Summer schooled

Dara Squires
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Readily a Parent

This summer my kids have no camps, no lessons, no plans, no pressure. They’re chilling at home, exploring our new neighbourhood, hanging with friends. Without a car, we don’t even have staycation-type outings planned.

Last night as it turned darker, colder and wetter outside, we cuddled together on the couch watching a Netflix movie. The night before we plowed our way through three different board games. We’re taking advantage of no school in the morning to spend precious evening after-work time together having plain ol’ fun.

It’s wonderful.

Typically in the summers, I worry about the kids — especially one who struggles a little with school — losing their skills.

This year, I’m not worried.

We’re running our own little home-school-type program this summer, and the kids haven’t even noticed. I’ve subscribed them to an online math program full of mini-games that they love. We’re also using the home repairs we’re doing to practise things like measurement and estimation. We’re reading together and having book-club-like discussions. They’re writing letters and notes.  Next week they’ll each get their own summer journal to write in.

Biology is easy – there’s a whole natural world out there to explore and a disgustingly educational board game called Scabs and Guts we’ve been playing,

The kids are blossoming. Sure they’re still fighting and arguing and not eating their vegetables, but overall they’re tanned, happy, active and well-rested. They’re spending time with friends and family and building great relationships.

We’re so fortunate to be able to enjoy a carefree summer. With reduced hours at work meaning reduced budget, but also less need for childcare, we’ve been able to embrace the opportunity.

Yet the carefree lack of plans means the kids are actually learning more this summer than they have in prior years filled with summer camps with reading programs, special lessons and workbooks. It’s a lot easier to steal a few 15-minute periods from the day to learn something when the rest of the day is a stretching freedom.

Many of my home-schooling friends say they don’t really have to spend that much time schooling — that the school  day we think of in public schools can be condensed at home into about an hour or two a day. Now I really understand.

This is a bit different from other years where I’ve tried to fill the kids’ summer with opportunities and activities — such plans just create more schedule stress than the school year does, causing that summer parent burnout that makes you embrace the return of school in the fall. What it comes down to, in the end, is balance. Kids need to learn about structure and schedules and responsibilities, but they also need free time. And parents? Parents need days where they don’t care if their kids wear shoes to balance out all those days we need to stand at the door losing our cool because we’ve told them 10 times to get their shoes on and get out the door.

If you can do it, I definitely recommend at least a little time this summer be spent not doing a darn thing: no plans, no schedule, no stress.

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