Schooling Year Round

Otter is still sick so there isn’t much to show in the way of schoolwork. However, I did take a picture of Bear’s captain’s log page for Winter Promise’s Sea & Sky program. He’s catching up on his work from last week since he’s feeling better.

Signal Flags

You may be reading this and wondering why we are doing school over the summer. I’ve just found over the years that this works out better for us. I’ve discovered some negatives (for my family) of having a prolonged summer vacation:

1. The kids get lazy and their behavior gets worse.

I think it’s good for kids to have plenty of free time to play, dream, explore the outdoors, and just…be kids. We make sure they have lots of time like that. However, I’ve found that when my kids get tons and tons of unstructured free time (like 3 months over the summer) they are more resistant to doing much of anything when break is over. When we’ve just done school as a matter of course, taking smaller chunks of time for family vacations, sick days or just special times, they seem much happier overall. Long vacations foster the mind set that school is just a chore that impinges on play and goofing off. They get the attitude that they are “owed” summer vacation and get lazy about “work”. It seems to set up an entitlement mentality and doesn’t help to foster a good work ethic. They also have more time to bicker and just get on each other’s nerves. My kids do better with a schedule.

2. We have to waste time on review.

My two big kids were never too bad about this but Otter is a “forgetter”. He does much better with a consistent schedule where he knows what to expect and doesn’t go through enough time to lose skills. Last year we took nearly about 6-7 weeks off and spent about that much time or more trying to get back into math.

3. It makes the rest of the year seem more rushed.

If you MUST get through a book by May 31st or some other deadline, you are always pushing towards that date. I like to more naturally flow through materials making allowances for ability. If Otter hits a wall with division, I know it’s O. K. to back off a bit and do some other math activities to help bolster up his foundation more and wait for his brain development/maturity to catch up to the topic. We are never behind or ahead. We are just…wherever we need to be. I do, however, prepare my older kids to know how to work with due dates- an important skill for college and just life in general!

4. It makes it harder to take off time during the rest of the year and makes it easier to burn out during the concentrated time of the “school year”.

We like to take our vacations when there aren’t as many people crowding up campsites and other locations. We also like to take off time as needed or desired. If we were taking the summer off, it’d be a lot harder to justify taking the extra time all throughout the year. Being year round schoolers makes us more flexible. It also makes it so that we can take small breaks here and there to avoid burn out during the rest of the year.

Doing school over the summer is really much more in keeping with what real life is all about. What adult gets 3 months off to just goof around? That’s just not real life (for most of us). What is all that free time teaching our kids about work? What is it saying about learning itself? For my family, learning has always been something that is just a part of life. You eat, you sleep, you learn. Why set it aside? We LIKE learning! Yes, it’s sometimes hard work, but there’s nothing wrong with that. In the end, you have an accomplishment that no one can take away from you.

It’s also nice to be able to get ahead in some subjects or take the time to really savor others. Maybe we want to take some “rabbit trails” and delve further into something. Bear has used the summer to keep flying ahead in math (and science). He started calculus at the end of 8th grade. Because of his getting to spend more time with math and science, he was able to reach more advanced levels sooner than he would have otherwise. This has prompted him to think about specific career fields he may never have considered had he not had the chance to really dig into his schoolwork.

Now lest you think I am a slave driver mom, I do think it’s important that kids have time to discover their world where things are not structured and they have the time to dream and dabble. However, I just don’t think they need consecutive months (or even a great deal of weeks) for that. We make sure our kids have a very balanced life of school, work, play and just plain ol’ downtime in the course of their regular lives. That’s one of the reasons why I’m glad we don’t have cable. Instead of wasting hours on T. V. they are writing, reading, playing, building models or kicking around a ball in the backyard with the dog. I think it’s an important skill for children to learn that balance. There is the key word: balance. I don’t think a summer where learning is set aside is balanced.

I’m glad that we as a family have chosen to continue homeschooling during the summers. I like, when we have taken longer breaks, hearing the words, “Mom, I miss doing school. Can you get me some work to do?”