Creative Ways Kids Can Write More this Summer

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Creative Ways Kids Can Write More this Summer

Handwriting and writing are a common casualty of summer learning loss. This phenomenon results when children lose ground on hard-earned, newly acquired skills from lack of use. Even those of us who homeschool year-round are often ready for a switch in schedule as the weather warms. Yet none of us want to see our children moving backward with their writing—either handwriting or composition.

While writing instruction with a formal program has been instrumental in giving my kids a solid foundation, I don’t foresee them choosing this activity during their elective, summer time. Thus I look for novel ways to ensure they continue to practice writing. Two surefire ways that work in my household are:

  1. a variety of different writing tools and surfaces
  2. authentic writing experiences

1. Encourage Summer Handwriting with Varied Writing Tools and Surfaces

There is no lack of resources for parents looking to jazz up their children’s handwriting curriculum. After exhausting the novelty of dry erase boards, fancy pens, and character derived erasers, I started thinking outside the box. Here are just a few of my favorite ideas!

Get Outside

  • Draw in the dirt with a stick.
  • Shape letters and beginning words out of twigs, leaves, flowers, seashells, etc.
  • Write on seashells and rocks with a metallic sharpie.
  • If you’re blessed to be at the beach, etch words in the sand that can be viewed from overhead balconies.

Get Creative

  • Form letters and words from play dough.
  • Create pottery from air dry clay and engrave an inscription.
  • Make your own sidewalk chalk.
  • Write in food (whip cream, pudding) or bake cookies in letter shapes and make words.
  • Write on the windows with glass markers, paint, chalk, etc.
  • Write using face/body paint
  • Write in secret code with lemon juice and decode with heat.
  • Write with a white crayon on white paper and then reveal the words with a marker.
  • Write on the bathtub wall with soap, shaving cream, bath crayons, etc.

Play Games

  • Write letters or words on someone’s back, and have them guess what was written.
  • Race to see how many of a certain letter you can write in a minute, but only those written correctly count.

2. Encourage Summer Composition with Authentic Writing Experiences

An authentic writing experience is one that serves a purpose appreciated by the child. For my kids, this is one of the best ways to motivate them to write not just letters or beginning words but to form sentences and paragraphs. Here are my favorite authentic writing experiences that keep composition skills sharp.

Write to Pen Pals

The desire to communicate is what led my kids to start signing, speaking, and using words. I highly recommend finding a friend or even a relative who is willing to exchange snail mail with your children.

While I prefer physical mail, I know several folks who also enjoy sending and receiving email, too. We have on occasion sent a picture of a handwritten message via text. This works well for quick thank you notes.

Compose Lists

If there is one thing I still routinely use a pen and pencil to write, it's a list. Kids can easily start adding items to grocery lists or creating their own packing lists for vacation. Some kids also enjoy doing to-do lists for parties or other events.

Write Notes

Christmas cards and valentines are wonderful during the cold months. During the summer, thank you notes, graduation cards, and birthday cards abound.

If none of those occasions are on your social calendar, have kids write notes to each other and to you. Then simply slipped them under the bedroom door for delivery.

Create Poems and Stories

Some great writing comes out when kids, especially those raised on great books, are asked to tell a story. Some quick ways we’ve found success include:

  • One person chooses five random items to put in a box or bag. The other person tells a story that includes each of the items.
  • Find a funny or active masterpiece and have the kids create a story about the artwork.
  • Have them retell one of their own experiences (vacation, outdoor discovery, etc.).

Celebrate These Authentic Experiences

  • Ask about the pen pal and offer to help with fun stationary, envelopes, and stamps.
  • Use the grocery or packing list.
  • Send the thank you notes as written.
  • Read their story to friends or at dinner.

I’m always looking for more ways to make sure writing continues all year. Do you have a creative idea that worked well in your house and led to more writing? If so, please share.

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Six No-fuss Ideas to Encourage Summer Reading

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Six No-fuss Ideas to Encourage Summer Reading

I've heard many stories through the years about children who use Sonlight and now love to read. As part of the full curriculum, the remarkable Readers and Read-Alouds in each program have helped them catch the reading bug. When summer break (or another vacation) comes around, you couldn't stop these kids from reading if you wanted to. I love that.

But what about children who still struggle to read? Those for whom it hasn't quite "clicked" ... who haven't exactly fallen in love with books? What can you do this summer to encourage them? Here are six simple ideas:

1. Keep Reading!

This may sound obvious, but summer is a perfect time to keep plugging away with reading. Even if you take a well-deserved break from other studies, most children benefit from continuing to read every day. This could mean sharing a Read-Aloud together at bedtime, having your children read to you, or setting aside 20 minutes a day for everyone to grab a book from their Summer Reader collection and read silently.  



Especially for children struggling to read, this steady little bit of work each day can pave the way for a reading breakthrough. It also keeps your kids from losing whatever reading confidence they've built up over the school year.

2. Read to a Dog

One of the fun tips I've seen pop up more and more is the idea of inviting children to read to dogs. Several different studies show that reading out loud to dogs can help kids gain confidence and fluency in reading. A quick Google search will turn up interesting studies and various library programs around the country. Sometimes called a Reading to Rover program, libraries often host specially trained therapy dogs to cuddle and "listen" to children reading out loud to them one on one.

It seems that kids love the fact that the dog won't judge them, won't correct them, and listens with endless patience. Plus, these pets tend to calm children who would otherwise be nervous about reading out loud.

So if you have a cooperative dog at home (or at Grandma's house, a neighbor's place, or the library), consider encouraging your children to read one-on-one to their furry audience. Who knows? Both the dog and the child might love it.

Boy reading to goats outside
My son, Hank, is a natural learner, especially when it comes to anything to do with animals, nature, math or science. He has a wonderful memory and is always looking for an opportunity to share a fun fact with anyone! Reading, on the other hand, has not come naturally. He is progressing well, but it takes a lot of effort on his part, which can feel frustrating for him. He prefers to have a quiet space while reading and that is often hard to come by with two younger siblings. So one day I sent him outside to read to his goats. They were the perfect audience, attentive, quiet, and non judgmental! He finished a week's worth of reading in one afternoon!

Our family is so thankful for our ability to homeschool our children. And I wouldn’t be able to do it without Sonlight! —Kaila M. of Berkshire, NY

3. Let Your Children Read Books a Notch Below Their Ability Level

Sometimes, we eager mothers want our children to push themselves all the time. But when you're helping children fall in love with reading, that may not be the best strategy. It's often better to let them read books that might seem too easy for them.

You want great stories to draw your children in so they're compelled to keep going. But when kids are frustrated because they struggle with each page of a book, they will probably miss the joy of the story. They may decide that reading is an unwelcome, unrewarding chore.

But if children are allowed to read exciting books a bit below their ability, they will slowly gain confidence and (we trust!) eventually catch the reading bug. When that happens, they'll probably shoot ahead and start choosing harder books. I've heard of second-graders who would always pick picture books for their pleasure reading, until they suddenly found the joy of reading and took off into chapter books. Better to lay a foundation for the love of reading before pushing too far ahead.

4. Play Audio Books on Road Trips

Summer road trips are the perfect opportunity to catch some great books on CD. Just head to your library and check out some audio books before you take off.

When John and I would take the kids on car trips, I used to get books on tape from the library and a small tape player for each child. The only thing we'd hear from the kids for hours on end was, "Can you pass me another book?" I must say, it's a nice way to promote reading … and some peace and quiet in the back seat.

5. Join (or Create) a Summer Reading Program

Whether or not your kids are already hooked on reading, they might enjoy a local reading program. With fun events and prizes, these programs can have great influence in getting kids to read. If your local library or book store doesn't host a program, consider creating your own. A simple sticker chart with some basic prizes (such as an ice cream cone or a special date with mom or dad) could be all that you need for some serious reading fun this summer.

6. Model Reading for Your Children

Don't forget to pick out some great books for yourself, too. When your children see you enjoy reading on your own, it helps them realize that reading is a worthwhile activity. So don't feel guilty for heading out to the porch with a good book this summer. It may actually help your children!

With Sonlight, you are never short of ideas for reading during your break! Explore the Sonlight Readers or Read-Alouds you may have skipped this year. Or get a head start on a few for next year.
 
Do you have other ideas to encourage reading this summer? We would love you to share them in your Sonlight Connections Facebook Group.

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Test Drive Homeschooling this Summer: A DIY Guide for Families

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Test Drive Homeschooling this Summer: A DIY Guide for Families

I would be a millionaire if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard, “I would love to homeschool. I just don’t think I could do it.”

Plenty of parents see the value in homeschooling and are drawn to the family togetherness and the student-centered, one-on-one instruction. But the difficult part of making the decision to homeschool is going in blind, unsure of what it will actually be like. If they could see a small glimpse of how it would work, they might be more willing to commit to homeschooling.

I have a solution for anyone in this situation! Give homeschooling a test drive this summer! Summer is a great time to test the waters of homeschooling.

Don’t worry! I know your kids want nothing to do with school during the summer, but that doesn’t mean that your homeschool test drive is on the outs before it even begins.

1. Decide on a Theme

Themes make everything more fun. Counting is okay, but counting whales is awesome. Studying history is alright, but studying knights and castles...what kid would turn their nose up at that? I recommend you think about what your child is interested in. Use this list of summer themes as a jumping off point, but remember, it’s your camp, so get creative!

  • Under the Ocean
  • Buggin’ Out
  • Dinosaurs
  • Around the World in 80 Days!
  • Mad Science
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Inventors & Inventions

2. Gather Resources as a Base for Your Homeschool Test Drive

Unless you have some specific academic goals, you’ll probably want to gear your summer homeschool camp toward the more engaging subjects like science and history.

One good way to jump start a homeschool test drive would be to purchase a Sonlight Science Program. These packages come with a guide that tells you exactly what you need to do and all the literature you will read. But the best part is that it comes with a well-stocked supplies kit containing most of the hard-to-find supplies for the suggested experiments. While Sonlight Science is a 36-week program, it would be easy to split that into three sections and use one each summer or simply condense the course. Of course, if you decide to homeschool, you can just continue the curriculum right into the school year.

Or if you prefer the history route, consider purchasing a Hands-on History Kit from Sonlight. These kits are time period specific and contain a colorful guide book and several projects that your family can do together.

Once you have your foundation for your summer homeschool, you may want to check your closest dollar store for trinkets and toys to go along with your theme to use as incentives. The library is also a great place to find supplementary reading material. Some libraries have themed kits already put together for you to use as a jumping off point.

3. Create a Flexible Summer Schedule

Once you have your resources ready to go, you’ll want to make a schedule. Now, my first—and most important—piece of advice is do not overplan. If anything, underplan. It’s always easy to add activities in, but you’ll feel defeated if you get behind. So be realistic.

What is your summer schedule like? Will you have a lot of time or just a little to devote to your summer homeschool? Also think about your child. Will they come along willingly or will you have to work to get them excited about it? Adjust your schedule accordingly. Remember, it’s just a test drive...you’re just giving homeschool a spin. You aren’t in it for the long haul just yet. Don’t feel like you have to do every subject or every activity you find. Focus on engaging your child and take your cues from him.

Your summer schedule may look something like this:

  • 8:00-10:00 wake up, do chores
  • 10:00-12:00 Animal Planet Camp
  • 12:00-1:00 lunch

You’ll want to keep your schedule flexible because you’ll want to take advantage of the spontaneous fun that summer is known for. Don’t let your schedule tell you what to do. Create a flexible schedule that can be changed as needed.

4. Choose 2-4 Activities Per Day for Your Homeschool Test Drive

The idea here is to keep things simple. You’ll want to choose 2-4 activities or tasks each day, and I would even encourage you to only do your summer camp only three or four days per week. You don’t want to be too rigid in your summer planning. Here is an example of a summer camp day.

Animal Planet Camp Sample Day

  • Read aloud & discuss a book pertaining to the theme
  • Do an experiment or art project on the theme, or research an interesting fact further
  • Watch a video clip on the animal studied
  • Solve a math problem together: World Wildlife Fund says that 100 million sharks are killed every year around the world. What percentage of sharks are killed each year? At this rate, in how many years would sharks be in danger of extinction?

Yes, it’s really that simple. This will be just enough to get your feet wet and get a feel for what homeschooling might be like. It will also give you a chance to see how your children react. When you see how they respond to you, you may notice a few areas that you’ll need to work on. Don’t let these areas be a deal breaker though. Most trouble-spots can be worked out with time, patience, and communication.

Congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming a great summer homeschooler! You may just decide that you like it. Your kids may just thrive with the interest-led learning they did over the summer, and you might just decide to give formal homeschooling a try come fall. That’s great! But you’re probably asking, “Now what?”

After The Homeschool Test Drive: Should I Homeschool in the Fall?

You’ll probably want to start talking to some local homeschool moms. Building a local support system is a great help when you are new to homeschooling. You might also talk to a Sonlight Advisor who can point you in the right direction and talk you through choosing a curriculum.

You’ll want to check your state laws concerning homeschooling and find out the procedure for withdrawing your child from school. Then, you’ll probably think, “Oh my goodness, what have I done?” At this point, you’ll want to give yourself a pep talk. Here’s a script that I like to use myself. You can borrow it if you’d like!

I’m a little nervous about this, but I can do it because God is with me. Everything worth doing is a little scary. I know things won’t be perfect everyday, but I’m ready for the challenge. The mountaintops will outshine the valleys. I don’t know what I’m doing yet, but I’m a fast learner, and we’ll figure things out together.

If only this pep talk were all that you needed! It will give you a small boost, but you’ll still be nervous...and probably a little scared. That’s exactly how you need to feel! It means that you want to do a good job, and you will. I remember when I was pregnant with my first child, and the early labor signs were upon me. I had decided to go without any pain relief, and I was scared. I remember thinking to myself...Hundreds of thousands of mothers have been in exactly this situation before me. I can do it, too. That thought of solidarity with centuries of women really helped me through that moment. And I made it, even though I was scared.

Well, the great news is that hundreds of thousands of mothers have blazed the trail of homeschooling for you too. We are all together in this, and whether we admit it or not, we’re all at least a little scared. So, join hands with me and hundreds of years of women before us, and let’s all do it scared.

Sonlight Connections Facebook group

When you are ready to get started on your journey, call the Sonlight Advisors today and join the Sonlight Connections Group.

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8 Ways to Finish Your Homeschool Year Strong

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8 Ways to Finish Your Homeschool Year Strong

When spring rolls around, it gets harder and harder to keep young minds focused on staying inside and finishing up the school year. As warm weather beckons outdoors, it’s tempting to put off schoolwork and head outside! Here is a list of suggestions to carry you through to the end of the year so you can finish your homeschool year strong.

1. Plan an End-of-Year Party

Invite friends and grandparents. Let your children show off how much progress they’ve made over the year, and special projects they’ve worked on. Celebrate their hard work with loved ones.

Or go to a special place such as a museum or amusement park. Do something out of the ordinary to show your children you appreciate the effort they put in all year. By having an event to look forward to, you create an excitement about finishing on time.

2. Begin the Countdown

Count how many days are left in the school year. Then mark them off on the calendar and begin counting down. By creating a definite end date and seeing it get closer and closer, you create a sense of anticipation. Freedom from school is approaching—and tangible.

3. Speed Up

Offer to let your children work ahead in their assignments, so they can finish earlier. Keep working until everything for the year is done. If they finish ahead of time, they have just earned extra summer vacation days!

4. Order New Homeschool Curriculum

By ordering early, you can look through math and phonics workbooks and see how much overlap exists between the beginning of next year and the end of this year. If you find there is a lot of overlap, you might decide to skip those topics at the end of this year's workbooks and wait until next year to cover them.

Ordering early also creates a sense of excitement with a box of new materials to unveil and organize. Having tangible evidence things will be moving on—via Box Day—creates an incentive to finish the year.

5. Cover a Book Over the Summer

You might lighten your daily workload by choosing a Read-Aloud or a workbook to finish over the summer, making your days lighter now. Summers are often filled with hot afternoons, when it’s too hot to play outside. In that case, you have a captive audience for listening to a book or doing a few pages here or there in the workbook. You can also use some books for bedtime stories, do Bible books over the summer breakfast table, or listen to audiobooks on the way to and from swimming lessons.

6. Extend a Subject Through the Summer

Some parents like to keep certain key skills going over the summer such as math and reading. By choosing to spread some work out over the full year, you can lighten your end-of-year spring days so you can be outside more often without sacrificing any of the content.

7. Choose to Homeschool on a Different Timetable

Perhaps you really would rather be out and about, enjoying the sights before the summer crowds begin slowing down the lines and making fun places less fun. You might choose to finish up your year early, and resume sooner than normal in the autumn. Or you might wish to take off April and May and homeschool during the end of July instead.

8. Call It Quits

Remember that you don’t have to finish every assignment or every book. Schools rarely complete more than 80% of their textbooks. Teachers generally pick and choose which lessons from the books they want to cover. Much of the skipped content will be taught in later years.

If you really are having a hard time just getting through the school year, put your curriculum away and decide later if it’s worth coming back to. You may decide that you are simply ready to move onto the next thing.

There’s really no wrong way to homeschool.

  • If you’d rather finish up early, you can do that.
  • Perhaps if having an end-of-year party motivates your children, then that might be the option for you.
  • If life is hard right now and you just wish you had some time off to recuperate, then that might be the right choice for this year.

Sometimes, just having a plan to finish out the year is enough to help get that far. But, finishing the year is hard for many families, and you’re not alone. Remember, homeschooling is a journey not traveled in a single year. If you aren’t able to get everything done you wanted to this year, there’s always next year.

Summer Readers can be a great incentive for your kids to finish their curriculum! You get a mini Box Day and something enjoyable to look forward to!

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Summer Camp at Home: A DIY Guide for Homeschoolers

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Summer Camp at Home: a DIY Guide for Homeschoolers

Do you want to enrich and refresh your child this summer? Many families in my hometown turn to day camps—from Computer Programming Camp to Ninja Warrior Camp—as a way to fill their children’s summer days with fun and learning. I’ve signed my children up for 2 weeks of incredible day camps, but after a while, those day camps get expensive! Not to mention that packing lunches, applying sunscreen, and getting out the door by 8:30 every morning can make summer feel frazzled and hectic instead of slow and restful.

When it comes to summer, I prefer most of our days to be spent lolling about at home, exploring, day-dreaming, playing, and reading. Of course, the lazy days of summer have their beauty, but they also have their chaos.

Choose a Theme for Your DIY Summer Camp at Home

Even in the summer, my kids need a bit of direction, and I want to guide them towards constructive activities. So I’ve been brainstorming themes for DIY summer camps at home to add just enough structure to make summer, enriching, refreshing, and affordable.

1. Camp Fun, Fun, Fun!

I happen to believe that knowing how to create good, clean fun is a life skill. I want my children to be well exercised in the pleasant and generous art of play.  In this summer camp at home, explore activities, skits, juggling, jokes, and magic tricks. Check out these resources:

2. Creative Cooking Camp

Just because it’s called camp doesn’t mean the food has to taste like a day-old brown bag lunch. Don your aprons and get cooking together with this DIY summer camp theme. A cookbook like Good Housekeeping Kids Cook! will help your child prepare mac n’ cheese, lasagna, salads, smoothies, burgers, cakes, and more! (Bonus idea: If you allow screen time, consider watching Chopped Junior or Food Network Star Kids.)

3. On Your Mark, Get Set, Go Camp

Plan a week full of fitness games that will strengthen your bodies as well as your friendships with this P.E.-based camp theme. In Homeschool Family Fitness, you’ll learn games like Speedy Soccer, Frisbee Football, Deck Tennis, Cops and Robbers, and dozens more. You’ll also learn the correct techniques for walking and running, rhythm activities, basketball free throws, and football punts.

4. Build It Camp

Pull out a different building toy each day of Build It Camp:

You’ll be stimulating your child’s brain with STEM skills all while having fun. In the afternoon, snuggle up the couch and read a chapter in Engineer Academy for more inspiration!

5. Awesome Artist Camp

For one full week, keep the art supplies in sight and don’t worry about cleaning up at the end of the day. Each morning, explore an art project with your child. Take a look at these goodies:

6. Simply Sewing Camp

If you have a child who is interested in textiles, sewing, or crafting, The Usborne Children’s Sewing Kit is just the thing for your Simply Sewing Camp. It has everything you need to sew, stuff and decorate 7 adorable felt animals: all the sewing, stuffing, and decorating, the felt shapes, along with pins and needles, buttons and thread. The accompanying 32-page book provides simple, step-by-step instructions, along with video clips with sewing tips and techniques for additional support. Your kids will end the week with completed crafts and a valuable life skill, too!

7. Chess Club Camp

My kids would love a camp in which we played chess each day. Maybe we could make a tournament bracket, have lunch with an expert chess player, and maybe even watch a tournament game. Sonlight recommends No Stress Chess to get us suited up with the rules of the game and strategy.

Finally finish your Science curriculum by holding a summer science camp at home.

8. Science Wonders Camp

Did you know that many Sonlight families save a couple of Science experiments for summer? (Or, as in my case, we’re actually catching-up on what we didn’t complete during the school year.) Why not batch the experiments together into a one-week Science Wonders Camp? At the beginning of the week, head to the library to check out books on relevant topics and enjoy afternoon science reading!  

9. Computer Coding Camp

Do you have a child who is interested in computer programming? Sonlight recommends Get Coding! for students who are 9+. Here’s what you can anticipate: “Get Coding! is the essential book for teaching coding to kids from the expert coding community Young Rewired State. Computer coding is a key skill and is now part of the National Curriculum for children aged 5+. This fun and exciting book teaches you how to code using the three most important programming languages in the world: HTML, CSS and JavaScript.”

A Relaxed DIY Summer Camp Schedule

A DIY summer camp at home will look different for each of us. Some of us will plan full day of thematic wonders with hands-on experiences, field trips, snacks, guest speakers, music, and themed t-shirts. Others will be happy with one simple activity each day.

Here’s a bare-bones schedule that keeps things simple. It includes enrichment while still prioritizing summer’s glorious free time. From here, you could take things in a million directions. The sky’s the limit!

  • After breakfast (approximately 1 hour): Explore the week’s theme with a hands-on experience. Take your time and allow yourselves to ask questions, relax, and create.
  • After lunch (approximately 30 minutes): Snuggle up on the couch to read a couple of books that relate to the week’s theme.
  • Once per week: Take an afternoon field trip or meet up with a fellow homeschooling family for a combined learning experience.

Practical DIY Summer Camp Structure

Think about how to structure your DIY summer camp for maximum enjoyment. You know your kids best. Consider these aspects:

1. Create Stations

If you have multiple children, you may want to create stations so that each child can play and learn independently. This approach may bring peace to sibling rivalry or competition. Choose a couple of activities that are related to your theme and allow each child to explore that station for 15-20 minutes before everyone rotates.

For example, if you have three children doing an art camp, create three stations:

  1. one with watercolor paint
  2. one that provides materials for cutting and pasting
  3. another that provides sidewalk chalk on the front stoop

Each child will enjoy having his or her own space and opportunity to explore the medium. Of course, if you can’t think of three art-related activities each day, feel free to include a physical activity like jumping on the trampoline or splashing in the baby pool.

2. Foster Teamwork

When you prepare the day’s activity, imagine what it will look like for you and your children to explore the theme together. Will you and your two children be cooking together? Plan to divvy up the steps in the recipe. Or, allow one child to read the recipe while the other follows the steps. Switch roles the following day.

3. Inspire Exploration

Perhaps you’d rather provide the materials and books so that your child creates and explores on her own. All you have to do is to gather the resources and create a space for this to happen! Could you designate a spare table for science experiments? Or a sand table for an art-themed sensory bin? By changing the theme each week, you’ll provide a helpful amount of variety for your child and you’ll nudge them toward fun and enrichment.

I would love to hear about your ideas for summer camp at home this year! Share your DIY summer camp plans the comments.

Of course, no matter what you choose to do with your summer days, you’ll want to stock the bookshelves with lots of great summer reads. Check out Sonlight’s super-fun Summer Readers. There’s something there for everyone.

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8 Ways to Wrap Up Your Homeschool Curriculum in Time for Summer

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8 Ways to Wrap Up Your Homeschool Curriculum in Time for Summer

Are you on track to finish your homeschool curriculum by your end-of-the-year target date? Or are you further behind than you had planned? If the latter, you could probably use some tricks for wrapping up your homeschool curriculum in time for summer.

As I write this, we are on Week 28 of History / Bible / Literature E and Sonlight 100. I keep counting the weeks on the calendar just to make sure we’ll be finished by the second week in June to the day. For this box-checking Type A Mom, that’s cutting it close! In the past, we’ve finished our 36-week Sonlight curriculum by the end of May, but this year we took some weeks off when we welcomed a new baby in December. I’m motivated to finish by June 14th so we can

(Just writing that list makes my heart race!)

I need to remind myself regularly that I don’t have to check every box.

Sonlight Curriculum is less a law to be followed and more a country to be explored. It intentionally provides much more than we could ever tackle in one year so that we are immersed by goodness, truth, and beauty on every side.

My children and I have the freedom to read, learn, and explore at a pace that benefits us and suits our circumstances. That’s why I love Sonlight!

It’s okay if we don’t neatly check off Week 36 by 5 p.m. on June 14th. At the same time, we have a couple of strategies that could help us to finish the curriculum in a timely fashion or be at peace with what we have accomplished during the school year. We can choose from among many tried-and-true options when we come to June with leftover curriculum.

Option #1: Fulfill Your State’s Homeschool Requirements and Enjoy Your Summer Vacation

Did you know that we don’t have to complete the 36-week curriculum in 36 weeks? Actually, we don’t have to complete the curriculum at all. Of course, most of us want to complete each HBL because they are packed with fascinating books, projects, discussion questions, and lessons. The truth is that we don’t have to check all of the boxes.

We do need to adhere to our state’s homeschool requirements though. Here in Pennsylvania where I live, we must log 180 days or 990 hours of school work. The home educator decides what constitutes a full homeschool day’s work. If my child has logged the required number of days in earnest work, we’ve successfully completed a homeschool year. At that point, I am legally free to close the books right where we are and put my feet up for a couple of months.  (If you have questions about your state’s homeschool requirements, consult your state’s homeschool law.)

Option #2: Keep Going Until You Have Finished the Entire Curriculum

Some families just keep going with the HBL until it is complete even if that means going into the summer months. They say that there is still plenty of summer fun, and they feel good about getting as much as possible out of the curriculum.

Option #3: Double Up

If you want your child to complete the 36-week curriculum, but don’t have enough weeks in the school year, consider doubling up some of the subjects. For example, each day read two days' worth of History, Bible, and Literature and finish in half the time. Or double up math lessons, doing one in the morning and one in the evening. Instead of doing science twice a week, do it every afternoon.

Option #4: Add Saturday Mornings as School Days

In a few hours on Saturday mornings, you may be able to read several days’ worth of history, do an extra math lesson, or read through an entire week’s worth of Bible. Adding Saturdays is a simple way to get ahead in plenty of time to wrap up your homeschool curriculum for the summer!

Option #5: Use Audio Books

While you are reading aloud the current week’s assignments, begin listening to the next reader on audio book. Then you’ll have extra time to double-up on lessons or read ahead in another book.

Option #6: Stop Where You Are and Pick Up Again In the Fall

Just because you wrap up the school year doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the unfinished curriculum.  When the new school year rolls around, simply pick up where you ended in June. Begin the next Sonlight HBL whenever you are ready. Many families report completing two HBL’s every three years. Others intentionally take twice the amount of time to work through one HBL over two years. Feel free to make the curriculum work for your child and your family’s situation.

Option #7: Save the Read-Alouds for Summer Reading

Consider skipping the Read-Alouds for now and focusing the remaining school year on finishing the math, history, language arts, and Bible portions of the curriculum. Make time in the summer to double-back and enjoy those Read-Alouds at a more leisurely pace.

Option #8: Fit in Extra Work Throughout the Summer

Speaking of summer, consider portioning the incomplete curriculum items throughout the summer.

  • Use a Read-Aloud as a bedtime story.
  • Read the Bible lessons over breakfast.
  • Listen to an audio book on your vacation.
  • Do a few science experiments when it’s too hot to go outside.  
  • Assign a packet for the summer with three journal prompts, three math pages per week, and three Readers. Kids get the packets on the last day of school and do them at their leisure throughout the summer.

Enjoy your summer with Sonlight's carefully selected Summer Readers.
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An Easy Way to Celebrate Growth in Your Homeschool

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An Easy Way to Celebrate Growth in Your Homeschool
"Today was our last Fun Tale," writes Mandy Y. of Spokane Valley, WA. "At the start of the year, I didn't think we would get here. Parker (5, Language Arts K) struggled to learn to read, and I struggled to teach him. However, I knew Sonlight was a great curriculum, so we persevered. One day, it just clicked! Now, Parker reading his Fun Tales to me is one favorite times during our school week. Thank you, Sonlight, for making reading fun for both of us!"

Pictured, Parker and Mandy wrap up their reading for the year.

Some homeschool milestones feel huge. There's nothing quite like the joy of watching a child learn to read. But most milestones are a bit quieter than that. And they often go unnoticed.

As you go along day by day faithfully raising and educating your children, I suggest you take a step back and periodically look at some of those quieter forms of growth. They can be so encouraging.

You may find this a great year-end activity, or a way to shore up your motivation as you plod along. Looking back can also be a huge testament to God's work in our lives.

Think back to the beginning of this school year and what your children were like then. Where were they academically, socially, emotionally, spiritually, physically? Now think about how they've grown and changed this year. Take a sheet of paper and complete the following sentences at least five times for each child.

Let's say you have a child named Sam:

"At the beginning of the school year, Sam  ______________. Now, Sam ______________."

Keep writing until you are rejoicing in how Sam has grown this year.

  • Perhaps he learned to ride a bike or how to share with his sister.
  • Maybe he finally grasped long division.

You could think about specific subjects, character issues, major accomplishments, relational growth, etc.

If you captured photos of your child’s first day, be sure to take one on the last day of school, too. Then you can compare the physical changes that have taken place as well. (They grow so fast, don’t they?)

Use this paper as a keepsake to review in the years to follow. In addition, a Sonlight Memory Book is a great tool to document your children’s growth throughout the year. After you have captured how much your children have grown, why not celebrate your own growth as well? Sometimes it may feel as if our struggles never bring change, but as we follow Christ, he does work in our hearts.

Taking the long view can be a true act of praise to see how God has grown us over the past decade. Try to write ten statements like this:

"Ten years ago, I _________________. Now, I ________________."

Keep it positive, and thank God for the ways he has grown you into someone a little more loving, a little more mature, a little more Christ-like. Although everything from academic growth to spiritual growth can seem painfully slow sometimes, when we take a longer view we can see that we are in fact growing up.

To paraphrase John Newton, may we all say, "I am not the person I ought to be, I am not the person I wish to be, and I am not the person I hope to be. But I am not the person I used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am."

Praise the Lord for that!

Blessings to you and yours,
Sarita

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