The Ultimate Summer Bucket List of Life Skills for Homeschoolers

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The Ultimate Summer Bucket List of Life Skills for Homeschoolers

Parents needs summer vacation as much as their children! It's a time to relax and recover. But summer days are also a great time to squeeze in topics that might be neglected during the homeschool year—like life skills!

Homeschoolers joke about having a life skills day when they put aside the books to clean house or prepare for a big move. But there are plenty of life skills outside of cleaning and downsizing that often get overlooked in the favor of grammar, geography, and geology.

Try these out this summer! Each skill can be adjusted to give the children the amount of information and practice they need for their age.

Home Economics Life Skills for Kids

There are several areas included in home economics, any of which would make for fun summer learning.

  • Cooking and Baking Being adept in the kitchen is a great skill to prepare your children for adulthood, but it has the added benefit of being helpful to the whole family right now. Teach your child how to make meals and snacks this summer so they can take some of the meal preparation tasks off your to do list in the fall.
  • Nutrition Teaching your children about macro nutrients, vitamins, and the body's insulin response will empower children to take better care of themselves with healthy food choices.
  • Child Development Knowing how to feed, change, and entertain small children can help your students prepare for life as parents or find jobs in childcare such as babysitting.
  • Home Management Let kids peek behind the scenes of what it takes to manage a home: paying taxes, basic upkeep, deep cleaning skills, and household repairs are all necessary skills for future homeowners.
  • Sewing From making clothes for themselves or for their dolls, to replacing buttons and hemming pants, sewing is a life skill that lengthens the life of your clothes.

Auto Repair Life Skills for Kids

Basic automotive repairs are skills every driver should be aware of. By the age of 12 (sometimes sooner), children can start to do basic car maintenance.

  • Emergency Skills Teach your kids how to change a tire, how to safely jump-start a vehicle with a dead battery, how to contact AAA for roadside assistance, what to do in an accident, etc.
  • Basic Car Maintenance Children should be able to check tire pressure, add air to tires, check the oil levels, and refill the wiper fluid.
  • Emergency Preparedness Skills Children should know about car insurance and how to contact emergency services. They can learn how to stock and check an emergency kit, check the spare tire to make sure it’s in good working condition, and regularly check to make sure emergency equipment (jack, jumper cables, etc) are in good working condition.
  • Vehicle Safety Teach your children what to do if their car starts smoking, steering stops working, or the engine stops while they are driving. Teach them how to respond if they get pulled over by a police officer and the need to always carry their license with them. Cell phone safety, dealing with friends who want to drive under the influence, what to do during a flood or blizzard, and road rage are all important to discuss.

Financial Life Skills for Kids

All children should learn how to handle money at some point. Saving money is a hard skill for some people to master, and budgeting confuses plenty of adults.

  • Budgeting Have your children help you with the household budget. Let them see how much you spend on different categories, and help them find ways to reduce costs in your household. Show them daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly expenses and how you keep track of when each needs to be paid.
  • Balancing a Bank Account Show them how to keep track of what’s being spent and deducted. While balancing a checkbook might no longer be a needed skill, it is important to keep track of how much money is in your accounts to watch for mistakes and catch when accounts have been hacked.
  • Taxes From property taxes to sales taxes, the amount that goes to taxes is usually stunning to teens. Help them see how sales tax is calculated, when it applies, and the other types of taxes they may encounter as an adult.
  • Giving/Tithing Explain how your family gives money, how you decide who to give it to, and how much to give.
  • Gifting From birthday and Christmas funds to general generosity to strangers on the street, go over the importance of giving money as well as spending it.
  • Saving There are two categories to teach when it comes to saving money. The first is how to save money on expenses by comparison shopping and cutting costs through frugal choices. The second is putting money aside for emergencies or for special projects.
  • Credit Children need to be taught to use credit responsibly, to keep credit under control, and not to spend more than they can afford to repay. The younger they learn this skill, the better the chances they will have fewer credit issues as an adult. Teach them how a credit score is calculated and start working on building their own credit score when they are older teens.

Computer Life Skills for Kids

Children grow up as digital natives today, but that doesn't mean they know all these practical computer skills! For those who like to limit electronics, teaching these topics over the summer keeps screentime from being a distraction to their regular studies.

  • Typing Most children can learn to type in a few short weeks, making this a great skill to learn over the summer. A fun typing program can help whittle away the hottest hours of the summer and give them a skill to help them with their writing assignments over the rest of the year.
  • Creating Digital Documents Writing a paper, creating a poster, or making a spreadsheet are all simple yet valuable skills to teach.
  • Programming Many children love learning to code and program and will happily spend many hours teaching themselves with a few resources.
  • Research Teach your child how to safely and accurately research. Sonlight includes tips on how to research each time they assign a research writing assignment in their Language Arts programs, but good research can always be improved. Teach them how to use keywords to search up information, how to evaluate the quality of a site, how to compile research, and how to structure a bibliography.
  • Internet Safety Show your children how to protect themselves online, how to restrict information they put online, and how to identify sites and people who may be misrepresenting themselves.

Safety Life Skills for Kids

In addition to the forms of online safety mentioned above, there are many other aspects of personal safety that are easy to teach but important to know.

  • Identification Safety Teach your child to memorize their full name, their parents' full names, address, and phone number.
  • Vehicle Safety Know car seat and seat belt rules.
  • Water Safety Cover swimming and lifesaving skills; avoid running near water. Touch on boat safety.
  • Fire Safety Hold simple fire drills. Teach your children to keep low, stop drop and roll, and alternate exit routes.
  • Kitchen Safety Train your children how to use knives, how to put out kitchen fires, and how to use a fire extinguisher.
  • Stranger Safety Make sure your kinds know what to do if they get lost. Teach them some basic self-defense tactics and what to do if someone asks them to do something they shouldn’t.
  • Body Safety Discuss good touch/bad touch and what to do if they ever feel uncomfortable about a touching situation.
  • Tornado Safety Teach your children how to identify the sound of a tornado siren and how to find a safe area.
  • Hurricane Safety Go over the difference between warnings and watches. Discuss your family’s evacuation plan.
  • Allergy Safety Make sure kids know how to read food labels, how to use an EpiPen (epinephrine auto-injector), and when to call 911.
  • Physical Safety Teach basic first aid.
  • Survival Safety Go outdoors to learn how to build a fire, catch food, establish a clean water supply, and build a shelter.
  • Firearm Safety Instill in your children both the dangers of firearms and, as appropriate for your family and local culture, how to use firearms safely.
  • Secret Safety Discuss what secrets are okay to keep and which are not. Make sure children know when to tell parents secrets.

Many life skills can be taught in a short time period. Some need as little as twenty minutes, and others can be covered in a couple of days or a few weeks. Consider adding in a few life skills over the summer to help round out your child’s education and give your children confidence in their ability to take care of themselves and meet any life challenges they face.

When looking for life skills resources, start with Sonlight Electives. They are carefully curated so you can trust they are the cream of the crop.

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3 Ways To Give Your Summer Structure

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3 Ways To Give Your Summer Structure

Summer promises freedom. And, oh, do we crave that freedom—freedom from the obligation of daily assignments, the to and fro of weekly practices, and the hectic pace of co-op schedules.

But then, sometime around the five-week mark of an extended school break, things begin to shift the slightest bit. That lack of structure begins to feel like a lack of purpose.

You’re working harder to get kids motivated to do much more than scroll a screen, stream another episode of their favorite show, or follow you around the house reminding you that they’re bored. Those grand plans for outdoor fun have played out, you’ve lost all interest in making yet another Pinterest craft, and you can’t spend every day at the pool without it, too, losing its luster.

What’s a mom to do?

1. When in Doubt, Read

The easiest way to inject structure into a summer that’s starting to fizzle is to create a loose, low-pressure reading list. Any Readers or Read-Alouds that didn’t get covered during the school year can be tackled in the hotter months, as can extra books that don’t fit elsewhere but you don’t want to miss.

Sonlight’s Summer Readers are also a fabulous, no-stress way to gain some balance in your days. From early readers to high school, adding some daily reading time anchors the day and gives it some shape—and offers some creative conversation points, too. My family maintains a daily reading time after lunch year-round. That little bit of predictability is often enough to ward off the summer crazies.

2. Field Trips That Won’t Leave You All Wet

Visiting your neighborhood pool is great. Trekking to the beach is fabulous. Dipping in the lake is wonderful. Even outings to local splash pads and fountains are fun. But eventually, the crowds and the heat will get to you… and you’ll crave something of the beaten path.

Summer is the perfect time for off-season field trips. Gather with a group of friends, or just journey as a family to find indoor and outdoor educational pursuits that will get you out of the there’s-nothing-to-do rut:

  • picking produce at a local farm
  • attending free workshops at big chain hobby stores
  • taking advantage of discount movie days
  • bowling
  • touring the printing press of your local newspaper
  • holding an ice cream crawl
  • roller skating

3. Did You Say School?

But what if what you really want is a little taste of, well… normalcy? Maybe the kind of structure you need to help your days is school. Before you panic or picture your kids mid-mutiny, consider: a super light schedule of just three math lessons per week might get your children's brains engaged, and help them enjoy (and appreciate!) that leisurely afternoon building a tent village in their own backyard.

School might feel like a dirty word between June and August, but it might very well be the answer to helping ward off boredom, cut down on bickering, and ultimately extending the joy of those long weeks of summer.

An interest-led unit study, or lessons in something you don’t get to during the normal school year (baking? sewing?) are educational, fun, and often just enough to help you and your children feel like their summer was an oasis of respite instead of a waste.

20 Reasons NOT to Buy Sonlight
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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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