Why We Take Homeschool Summers off

We take our homeschool summers off. We’re not like those homeschoolers who go at it all summer with a two-week break to sleep it off. We get off at the beginning of June. This year, we legged it for a peaceful lakeside cottage in New Hampshire, where we hung out with family, goofed off all day, went to bed late and slept in. Then, even though we came back with chores to do, such as hiring sheep to mow the lawn, in my mind, for the rest of the summer we were firmly on vacation.

Homeschool summers are those glorious three months when we get to enjoy all the benefits of homeschooling without doing any of the work.

Summer is the sabbath of homeschooling. We’ve done our 180 days, finished all of our books, ended our co-op, completed our testing, seen our evaluator and turned in our paperwork. It is time to goof off.

What does that look like?

It starts by getting to do whatever I want – like painting the back porch, repairing the dining room ceiling, and cooking food that in no way resembles soup. Such leisure activities normally have to wait in line behind the grammar workbook, the 10th essay revision, the math worksheets. But no more. Just getting to do them without having to switch gears and do something equally demanding is a form of rest. But it’s more than that.

It’s that I’m a homemaker first. Homeschooling, though I’ve been doing it for 25 years, though I’ve never done school any other way, though homeschooling is truly a way of life, is my second job. Sometimes I just want to do my first job and do it well. I want a pretty porch; I want a beautiful dining room; I want to chew my food.

But it’s more than that.

I want to be a mother, just a mother, for three months straight. I want to enjoy my children again and not just correct their math and force them to rewrite their essays and to work through the last chapters of their books one… page… at… a… time.

I want to see them when they wake up and be like, “Hey, you’ve been wearing that shirt for three days, change it or I’m gonna burn it,” and have that be the biggest challenge of the morning. I want us to play Sorry or hit the pool or go to the Dollar Store and not get behind on school as a result. I want time to stand still and not to have to write down the hours or days or weeks or months in my log book.

Remember when we were kids and summer meant hours and hours of daylight and you never thought about the clock? That.

Try this: Pick a moment from summer, your childhood. Visualize it. What is the weather like? What are you doing? Who is there with you?

Now ask yourself: What day is it? What time is it? How many hours left of it do you have before your mother will call you in?

I bet you know all the answers to the first set of questions and none of the answers to the second. At least I do. Not that summer was all play. We had chores at home; we had farmland outside of town; we had to come in at dark and submit to baths and bed. But that’s not where my mind goes when I remember summer. It goes to a single moment, on a day bathed in sunlight, climbing a low thick branch of our large hospitable tree to pick sour cherries, with about a dozen neighbors in the branches around me. I did not do that once. I did it countless times, so many that they’ve all melded together to form a single moment of being. Like eternity. Summer was a taste of it.

That’s what I want our homeschool summers to be like. Whatever we do, even if it involves chores or activities or projects, there is a pervading sense of being at rest.

I think it’s one reason we’ve lasted as long at homeschooling as we have. We know when to stop and let the well refill.

Meanwhile, the kids keep learning. During our homeschool summers off, the kids may go to nun camp or dance camp or put on a Shakespeare play or get better at swimming or learn to dive or learn to cook or decorate cakes or do a sewing project or volunteer at our friends’ farm or watch YouTube videos about how to play the ukulele that their uncle made for them. Since none of it is required and all of it is engaging, learning happens like magic.

Even the core subjects improve. One year I struggled from September to May to teach a child to read. Finally, after months of toil, summer arrived and we called it quits, feeling beaten. The following September when it was time to pick up the readers again, my child knew how to read. She just knew. I had done no work and my work was done. She had been allowed to look at books any time she wanted to or not. Her mind had been at rest and she had learned.

I have to go now. Summer is calling. There is more that I could say and probably should, but this article is not about “should.” It is about summer

This article was originally published on the National Catholic Register blog, is reprinted with permission, and has been slightly altered.

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