Shaping the Summer

People often ask us if we are “done with school for the summer.”  And indeed we are.  We have been since early May.  In the sense that the state of Missouri’s homeschool requirements involve clocking hours of instruction we have fulfilled the requirements.  However, we are not done with school for the summer.  We are starting something new, but continuing with the old all at the same time.

Due to several different reasons, our summer will feel and look quite different than in the past when it was full of reading, unstructured activities, spontaneous visiting, and all the things I conjure when I think of summer vacation.  First, Mr. Detail is no longer teaching school and sadly has to work through the summer like a “real person.”   All in all it is a good thing, but he is greatly missed here during our summer days.  Secondly, I was unexpectedly offered a part-time babysitting job in the afternoons during the summer caring for a 6 month old baby.  I decided with my track record for keeping routines intact (I’m not good, although my intentions are great.) that keeping him would actually be a great motivator for keeping my kiddos in a routine and being intentional about summer learning.  As I mentioned, I often have grandiose plans for establishing a picturesque routine with chores (the kind that each kiddo eagerly go forth and conquer with no needed encouragement or prodding), fun activities (crafts that all organized and make kids of all ages happy), field trips (the kind where we take a picnic and enjoy every moment), swim time, and specific learning times for science (think cool experiments that would make me mom of the week at least) and other subjects.   Are you laughing yet?  Because you should be on the floor barely able to breathe because you are laughing so hard!  Well, we are in a routine–my final point in how this summer is a bit different.  My kids do do chores after getting themselves ready for the day–but usually with heavy sighs or some encouragement.  My fun activities keep getting pushed to the back burner–but I do have several lined up and am eager to share.  We went on a field trip to the planetarium–with our homeschool group because another mom graciously organized it and all we had to do was show up.  The pool has been open for about 3 days–one of which was warm enough for this mom to go–but I haven’t purchased the summer’s pool pass yet.  We finished all but one of our science labs from this year’s book–and had a lot of fun.  We are doing the first fun one on my list tomorrow.

I also require a bit of the mundane from them even in the summer.  After 5 years of homeschooling (counting only from age 5 because before that it was unschooling all the way) I’ve finally learned that keeping up with math during the summer is going to help all of us come August.  A friend sold me a new-to-me math curriculum that I don’t have to teach!  We started with the 4th grade level, McCance from the beginning and Bradford from a lesson in the middle.  They were doing a lesson each day, but recently I decided that listening to the lesson and doing half the problems one day and half the next was the way to go.  They are doing well and I’m only needed when they get frustrated–which is usually caused by accidentally clicking the wrong answer rather than any math understanding issue.

McCance eagerly learned cursive the first part of the school year and has used it intermittently in his work.  He seems to enjoy making the letters a thing of beauty most of the time.  Bradford learned cursive last year, but rarely desires to use it.  I think he’s just not as comfortable with it, nor is it as fun of activity for him.  I decided to take the summer (18 days of it) to work on this mundane activity and make it worth the boring factor by using Write through the Bible: The Lord’s Prayer.  They write a verse of it for 3 days, write definitions the fourth day, then write it as I dictate the verse.  I even printed a copy for Girly, although she takes only a line at a time instead of the entire verse.  She has mastered uppercase, but lowercase is a bit daunting for her and she gets tired.  The boys have shown me some of their best work doing this–the actual handwriting, the memorization, and the great attitude–doing it with a joyful heart!  I love seeing that.  It is truly their best.

We’ve also been casually working on music since we recently acquired my grandmother’s piano.  Not fancy, but full of memories and lots of music.  Piano lessons will be starting in the near future.  Bradford is indeed ready, thanks to the fun recorder class he took a few years ago in our Wisdom Seekers Co-op group.  He can read the music and is working on fingering and regular practice on the piano.  McCance and I are trying to dedicate some time each week to learning to read the notes and identifying which notes are whole notes, half notes and so on.  Once he gets through that he will make great strides, I know.  That’s the hard part!  Cora’s fingers are not quite long enough for lessons in my opinion, but that doesn’t stop her from practicing.  A new homeschooling friend taught her something on the piano yesterday and she has been trying to practice it ever since.  I know the notes are correct; if only she could remember all of it and not to play the notes all at the same time.

I also started a Lego group with some other homeschoolers for the boys to form some new friendships while doing one of their favorite activities–one I love because it involves so many facets of learning while having fun.  The first meeting was yesterday.  They were all very quiet and I stepped in and called on each one to show and share their creations.  Once that “scary” part was out of the way, they relaxed and started sharing ideas and playing with their cars together.  I loved that one dad was able to come and have fun with the kids with the Legos.  (That also freed up time for the moms to chat–which is yet another reason I organized this in the first place.  I needed to form some new friendships too.)  We used this cool Lego Quest blog for some “challenge” ideas.  The first two, chosen randomly by me, were a car and a birdhouse.  Next week they are doing some type of aircraft.

We will continue this morning routine through the summer.  In June we will add more activities for the boys–a book preview time at the library on Mondays, Kaleidescope craft time on Thursdays at the library, and the pool as many days as I can make the walk over there.  McCance will go to overnight church camp, along with Scott who is going to help his buddy with games and being a Cabin Dad.  Bradford will go to the camp for a week a bit later in the month.  This mama is relieved knowing that White Oak Christian Camp is simply across town and some wonderful friends live at and manage the camp.  I’m also excited because in a lot of ways it reminds me of the church camp I attended as a kid.  Cora will get some extended and much needed mommy time on those library days for the boys.  I know more will be added through the summer as our routine morphs and changes around those activities.  But we are thankful that we can learn all year around and sometimes have fun doing it!

The wonderful group of kiddos and their Lego creations

The wonderful group of kiddos and their Lego creations