Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer School

When I was a little girl, my parents made an effort to make sure I kept learning during the summer months. 

My mother, a former elementary teacher, was passionate about keeping up the skills I'd learned during the school year.  Summer school with my mom involved a chalkboard with math problems, reading work books, handwriting practice, and trips to the library.  Some summers, it involved 4-H groups led by my mom, too, when I learned basic cooking skills and how to be a babysitter.

My dad taught high school physics.  He was home during the summers, the time that he worked on special projects and grew an enormous vegetable garden.  He usually had several side projects that he worked on to bring in additional income.  My dad's summer school lessons were less formal than my mom's, but he definitely used his time at home to keep me learning.  I don't remember being as involved in the gardening as my older siblings were, but I do remember helping him craft plexiglass educational tools in his basement shop, accompanying him to his classroom to play with all his incredibly cool physics toys, and learning about different birds, wildflowers, and fossils when he took me hiking in the mountains near our home.

Now that I'm a mother, I tend to enjoy the freedom of summer a little more than I probably should.  For years now, I've been trying to come up with a system that gives our little crew a chance to enjoy the freedoms of summer, yet offers some consistency and routine.  (Two of my children crave routine, just like their dad, one of them is much more free spirited, like me.)  I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to do summertime learning activities, too.  This summer, I think I've been able to meet everyone's needs and take some of the pressure off of myself to run a full-blown summer school.

It took some advance preparation, but our summer routine is now up and running, and hopefully it will serve us well.

I started with these notebooks, which I picked up at Target for less than $2. 
The notebooks are smaller than a typical 8x11 notebook.  Which means they fit perfectly into these handy little basket/organizer things that I found in Target's dollar section.
I purchased a notebook and basket for each child.  I filled the baskets with supplies that we already had on hand: crayons, scissors, etc.  I'm keeping them on our kitchen table, right now, since we are eating many of our meals outside on the picnic table.

On the inside of each notebook, I have a schedule that the older kids can look at as a reference for what we'll be doing on any given day.
I chose to use clips to keep those schedules attached, since we have a few weeks where our schedule is going to vary a little because of swimming lessons or sports camps.

For each day that we'll be at home this summer, I printed out a page that had two columns:  one to list the things (chores, piano practice, etc.) the children need to get done that day, and one to list tasks for our "summer school."  I used a different color of paper to represent each of the five weekdays.  I folded these in half, then glued them into the notebook, leaving extra sheets of notebook paper between each page of assignments.
Superkid's assignment pages have room for me to draw pictures that will offer clues about her tasks, since she is still learning to read.
This is what a blank page looks like.  I try to fill these out first thing in the morning, before my kids wake up.
 The notebooks have a folder in them.  I use these to hold writing samples, flashcards, math worksheets, or other items they'll need to complete special assignments.
Earlier this summer, I spent some time at our local library and found some good books to use as part of our summer school curriculum.
I'm far from an expert on this.  There may be some really phenomenal materials out there.  But things like these books about story problems served my purposes for this summer, just fine.

Libraries are fabulous.  I have a day each week when we visit the library during the summer.  We're all signed up for our library's summer reading program.  All of my kids LOVE to read, so getting them to pick up a book during the summer is not an issue, thank goodness!  Actually, our issue is about getting them to put down those books for a few minutes every day.  They come by it honestly--I love to read, too!  

Since my older two are excellent readers, we're focusing more on handwriting and math skills for them.  Superkid's assignments this summer focus more on letter recognition and phonics.

This is the first week I implemented the notebooks.  My children--especially Endeavor--really seemed to love the idea that they could reference what was happening each day, and didn't have wait for me to tell them.  Justone figured out that he could get more free time each day if he did some jobs ahead of time.  Superkid loves checking things off in her notebook as she completes tasks--I think she'd take that notebook to bed with her, if I let her.  

On day one of our summer school, I was in the middle of painting the kitchen when it was time for school to start.  Thanks to the notebooks, the children were able to independently work on their assignments, with very little direction from me.  I was nearby to answer questions, but they seemed to take some pride in being able to handle their assignments themselves.  I finished painting while the kids worked on math and handwriting.  It worked really well!

I'm curious to know if anyone else has a way of keeping their kids on track during the summer.  What works for you?  What doesn't?


  1. Thanks for checking out my blog! I truly can't see how you are unorganized. I'm very impressed! I work during the week but still feel like I need to do something to keep my oldest on track through the summer and just stimulated. She completed her "summer packet" of work from school the day she brought it home! PS- My mom, too, was a teacher (and uber-organized at that). Maybe that's why I'm feeling compelled to do something similar to what you did?

  2. Hey Ruth. I do summer school with the kids, too (although I'm behind this summer). Our dollar store has TONS of educational workbooks (spelling, handwritting, math, etc) for all age levels. You might look at your local dollar store. Also, one thing I wanted to implement this summer was to pick one country a week to study (again, I haven't gotten around to it, but it sounds good). We'll talk about the capital, where it is on the map, language, weather, people and history. Plus, I'll atempt to make a tradional meal from that country during the week. Those are a few of my ideas!

  3. We're on year round school, but I still love all these great ideas. We could use so many of them while we're off track. The kids still get bored after 1 week. Thanks for linking to We're Organized Wednesday.

  4. I think it's a very good idea to keep kids in touch over the summer but the thing I lack is the routine, so this is a great concept for me. I love that it is pre-planned because every year I start out with intentions that end up fizzling. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. This is such a great idea, needed a push to get started on something for July and this is it! Thank you for sharing all this.