Summer Homeschool Schedule for Learning

Do We Homeschool Year-Round? Our Summer Learning Routine

 

It’s summer vacation for most of us in the United States. For many parents, that means figuring out ways to occupy the kiddos.

I’m quickly becoming a mom-group junkie, especially when it comes to homeschool groups. Since summer schedules seem to be a hot topic, I figured I’d go ahead and write a post detailing what a tentative summer schedule looks like in the Anderson household and how we incorporate learning.

But first, I owe you a quick update.

As most of you know we live in Georgia, which means summer break started in May. So far, our boys have enjoyed weekly VBS’s, sports camp, swimming lessons, summer movie screenings, community events, playdates, and more. This is probably one of the busiest summers in our entire homeschool career. Most importantly, our boys are learning things that textbooks can’t teach. Things like how to be a team player, respond to mean kids, meet new friends, and grow in self-confidence.

While summer break is the perfect time to take advantage of all the social opportunities it has to offer, many new homeschooling parents beg the question; How do I prepare my children for the next academic year?

There’s no right answer to this question but let me present you with a few studies. Consider this study that reveals students lose a significant amount of knowledge in reading, math, and spelling during summer. This learning loss accumulates over time leading to a regression in academic proficiency, which we all refer to as the summer slide.

There’s no denying that taking a substantial break from academics poses the risk for children to forget key learning concepts. For this reason, you’ll find that the average curriculum incorporates a review of previously learned material for the first few lessons. Therefore, summer learning loss is already accounted for.

However, if you’re like me and want your children to build fluency during summer, incorporating learning into your summer routine doesn’t have to be a battle. Here are some ideas for how you can encourage your child to continue flourishing during summer months.

 

1. Implement a family reading time.

In our home, I implemented what I like to call a “reading hour.” During this time, everyone grabs something to read, their favorite snack, and hangs out in the family room reading together silently. Afterward, everyone can discuss what they’ve read. For children who aren’t readers yet, try read-alouds or let them listen to an audiobook with headphones on. For struggling readers, research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing.

 

2. Make fluency practice easy.

If you don’t mind screens, installing apps like Prodigy, Elephant Learning, Reading Eggs, Epic, and more, can turn tablet time into fun fluency practice. Learning apps are not only a nice break from worksheets, but they also make incorporating summer learning easier on parents by allowing them to create academic goals and track progress. While some of these apps aren’t free, there are a ton of free ones available for download. Some apps even come with a free trial, so take advantage.

 

3. Focus on learning a new skill.

In our home, we carve out some time to encourage our boys to learn something new. We not only want them to retain what they’ve learned, but also increase what they know. Learning new skills sharpens their brains and builds confidence. Some great ideas we’ve tried are:

  • Following drawing tutorials
  • Learning how to play a new song on the keyboard
  • Learning to code a video game
  • Following dance tutorials
  • Learning life skills like tying shoelaces, riding a bicycle, swimming, etc.

 

4. Enter a contest and win money for college.

I’m excited to share this opportunity with you all. Education.com is holding a Limitless Learners Contest for a chance for six students to earn $500 toward college and $1000 to donate to their elementary school or local library. There are no strings attached. All your child/ren must do is this:

Describe a time when you were having so much fun, you didn’t realize you were learning something new!

Kindergartners may draw or paint a picture to reflect their answer, while older kids can write a short story, poem, or even a comic strip. Deadline is October 31, 2019, but why not utilize summer break to sharpen your child’s writing skills and craft a winning response? See details, here.

 

5. Implement a reward system.

I’m a believer in incentives. In our home, screen time is a big deal, so I use that to my advantage. This summer, learning how to spell new words will grant my boys an allotment of precious Minecraft time. Of course, I had to make it fun by printing out this list of key Minecraft terms. I told my boys if they’re going to be playing the game, they need to know the spelling and definition of each term. The result? Over 40 words learned in just one week for my 9-year-old. My 6-year-old also learned 15 new words.

 

6. Develop the whole child.

Some parents focus solely on academics and unknowingly neglect other skills equally important for ensuring a child’s potential for learning, growth, and wellbeing. Outside cognitive development, other skills that should be challenged and developed are physical, social, emotional, and creative skills. In our home, we’ve also added spirituality to the list. How does this whole child approach play into academics? In short, research suggests children who are emotionally and physically healthy are higher academic achievers. But did we really need research to know that? Summer is the perfect time to check in on your child’s socio-emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Some books to read with your kiddos are:


 

If you need inspiration crafting a summer schedule, check out ours below. Keep in mind this schedule is always changing depending on what we do that day, but it comprises all the things we’d like to incorporate into our schedule when we’re at home. I love schedules for children not only because knowing what’s expected encourages positive behavior, but they also teach time management and responsibility.

Summer schedule for home school

What does your summer routine consist of? Let me know in the comment section!

How to Combat Summer Learning Loss

Summer Schedule to Combat Learning Loss and Restore Order + FREEBIE

The summer vacation sort of crept up on us.

In Georgia, most kids are out of school by the third week of May. But in our homeschool, summer vacation wasn’t supposed to begin until June.

What happened?

My second-grader decided he wanted to take his final assessments early. All his friends at church were already out of public school, and he wanted to join the crowd.

So, I let him.

It was a win-win, really. We had a family trip approaching and I thought It’d be nice to come back home and not have to worry about school work.

The problem?

After that lovely trip to Maryland, where we got to visit my siblings and explore the beauty of Washington, DC, there was total chaos in our home. Fighting over games, tablets, toys, and personal space ensued. Our living room floor was full of Legos, art supplies, and Cheerios. Our kitchen sink housed every single dish from the cabinets by the end of the day. And I was close to losing it.

Capitol Building Washington, DC
Our Family Trip to Maryland Included a Day-Trip to the Nation’s Capital

But then I remembered something; amid our travel adventures, I’d forgotten to write out our summer schedule. So, I did just that.

When I say peace was restored almost immediately, it’s no exaggeration. I showed the schedule to our boys and it was like a weight was taken off them. Knowing their daily expectations offered them a sense of security and control. Even more, creating a schedule that carried out my vision to combat summer learning loss gave me peace of mind.

Let’s not get it twisted. There are still those days when everyone’s mood clashes. Today, as I write this post, is one of them. However, incorporating a summer routine has definitely given us smoother days when we’re stuck at home.

So, what does the schedule entail?

The purpose of the schedule, other than to restore order, is to ensure our boys keep their brains sharp, limit technology usage, and learn something new this summer. I understand resting from the demands of schoolwork is essential for developing brains, but I also wanted to ensure our boys were spending a little time each day building fluency with old skills and taking the initiative to develop new ones.

Take a look at our summer schedule below and download your FREE editable copy, here!

Summer Schedule to Combat Learning Loss
Click the Image to Download Your Editable FREEBIE and Create Your Own Summer Schedule!

As you can see, I’ve split the schedule into three parts: mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Every morning, there are three requirements to enjoy afternoon screen time:

First, our boys must read at least one book or two chapters. My five-year-old is still new at reading so we’ve worked it out where my oldest son does shared-reading with him. There are several studies that illustrate the significance of summer reading to prevent learning loss. However, our reason for ensuring our children hit the books during summer vacation is to simply encourage the lifestyle of reading.

Boys Love to Read Books by Mo Willems
Our Boys Love to Read Books by Mo Willems

Second, our boys must do at least one math activity. I made each of them fun interactive activity binders that house at least 35 activities for math fluency practice. You can read more about it here or purchase it here. These binders are a great alternative to worksheets because the Velcro attachments allow for repeated use until mastery. Additionally, these activities are perfect for kinesthetic learners who thrive with hands-on learning.

Boys Interactive Math Binder
My Son Practices Fluency Using His Interactive Math Binder

Third, our boys must complete their chore checklist. This checklist is basically a reminder for them to clean up after themselves, which is super helpful to me. Since they’ll either be playing with their tablets or watching TV, completing their chores in the morning means the house is likely to stay tidy all afternoon. I laminated the checklist (and schedule) to make them reusable with dry-erase markers.

Chore Checklist for Kids
Chore Checklist for Kids

Believe it or not, these requirements only take my boys about an hour or two to complete after breakfast. After that, they usually build Legos or draw pictures until the afternoon. I also created a list of activities to choose from should they grow tired of building skyscrapers with their Legos or drawing Sonic characters with scrap paper.

Why have a summer schedule?

Like most children, my boys thrive on structure. It offers them a sense of control and limits the frustration that can often trigger defiance and sibling rivalry. I’ve also made it a requirement that both must complete their checklist before afternoon screen time, which encourages them to work as a team.

Schedules are also great for me and my husband, who work from home. We know that from noon until four in the evening is going to be the quietest time to get important things done since the kids are typically quiet during screen time. To be honest, they’re actually so quiet, they’ve finessed us into having longer screen time because we’ve lost track of the clock. We must remember to set that egg timer!

Lastly, schedules are a great way to ensure we reach our summer goals. In our case, our main goal was to ensure our children were still sharpening their brains and building new skills. Trust me when I say that summer learning loss is real, but over the years we’ve discovered that making fluency practice a requirement decreased the amount of re-teaching we’d have to do for reading and math in the Fall. Repetition is one of the keys to mastery for children.

What are some alternatives to screen time?

Evenings in our home are scheduled to help our boys get their minds off the screen. Children must be encouraged to try new things and develop interests apart from television and video games. Therefore, our schedule reminds the boys of some of the things they like to do. Those activities include:

  • Playing the keyboard
  • Cooking
  • Dancing
  • Listening to audiobooks
  • Telling jokes
  • Making crafts
  • Drawing pictures
  • Playing sports
  • Playing board games
  • Storytelling
  • Playing outside
  • Playing MadLibs
Educational Board Games for Boys
Board Games are Great Alternatives to Screen Time During Those Summer Days You’re Stuck at Home.

Not only are these activities fun, but they’re also a sneaky way to incorporate additional learning into our daily summer routine. Of course, most of these activities will hold the attention of older children. But if you have wee ones, visit my friends Zoe, Josephine, and Angela at ThinkBaby.org and read their post “FUN & EDUCATIONAL DIY CRAFT IDEAS FOR TODDLERS.” They’ve got an awesome website full of gems for new and veteran moms!

What happens when we’ve got somewhere to be?

Summer vacation is filled with camps, traveling, sports, swimming, fellowship, and much more! This week, my boys have Vacation Bible School in the mornings. Next week, they’ll have afternoon swimming at our local pool. We try as much as possible to keep them involved with outdoor activities. When we have somewhere to be, we just pick up the schedule where we left off.

For instance, after VBS, my boys complete all their morning requirements and enjoy screen time for the rest of the afternoon. Next week, morning requirements must be completed before afternoon swimming. The remainder of the schedule will commence when we return home in the evening.

Schedules are made to be broken in our home. Therefore, we invite spontaneity. We are known for taking impromptu trips out of town, fellowshipping with friends until the wee hours of the morning, and hopping in the car to attend that local event we just learned about an hour ago. It’s no big deal if we ditch the schedule for things we find more enriching to our lives.

Vacation Bible School FUN Time Travel
Vacation Bible School Shenanigans With My Futuristic 8-Year-Old
HEART 360 (2)
My Boys Had a Blast Spending Their Mornings at VBS Where the Theme Was “Time Travel.”

Why do we have so much screen time during summers?

Summer screen time is a treat because my boys are only allowed screen time on weekends during the school year. Screen time basically consists of anything from watching tutorials, to coding and playing video games. While the allotted time is from noon to four in the afternoon, I admit some days our boys are probably watching screens much longer than that.

My husband and I have no qualms about children and screens, but we do see the value in controlling the amount of time our boys spend watching screens in order to help them develop other interests. Likewise, we’ve recognized that eliminating screen time on school days helped increase their concentration and work ethic, as they no longer tried to “hurry up and finish” school work in order to get to their video games.

There are many scholarly articles that make a case for why screen time is or isn’t good for children. I say, it all boils down to what’s best for your family. I know parents who can’t do any screen time whatsoever due to their child/ren having sensory processing disorders. Our boys can handle limited screen time, but we do heavily restrict what they’re allowed to consume (i.e. no violent or inappropriate games or shows).

Coding on a MAC for Boys
My 8-Year-Old’s Favorite Pastime Is Coding New Games with Scratch.

I hope you enjoyed me sharing a glimpse of what our summer is looking like this year. I decided to write this post because some of you liked the summer schedule I posted on Instagram and I wanted a way to provide an editable copy for you. I also love sharing what works for me in hope that it may work for you, too.

If you’re looking for activities to do with your children this summer, I highly suggest connecting with your local library, homeschool group, or recreation center and check out their schedules. You’d be surprised how many free and low-cost activities these resources have to offer.

I want to hear from you: What are your summer plans? Let me know in the comments!

Toddlers and Toys

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

Okay, so let me get this out of the way. The average attention span for a toddler is only 3-5 minutes. By age five, this span increases to a whopping 10-15 minutes. Not very long, huh? I know! It’s no wonder kids seem to run out of things to do so quickly. Nevertheless, I incorporated the following methods to maximize the attention span of my dear children. My boys are now ages 4 and 7, but these straightforward tips have worked for me since their toddlerhood. This week for Toddler Talk Tuesday, I will share simple things you can do to help curb toddler boredom. I hope you find these tips helpful. Enjoy!


 

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

1. Don’t hold onto them. 

Those toys that your children have outgrown or don’t care for? Donate them! Sometimes when the toybox or playroom is overflowing with toys it can be overwhelming for kids, especially the younger ones. Purging toys not only lessens the load and makes playtime more attractive, but helps your children discover those long-lost items they’ve forgotten how much they love. Be sure to involve your little ones in the donation process. Let them know they are making room for new toys in the future. And don’t forget to let your toddler choose a brand-new toy to purchase and include in your donation!

 

2. Keep them in rotation. 

Limiting your child’s toy options may help hold their attention for longer periods—especially when those options are in rotation. Leave your child 1-2 toys to play with and put the rest away for a while. You may find that your child can play for longer periods with just one or two toys. This is because there aren’t a dozen other toys competing for their attention, so your child isn’t rushing to move on to the next best thing. Decide how long you want your rotation to last (every week? every month?) and reintroduce your child to some of the toys you’ve been hiding away. Be sure to keep the cycle going. 

 

3. Organize them. 

Yes! Keep the blocks with the blocks, the dolls with the dolls, the play kitchenware with the play kitchenware—you get the point! Avoid dumping all your children’s toys into one giant toy bin. Instead, get some inexpensive bins (the Dollar Tree is a good place to start) and teach your children how to keep their toys organized and accessible. You’ll be amazed at what a difference this can make during playtime. I recall several meltdowns because certain parts of a playset had gotten lost in the crowded toybox. Organizing toys keeps all those “parts” together, which limits frustration and tantrums. 

 

4. Play with them. 

Sometimes you just have to get on the floor and play with your kids. Doing so is not only great for bonding and building self-esteem, but also gives your child new ideas about how to play with their toys. Show them how to build an amazing tower with their Lego set, how to create an awesome storyline for their toy soldiers or dolls, or how to play a new tune with their pretend (or real) instruments. You may find that your child takes ideas and builds upon them, sparking a new excitement for their toys. 

 

5. Change surroundings. 

Take that play kitchen or workbench station out of the playroom and put it into the family room for a few days. On a sunny day, take a large blanket and place it in the backyard with a few of your child’s beloved toys for a fun toy picnic. During the winter, bring your child’s water table into the kitchen or garage and let them enjoy playing with a “summer toy” during a different season. Sometimes, a different setting can make old toys just as exciting as brand new ones.

 

6. Wrap them!

Yes, you heard it right. Get some fun wrapping paper and wrap some of your child’s toys. Toddlers won’t care that the toy isn’t new. They just love the idea of unwrapping a present! Even better? Give them some extra wrapping paper to wrap the toys themselves. My boys loved wrapping their toys and giving them to me as “gifts.”

 

7. Become a “toy fairy.”

I still love doing this! When my oldest was a toddler, I would sneak into his bedroom while he was asleep and set up his toys in an elaborate display. Trust me, this will buy you some time in the morning! Or even post-naptime! My son would wake up and be so excited to play. These days, since I have my children’s toys on rotation, I simply switch out their toys in the middle of the night for other toys they haven’t played with in a while. It’s like Christmas morning! They never know what toys they’ll wake up to.

 

8. Wash them.

Get a large container, fill it with water and bath bubbles, give your child a toddler-friendly scrubber, and let them “wash” their toys. Make sure the toys are not plush, battery operated, or electronic. They can wash their toys while sitting on the kitchen floor as you cook dinner (place a towel underneath them). Or, like my boys do, they can wash their toys outside in the backyard while you sit on the porch with your favorite book scrolling through Instagram.

 

9. Make them educational.

Place alphabet letters or numbers onto blocks, Legos, mini figures, or dolls and have your toddler arrange them in order. You can simply print out a number or alphabet template, cut them into squares, and tape them onto the toys. If you don’t mind things being permanent, you can even write on blocks and Legos with a permanent marker. You can also have your child group the toys by color; for example, place the red blocks with other toys that are red. Or, try arranging the toys by size. There are so many possibilities and your toddler will love having a little task to do!

 

10. Take them apart.

This is a recent tip I read about in one of my Facebook STEM groups. Whether you have a curious child or a future engineer, old toys that can’t be donated can be safely taken apart for further exploring. Let your child explore what’s inside a stuffed animal, a remote-control car, or that musical toy that plays the same annoying songs over and over. I do not recommend this tip for younger toddlers who still put things in their mouths, as there may be small parts involved. Always remember to provide close supervision.


 

As a disclaimer, I am not an expert. These are just tips that have worked for me and my family. I hope you found at least one of these tips useful. Join me next week for my final post on the Toddler Talk Tuesday series!

Let us know in the comments what you do to help curb toddler boredom!