By Lee Binz
Living in the northwest, you learn to appreciate the summer, or as we like to call it in Seattle, “August.” It's the time when priorities turn to camping, vacation, snuggling young children, relaxing in a hammock, and reading great books. But what does homeschooling look like in the summer?
Should you take a break from academics? How about summer school options? Surely your teens should be reading good books during the summer, right?
Your first priority is to figure out if it’s break time yet, or if you need to keep doing school for a while longer. Then you need to figure out how to end your school year quickly, hopefully before anyone has a major meltdown. Finally, you need to know some best practices for homeschooling during your summer break.
Are you ready to dive in and learn how to have the best summer ever?
5 Ways to Decide if You are Done for the School Year
1. The curriculum is done
One way to measure a high school credit is when your child finishes the curriculum. You only need to be 75 to 80% finished to be "done," so there is some flexibility. While it's true that most homeschoolers finish curriculum in order to save money (you know who you are!) it's also true that if you are pulling your hair out, it's perfectly fine to be DONE when your child is 3/4 finished with the curriculum.
2. Your child has put in the time
Another way to measure a complete high school curriculum is when your child has put in the number of hours required for a credit. If they have worked for one hour or more per day for five days per week, or have done 120 to 180 hours of work in the subject, you can say your child has earned the credit and can be DONE for the year. Often this will happen if the curriculum is so full of books, worksheets, and information that most children won't finish in a year. This can also happen when parents supplement or add to the curriculum. If you are ready to be done for the year, and your child has put in the time, they don't need to continue working until every assignment or book is complete; you can simply decide to be done for the year.
3. The unfinished areas are not core subjects
For core subjects such as reading, writing, math, science, and social studies, you do need to finish 3/4 of the curriculum to be done. Some core subjects are easy to finish but others, such as math and science, take daily effort. When your child falls behind in these subjects, it's hard to catch up.
But for non-core subjects, you can stop when you are done for the year. In high school, instead of granting a whole credit, you might give your child a half credit for foreign language instead, and then stop. Electives are the same way. Simply calculate your hours and if your child doesn’t reach the 120 to 180 hours needed for a full credit, grant a half credit and be done.
Math is unique, though, and I encourage you to work through the summer if necessary to finish at least 80% of the math book. Colleges want four credits of math, so it's important to teach a whole class for a full credit each year. Without finishing most of the book it will be even harder for your child to understand math the following year.
4. Natural consequences are needed
Sometimes kids didn’t do the work they need to do during the year. They didn't work enough, they didn't put in the hours, and they NEED to get the core class done. When this happens, summer school is a natural consequence of not getting their work done. Give them work on their core subjects during the summer until they are done.
As your child works on these areas, make a plan to prevent the problem from happening again next year. Remember my big two tips for making sure you are consistent with school. First, hold a meeting with your child every day to check in on each subject and make sure they stay on task. Second, put weak areas first so the subjects they are most likely to "forget" are done first thing each day.
5. Taking a break is critical for mental health
Sometimes you simply have to stop for the year for the sake of your sanity. If you have been working hard and just can't take anymore, then you may need to STOP in order to be effective in the fall when you start up again. This is especially important if you tend to do too much, or if you bit off more than you could chew, or if you are facing a family crisis of some kind. While taking your summer break, work on assessing why you were unable to finish or became so burned out. Spend time making a plan so that it doesn't happen again.
How to Finish School Quickly and Start Summer Fast
When it's time to finish up the school year, it can be difficult to feel done. If your child isn’t completely done with a textbook or unit of study, you may want to think outside the box in order to finish up classes quickly – and still have time to enjoy your summer. If you want to finish, I suggest you watch movies. I call this the Popcorn Party Plan.
Instead of sweating your way through the remainder of your textbook, with your kids groaning through every single assignment, go the “quick and easy” route instead. When you are ready to pull your hair out if you don't get a break soon, it's time to take evasive action. Find some educational videos to finish up with school. Remember, not every class in high school has to be hard. I remember some high school classes that were significantly easier than others! It's reasonable to decide right now that the class has been hard enough, so you can finish up the easy way.
Finishing school with the Popcorn Party Plan will help you have fun AND finish school.
The Great Courses offers video high school classes in World History and American History that can finish up your history class fast. They offer college level classes on specific time periods, such as the High Middle Ages. With no exams, no homework, and no prerequisites, your kids can watch them like a TV show to finish learning concepts.
You can also search for educational videos (that are often on PBS). Scour educational videos online or in the video section of your library, or talk to the librarian, to get ideas for supplemental videos that might address the last concepts in the textbook. Pop some corn, pop in the DVD, and finish up the easy way. Make it a party setting, and celebrate the joy of homeschooling that gives you this flexibility.
You can find videos that give a synopsis of history, algebra, biology, or health. You can use movies, documentaries, or lectures on DVD or via download. Don't worry about doing everything the hard way. If you've been doing it the hard way all year, maybe now is the time to homeschool the easy way and finish up so you can take a break.
6 Best Practice Goals for Summer Break
Taking a break in the summer is important. Even if your child must take some summer school classes at home, it doesn't mean Mom or Dad needs to work, too. Try to get your child to work independently so you can get a break from the normal rigors of homeschooling. Breaks are a breath of fresh air that can rejuvenate your homeschool next fall!
Now is the time to renew and refresh. Avoid teaching. Instead, fill the summer with opportunities for delight directed learning. Provide unscheduled time for your child to pursue their own interests. It's the best thing you can do to prepare them for college - and life! Learn more: Encouraging Delight Directed Learning at the High School Level.
2. Read Books
Encourage reading this summer. Buy a few special books, speak to your librarian to find the perfect books for your resistant reader, or visit the library and fill up a weekly box of books. However you do it, encourage reading during the summer. Keep bookstore and library receipts for your child’s reading list. Check out this College Bound Reading List. Or grab books for your younger students here: 7 Ways to Encourage Reading in Middle School.
3. Retain Skills
A little practice over the summer goes a long way to keep math skills sharp. Math skills are so easily lost, but just 15 minutes a day can help your child retain information. SAT or ACT prep books are the perfect grade level math workbooks for summer review. Two or three small problems in a prep book may be all your child needs to keep these skills throughout the summer. You can also try fun math games and supplements from this blog post: Teaching Math the Right Way Tip #5.
4. Update Records
Update your transcript and course descriptions for the year. Every year, your job as a homeschool parent is to update your school records. For better or worse, you chose this vocation, and this is a job that needs to be done. Whether you find this job as messy as diapers or as joyful as a day at the beach, you still need to get the job done. For help, try the Total Transcript Solution or the Setting the Records Straight book on Amazon. Learn more with my free online classes: A Homeschool Parent's Guide to Grades, Credits and Transcripts or Homeschool Records That Open Doors.
5. Refresh Yourself
Invest in yourself and your chosen vocation. Take a class. Continuing education classes are important for homeschool parents, so you can stay up-to-date on high school testing and college admission, and review your goals for the coming year. Read a book about homeschooling so you are eager and ready for what’s ahead. Get some help if now is the season when you are available to learn more about homeschooling. Invest in continuing education this summer, so you can have the best homeschool year ever. Check out my Store for some great educational tools you can enjoy this summer!
6. Plan Ahead
Mark your calendar with important dates now, while next year's calendar is still empty. Find the dates for important tests, like the PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP and SAT Subject Tests. Plan important tasks like attending college fairs and college visits. Carefully plan classes to include 4 years of math and English, 3-4 years of social studies and science (1 with lab), 2-4s years of one foreign language, and a year each of fine arts and physical education. In general, a college prep education includes 24 credits. After covering the core subjects, your student is free to choose electives to fill the rest.
7 Summer Tips for Rising Seniors
Planning ahead can make the coming year so much smoother! Make life easier on yourself, and spend some time with your rising senior this summer, planning ahead for college admission
1. Choose 4 to 8 Colleges Where Your Child Will Apply
For the best scholarships, include both public and private universities with a mix of reach, fit, and safety schools.
2. Organize Your Calendar
Find the admission application due date and put it on your calendar. Plan to beat the deadline by one month. For the best scholarships, apply early.
3. Emphasize the Activity List
Having a job, doing volunteer work, or being involved in groups, all improve chances of employment and college admission. Activities show your child is committed, well-socialized, and works hard. They show your child is not a couch potato, watching the world fly by.
4. Fill Your Child’s Reading List
Find some good books that look interesting from the College Bound Reading List. Curl up with your cat, recline on the beach, or lounge in your hammock. Reading is a joy, not a punishment, so make it fun.
5. Homeschool College with CLEP Exams
For homeschoolers that learn for fun and test well, a simple CLEP exam is a perfect way to capture what they have learned. If your college choices accept CLEP tests for college credit, a simple test can save thousands of dollars. Learn more about homeschooling college with my Coffee Break Book, How to Homeschool College: Save Time, Reduce Stress, and Eliminate Debt
6. Make Money with Regular Employment
Yes, it can go on your child’s activity list, but a summer job will ALSO earn money. Eventually, your teen will grow up and leave home. They’ll need money to start their independent life. Being able to afford a car or apartment takes effort. Now is a great time to teach the value of a dollar and the importance of regular work.
7. Plan Ahead for the College Admission Process The process of admission is long, with many moving parts that have an important role in scholarships. You may want to work on college application essays with your child during the summer, since they take so much time. Especially if your child will be doing dual enrollment in the fall, finding the time to write self-reflective, technically perfect essays can be a real challenge.
Take a Break from Regular Work
Instead of homeschooling non-stop and wearing yourself out, take a break from teaching. Professional athletes understand that taking a season of rest is critical to success in their field. The same is true for you! Take a season of rest. Enjoy a time of relaxed learning, for you and your children. Focus on your continuing education and allow your children to read for enjoyment. The best practice for homeschooling during the summer is to consider this your continuing education season, when regular work has stopped. Then you'll be ready to go in the fall!
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school . Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com/freebies.
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Getting the Most Out of Your Homeschool This Summer: Learning Just for the Fun of it!
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This Summer Do Your Learning Just for the FUN of it! Summer is the best Season ever! It's the time that priorities turn to camping, vacation, snuggling young children, relaxing in a hammock, and reading great books.
But what does homeschooling look like in the summer? Learn valuable secrets to homeschooling during the summer, without making you feel guilty or stressed!
The HomeScholar High School Solution
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Get complete instruction for every age and stage along the way. Learn how to choose curriculum and teach tough high school subjects.
If you are a beginner to homeschooling high school, and prefer working independently, consider the High School Solution, which provides over 34 hours of training classes for parents, all with handouts or workbooks plus articles.