And by "try out homeschooling," I don't mean sit your kiddo at a table with a pile of workbooks. :-) Although if your kiddo loves workbooks, then by all means, get some awesome ones and let them have at it. Hint: gel pens are great.
What I mean by trying out homeschooling is to try out learning together.
One of the transitions that has to happen when you decide to homeschool is that you're no longer just a parent. You're a guide for learning, a co-learner, and sometimes, a teacher. Notice I didn't put "teacher" at the front of the list? That's because learning is happening for your child all the time. Much of it they are exploring themselves.
Here are 6 ideas you can use to try out homeschooling and build your relationship with your kids during the summer months! You may find that you are loving your time together so much that you dread sending them off to school. It's a great feeling, honestly.
And just maybe, by fall, you'll be considering homeschooling as a real possibility for your family!
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1. Ask your children what they are really interested in!
Then, go to the library. Get a big ol' stack of books, magazines, and movies all about the subjects they are interested in. Audio books are great, too. Create a cozy reading spot with a basket or bin of library books, some pillows, and a blanket. Put it in a central place, so they will see it and wander over on their own.
Look up great YouTube videos. This takes a bit of work on your part. You'll want to preview the contents and make sure they are appropriate. I also sit with my daughter when she watches YouTube, because there is too much temptation to click onto things I'd rather she didn't see.
But it's worth it! There are some great educational videos out there, made by everyone from homeschool kids themselves to school teachers, college professors, and normal folks on every subject under the sun. Once you start digging in, you will find channels that you like and can come back to again and again.
Documentaries are also a great way to learn. Lots are available on Netflix. You can read reviews on sites like Common Sense Media to find out if they are kid-appropriate (some can get pretty graphic). Watch them together with a big bowl of popcorn. Yep, fun AND educational, spending time together as a family.
And ask your kids questions! They love to teach YOU and share what they know.
- What was your favorite part of that movie?
- Can you teach me about _____?
- Will you read that book to me?
- Tell me something fascinating you learned today.
- Would you like to draw or paint or write about ____?
What's so fun about exploring interests with kids is that they are SO excited about it all, they forget they are learning. That's when you get that glimmer that maybe learning together doesn't have to be hard or school-like.
Whether it's a personality thing or the result of my parenting when my daughter was younger, she is not an opener of cabinets or a digger-outer of things to do. This is true even with cubbies of toys we have in cube dividers, that are all for her! If I pull them out, she will play with them. If I don't, she will wander through the playroom, playing with the things on TOP of the cubbies, or out in the open.
But even if your little ones will empty out cabinets in a flash, strewing interesting things for them is a way to engage and help them learn without pressure.
Strewing is simply putting things out where they will be noticed, purposefully.
You could strew new library books to read, toys that haven't been played with in a while, art supplies. Construction paper, tape, and scissors. You could make sensory bins for younger kids (just Google that, it will keep you busy for a while!)
Leave them on the dining room table, ready to be used. Or on the coffee table! Piles of pebbles, nuts and bolts, shells, or anything stackable can be a fun diversion.
I love Geoboards and wooden pattern blocks, too!
An example: we've been collecting bottle caps to flatten and make a tambourine. However, B discovered that they are super fun to play with even before they are flattened. Obviously, you need to consider the ages of your children -- we are well past having to worry about things getting swallowed or shoved into various places (noses, ears).
3. Read out loud.
My super-social kiddo loves things we can do to learn together, and reading aloud is at the top of her list. I suspect this is because she can also move and play with small toys while she listens. Reading aloud is also a great format, because kids can ask questions, respond to the story, and be goofy. It lets them express themselves in fun ways!
I get book ideas from two of my favorite places:
- Erica at What Do We Do All Day has the most amazing, extensive collection of reading lists I've ever seen. We are currently reading a few favorite early chapter book series we found on her lists -- and it was really hard to choose. My kiddo has loved everything we've chosen!
- Sarah at Read Aloud Revival also has terrific booklists and a great podcast.
- I've also started a Pinterest board: Book Ideas for Elementary Kids
Audiobooks are fantastic as well. Chances are, your library probably has a good selection of audiobooks for kids that you might not even know exist! I love audiobooks, even as an adult. They are terrific for long drives, great for when kiddos need some down time and are tired... but mama still has some things to get done.
4. Get out in nature.
Just take walks! Kids are great noticers! Sometimes we try to go out walking for exercise and have trouble because my daughter sees something she has to investigate every 5 feet. :-) We are lucky to have some national forest land right across the street with trails (although they are uphill, pant pant) so we can hike pretty easily.
But I also have a goal to explore all of our city and county parks this summer. We've lived here over 15 years now, and there's still some we haven't been to! What about getting a local map and marking off all of the parks, and making a list -- then letting your kids decide where to go that day?
You could even turn that into a summer scrapbooking project... take pictures and write notes on your visits and then put it together in a fun photo album with stickers!
Some more nature ideas:
- Create a weather journal. Fill it out every day.
- Press leaves or flowers.
- Show your kiddo who is interested in photography how fun it is to get up close and take pictures of leaves, tree bark, blades of grass, and spiderwebs.
- Get each child a planter and choose seeds appropriate for your region, and grow some beautiful flowers together.
- Start an herb garden.
5. Play games!
What? Play games?
Absolutely. SO much of game play is about math (adding dice and moving), decision making, strategy, and cause and effect. We also focus a lot a good sportsmanship.
Here are some we love!
Thinkfun Shape by Shape
Fun geometric puzzles! There are sixty puzzle cards that go along with the set, and they have the solutions, and also hints. Sometimes my daughter will play with a card, but many times she creates her own designs! It comes with a drawer in the puzzle board to hold the cards, and a nice drawstring bag to hold the puzzle board, cards, and pieces.
|Fun and challenging Shape by Shape|
You really can't go wrong with games from Thinkfun. They are so great. This cool maze
|See the red bits? They slide to change the maze!|
Brainwright By the Book
This is a super cute stacking puzzle! My kiddo whizzed her way through all the cards in the stack and then started inventing her own ways to stack.
|The planter is also a level. So mathy! So cute!|
Frozen Monopoly Jr.
My daughter's current favorite game, which we received as a gift. She LOVES racking up properties and collecting her rent. She's kind of a real estate tycoon when we play this!!
|Sadly, there's no Sven game piece.|
Classic. They've changed it since I was a kid, of course. But it's still fun. Maybe I'll go find the 1970s version on eBay... hmmm...
The Secret Door
A really fun cooperative game! I love independent and small game manufacturers, and we'll be exploring more by Family Pastimes.
|A fun cooperative mystery game!|
6. Make a summer schedule.
If you are lucky enough to have a neighborhood full of kids to play with, or a fenced backyard with lots to do and siblings, perhaps you won't need this tip as much as I do. :-) With an only child, who doesn't much like playing alone, and not many kiddos where we live, I like having some things to do and look forward to in our week. Of course, it's a loosey-goosey schedule, any fun invitations that come up, playdates, or the perfect beach day totally take precedence!!
One day per week will be library day. Of course, planning this on a day when it's supposed to be chilly or rainy (or, maybe where you are it's unbearably hot) is a good idea. Our library has some toys and interactive things for kids, as well as some cool games on the computers. So we can pick out books, audiobooks, movies, and have some play time while we are there. Our library also has the best ever climbing rock outside, which we always have to visit.
Another day per week I'd like to be art day. I bought this art curriculum to use this year -- but for our first 5 months of homeschooling, we were just learning the ropes, getting the basics done, and having plenty of play time. So art didn't really happen. But I'm super excited about some of these projects and my daughter likes almost anything to do with art or crafting.
I also like the idea of having a couple friends over one day a week and doing summer camp at home. I've been pinning some ideas for summer camp activities... some of them say they are for younger kids (my daughter is 7) but they look fun anyway.
Share your ideas!
I hope these six summer fun ideas helped light a spark about learning with your kids! You can build everyday memories that they will carry with them for years to come.
Do you have a summer bucket list, or ideas for what you want to do with your kids? Share them below!