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Homeschooling Do you homeschool? Thinking about it? Join the discussion and talk to other homeschooling parents!

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Old 05-31-2006, 08:31 AM
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Loving Summer Homeschooling

Loving Summer Homeschooling

by Randi Lynn Mrvos

How can you be sure that homeschooling will be right for you and your child? Summer homeschooling may be the answer.
Five years ago I was determined to make my daughter's summer special. Throughout the year Abby attends a Montessori school. And because she loves it, I wanted to keep her love of learning alive. I envisioned teaching simple school lessons, which would include hands-on activities. Our summer homeschool would be like her school---instructive and interesting.
I chose ten topics that Abby had studied in her primary school. After dividing each of the subjects into five units, I used the Internet and our local library to research each topic. About two weeks later, I compiled my notes and wrote-up the lessons. Next I worked-up crafts and projects. I searched the Internet again, and with the addition of my own ideas, developed exciting activities to complement the lessons. Before the school year had ended, I had written 50 lessons on subjects such as, art, music, zoology, biology, math, and English, each including an activity.

The first day of summer break I was ready, but nervous. Would my daughter like homeschooling? The night before, I placed my notes neatly under the coffee table. The activities were placed on the coffee table, to pique (I hoped) her curiosity. Would Abby pay attention as I taught the lessons? Would she be interested in the activities?
To my surprise Abby embraced the concept. Before the lesson, she arranged her favorite dolls on the couch and squeezed in between them during the lesson. She actively listened as the lesson was taught, and afterward, she was engrossed with the project.
Now that I've been teaching for several summers, I feel more confident about our homeschooling. We still study subjects that are similar to the ones that Abby has had in school. But, the activities have really breathed life into the lessons. Often the activities involve using the senses. In studying herbs we played a game that required identifying them by smell. For a zoology lesson, we incorporated texturizing animals on an animal kingdom chart with fur, feathers, and leather. When studying Handel's Water Music, we made our own water music by filling eight crystal glasses with different levels of water and tapping the glasses with a spoon to play musical notes.
Occasionally, I strayed from the familiar subjects and chose more advanced topics. For instance, we spent a week studying chemistry. We played games with colored mini-marshmallows that represented electrons orbiting in atomic shells. We made our own litmus paper to test the acidity and the alkalinity of liquids and household products. As skeptical as I was about teaching chemistry, Abby tells me it was one of her favorite weeks of lessons. I've found that the appropriate level of detail is critical. Explaining principles in simple terms is the secret to success.
Feeling more relaxed with summer homeschooling, I started using more rooms in our house for teaching. The kitchen is perfect for art projects and the piano room is ideal for music lessons. Sometimes, field trips become a part of a lesson with a step outside to make bark rubbings of trees, to study flowers in the garden, or to identify trees on a walk. Of course, the dolls come along, pulled in a bright red wagon.
I have learned over the years that the earlier I begin planning for summer home-schooling, the more prepared I feel. But sometimes, an unplanned lesson happens along. Two weeks before the end of school a large moth the size of my hand lit upon our front door. I scooped it gently into a glass vase for Abby to bring to school. That night the moth laid eggs. Abby took the vase to school, where she and her classmates released the moth and watched over the eggs. Ten days later the eggs hatched. Abby brought home over thirty tiny, lime-green caterpillars. This fortuitous event became a zoology lesson.
After searching the Internet, Abby and I determined we had caught a Polyphemus moth. We pried the caterpillars from the leaves and placed them on trees in a nearby park, keeping three for ourselves. Our "children" devoured bunches of birch and oak leaves and grew to the size of four inches. A month later they all spun cocoons. We were able to watch the entire amazing, silk-spinning process! After an additional month, three Polyphemus moths emerged.
Planning summer homeschooling lessons may be demanding and time-consuming. But, your efforts with be rewarded. You'll be participating in the education of your child and making memorable moments. In addition, with homeschooling you will keep the flame of learning burning brightly in your child throughout the summer. She will learn new, exciting things that will fill her summer days with creativity and fun. Furthermore, summer homeschooling may lead to extending homeschooling to the full year.
After five summers of homeschooling, Abby still looks forward to class. In fact, she's added more dolls to the couch---last count: 30. She writes all of their names on a legal pad and takes attendance. I worry less about planning for summer homeschooling, even though the subjects have become more challenging and the lessons are more involved.
I know where to find my resources and how much time I need to plan my lessons. Preparing for summer learning is undoubtedly hard work. But it's worth it, because Abby is loving summer homeschooling.
Here are some tips to make summer homeschooling easy and fun:
  • Make your lessons interesting and simple
  • Choose subjects that will pique her curiosity
  • Ask your child to help in selecting subjects she would like to study
  • Encourage your child to personalize her classroom
  • Review and become familiar with each lesson before presenting it to your child
  • Include activities that coordinate with the lesson
  • Buy inexpensive materials at a craft store or use household items for lesson activities
  • Set out the activity materials on a tray the night before the lesson
  • Use the Internet, educational workbooks, or the library for research and activity ideas
  • Create activities that involve coloring, painting, constructing, cooking, dressing-up, imagining, examining, and exploring

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