Visit nearby parks or just spend time outdoors. I know, this isn’t exclusive to homeschoolers, but I have to admit, when I was working part-time, it rarely occurred to me to take my children to the park. Somehow, I forgot how neat it was to be outside in a nearby playground with other moms and kids. It’s definitely something to put on the agenda if you aren’t already doing it.
10. Research a controversial (but important) topic together. When I worked as an educational consultant, one of the most frustrating things to me was the lack of critical thinking that was actually able to take place in many classrooms. Information was always passed on from the teacher to the student but opportunities for discussion, evaluation, synthesis, etc. was something that was often left out. Thinking takes time, and when it’s something that can’t be easily assessed on a standardized test, it is quickly taken off the list of priorities.
And when it wasn’t, there was something else that stood in the way of truth- a state-wide database that was touted as the answer to effective research. Except I found that it wasn’t. When I plugged in non-mainstream topics and resources, I rarely found any information on the opposite side of the fence. I found that the more I searched, the more I found that the information was filtered to only include mainstream thinking and resources. This really bothered me.
The ability to think and reason and draw conclusions from a variety of perspectives and sources is necessary to function in the real world. Each day we are faced with a host of decisions to make, and the ability to research and draw conclusions is an important part of that process. Choose a topic per month to explore, and list the support for and against the topic on two separate sheets of paper or posters. Discuss, debate, evaluate, and draw conclusions as a family. Make it a part of your family culture to be educated and truly informed in the decisions you make. Here are a couple of topics and “non-mainstream” resources to get you started:
Living Whole (click on “Viral Posts”)
Genetically Modified Foods:
11. Catch up on reading or math skills. If your child is a struggling reader, this is the perfect opportunity to provide the extra instruction needed for success. According to NAEP scores, over 70% of all eighth graders struggle with reading comprehension and about 10% struggle with fluency. It is estimated that only 3-5% can read at a deeper level. Reading aloud will really help with this (see tip #2!), but providing additional instruction will also help your child make significant gains. I love All About Reading for this. (Click here for my honest review of the program.) Have your child take a placement test to find out where to get started, then commit to 20 minutes a day for improvement in reading. The curriculum is very user friendly and no prior teaching experience is necessary. Another great option that is far less expensive is The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading.
For students who struggle with math, Math Mammoth has some wonderful downloadable work texts to boost them along. They’re reasonably priced and well worth the investment to keep your child moving forward.
I strongly recommend looking into local homeschool conventions. They usually offer a “free” day to check out the exhibitors, which would offer a wonderful opportunity for finding resources, including books, discovery toys, online games, and curricula that can help your child in any area of weakness.
12. Learn about healthy eating. During the busy school year, it is difficult to make time for researching healthy eating practices and making changes. Consider spending a month researching healthy foods and the importance of good nutrition. Then spend the rest of the summer planning and preparing meals together! Develop new habits, shop farmers markets, find local sources for the essentials, and prepare healthy snacks. Freezing meals may also be a good project for the whole family to do in order to have healthy, wholesome meals available throughout the year.
When beginning your search for healthy eating, I’d recommend NOT starting out with the USDA pyramid or plate. The pyramid was set up as a means to increase profits for the food industry, and the results for the health of our country have been devastating. Here are some resources I have found helpful that you may consider:
Trim Healthy Mama Plan (This plan is rooted in many of the Weston A. Price principles with a little change that makes a HUGE difference! I was able to lose 50 pounds after my third pregnancy by loosely following the Trim Healthy Mama plan.)
13. Sing and learn hymns. This article really inspired me to make hymn singing a special part of our day. Our children are so impressionable, and I’ve noticed that as they learn new songs, they tend to sing them everywhere they go. Why not have them sing songs that speak of truth and goodness?
14. Teach them how to manage money Biblically. Money management is such a necessary skill for adults, and yet it is not traditionally taught in schools. The inability to manage finances has devastating consequences, and it’s worth a summer break to get started on learning some good habits. Look into how to create a budget, how to give to The Lord, how to invest and spend wisely, how to set up a checking account, etc. Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover is an excellent book, but he also has a curriculum set for students! Find something that works for you and share it with your children.
15. Bake and cook with your children. This is something that isn’t necessarily efficient, but it is such a wonderful opportunity to teach your children while making special memories. Little ones love to be involved in mixing the eggs and sprinkling the sugar. Find ways to engage them safely, and teach them how to create new recipes, how to set a beautiful table, and how to serve the food properly. Indulge in good conversation and let it carry over into the meal.
16. Practice hospitality. The Bible calls us to practice hospitality, but oftentimes, this is something that is challenging to fit in to busy schedules. Why not use the summer months to have others over for ice cream? A tea party? Or dinner? Choose a fun theme and get creative with the decor, music, and food choices. (Click here to read about our Valentine’s Day Tea Party.)
17. Prepare a garden. Gardening is such an enjoyable past time and one that teaches so much to our children. From creating and building the garden beds or preparing the pots to planting seeds and growing plants, they get to see firsthand the magnificence of God’s perfect design for sustaining life. Gardening teaches stewardship, and it gives children a whole new respect for wholesome foods and nutrition.
18. Teach God’s design for sex. We live in a time where the sacred has become casual and morality has become something that is ridiculed. So many of our youth and adults are suffering as a result of not understanding the Biblical implications of sex. I’m finding that children are being introduced to sex at a much younger age, and oftentimes, what they learn is from their peers and in sex-ed classes and not founded in truth. On another note, many children are molested or sexually abused without a true understanding of what it is and why it is wrong. Take this time to talk with your children about what the Bible says about sex. These are some resources I am looking into to for our own family conversations:
16 Things to Convince Your Children of Before 16 (This is a wonderful podcast for parents trying to raise their children Biblically!!!)
19. Limit screen time. I know there are differing opinions on this throughout the web, and no, a full-day of TV will not ruin your child, but I have personally found that the more time children spend in front of a screen, the more hyper, unfocused, and unmotivated they become. It’s harder to get them going on any type of project or activity once they’ve been laying around in front of the TV. I personally find it makes for a smoother day when we push our screen time to the afternoons right before dinner. (Here is a post I wrote about our own journey with screen time.) Find a happy balance that works for you and your family so that you are spending more time together rather than isolated behind screens.
20. Just spend time together. I’ve shared a number of ideas to engage in meaningful projects and activities as a family, but if all you do all summer long is talk, take walks, and spend time together, then that is the most precious gift you can give to your children. Your children need you. They need you to help them sort through the ups and downs that they face. They need Biblical direction and guidance. They need to know how to navigate through the uncharted waters that lie before them. Be there for them. Don’t tune out. Don’t hide behind your own screen. See your children and know them. Our days are numbered, but may they all be lived for His glory.
Which activity will you try? Share a comment below.
Blessings for a memorable and fruitful summer!!!
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