Thursday, June 12, 2014

Learning Over the Summer

      School is almost out!  And the time for lazy days are upon us.  But only a week or so of laziness seems to be good for me and the kids.  We need a little bit of structure, something to work on each day to earn time playing video games, etc.  Every summer I get asked what I do with the kids.  So here it is.  It keeps changing but the basics stay the same.
        I remember my mom ordered summer time kits with workbooks from different subjects for us to do.  They were simple and the topics somewhat interesting to me as a little girl.  It seemed to keep our minds fresh and once school started we weren't behind but almost a little ahead, which is where I'd like my kids to be.
        So every summer I order Reading workbook and a Math workbook for each of my kids' past grade level material.  The one I have used two summers in a row is called Spectrum.  I order them online because the supplies in teacher stores, Staples or Walmart don't always have the exact years I need.  If a particular child needs help with phonics, word study, spelling or writing instead of reading, I might opt for that instead of the Reading and Math.  The format is pretty basic, almost boring with multiple pages of practice.  But that's what I want.  No frills just practice.  My kids usually get through about half of it during the summer.  Then I have the rest of the book for long extended sick days or extra practice during the school year if they are doing poorly in a particular area.
         Before the kids can have morning screen time in the summer, they have to get at least 2 pages done in both workbooks.  Since they've already learned the subjects during the school year and it's just a review, I can have everyone work quietly for 20 minutes or so, take a break, let them play, be involved in a sport or outing and then work on the other workbook for 20 minutes.  I feel like that covers us most days for school work.  What's nice about the workbooks is we can do them in the car waiting for another's class to end, at the park, or on the go on our way somewhere.
        After lunch, we have our Quiet time for about an hour while Elise naps, a time when the kids go to different rooms in the house and play with toys or read.  The idea is that they get some time alone without anyone bothering them, and without me needing to intervene.  It's the core rejuvenating time of my day, that's for sure.  :)  It's become so popular among Jon and I that we live for that time on the weekends if we are all home.
         If their workbooks are done, I break out the Disney movie of the day, my choice so there's no arguing.  It gives me a chance to clean and get ahead of the game.  On the rare days we aren't going to the pool in the afternoon, we spend a little time playing in the neighborhood, backyard, inviting people over for play dates or riding bikes.
       If there's time and I have energy, we might launch into our other method of group learning, the Theme of the Week.  At the beginning of the summer I ask the kids what they want to learn about.  Topics range from dolphins, scorpions, horses, geography, to the topics I like to revisit every summer; tree identification, the constellations, break out the mini microscopes and a simple sewing project.  We get out the calendar and give one topic to each week.  It looks like this.

Mommy School Themes
Week 1- June 24th -28th – Identifying Trees- map out trees in neighborhood
        Geography- South America
       Read aloud- Box Car Children
Week 2- July 1-8th- Astronomy- Star Party-July 8th
                                  Geography-South America
                                      Read aloud- Unlikely Heroes
Week 3- July 9-12th- Microscopes/Maturation for Ashton
                                     Geography- Europe
                                      Read aloud- Fable haven
Week 4- July 15-19th-  Inventions- Build a Go-cart
                                      Read Aloud- The Secret Garden
Week 5 July 22nd-26th-Cooking-lemonade stand
Read aloud-
Week 6- July 29th-Aug 2nd- Sewing
Geography- Asia
                                      Read Aloud- Little House on the Prairie
Week 7 Aug 5th-9th – Paper Airplanes/Maturation for Corynn
                                      Geography -Asia
                                      Read Aloud- The Tale of Despereaux
Week 8 Aug 12th-16th - Bones
                                      Read aloud-
Week 9 Aug 19th-Aug 23rd – Ocean
                                      Read aloud-
Week 10 VA Beach Trip-
                                      Read aloud-
Reading & Writing Goals
Book Series- Read a book or two a week
Animal Studies- An animal book each week, Write a report on it

      To begin the Theme of the Week, when we go to the library we check out a few books about the topic.  Then that first day I read out loud one of the books.  Sometime during the week we might do a  craft where we draw the thing we are talking about, print out worksheets online or if I'm particularly excited about it, do a craft with it.
        Honestly last summer all we did was briefly talk about the topics except a few.  For the week on Astronomy we made constellation flashcards where we punched the constellations out using a pin and held them up to a flashlight.  Each year I have the goal to stay up late with the kids and find the stars we've learned but the nights being so late, I feel exhausted and ready for them to go to bed.  Maybe this year... :)
      A few times we've done lap books, a cute file folder you glue little pocket facts inside on a topic.  It's like making your own board book.  The kids look at them every once in a while and remember what we learned about the topic.  It's kind of like a learning scrapbook.
       I have goals of reading these books out loud to the kids but I only average one or two a summer, reading to the kids when Jon comes home or in the car on a road trip.
        We actually filled out simple outlines of the countries last year and briefly told them what I knew about the countries.  At the end of the week I'd give them an M&M for every country they wrote in a blank continent map.   That was fun.  Not sure how much they'll remember this summer.
           I basically try to do just enough school that I don't feel like the kids are getting lazy.  Anything I feel like their public education is lacking that particular year, I use the summer to fill the gaps.   Sometimes that means working on story writing and editing, sometimes it means geography or more cursive practice.  This year I want to do more cooking with the kids and science experiments.
        And when we don't feel like doing it, we don't worry about it.  I love rebelling against my own lists.  :)  It's really fun.  But if I don't have anything there as a beginning, I get annoyed with the kids' boredom turned into fighting turned into house destruction.  ;)

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