|Playing with paper dolls and doing some crafting on the first morning of our hiatus|
We learn year-round here; in fact, I often feel like counting all my children's waking hours as "school time," since I can clearly see that they are learning even when the official "school books" are closed. But, though our academic schedule is different from anything resembling an institutional school calendar, I do schedule the official days on a calendar ahead of time, and I'm pleased that we were able to basically stick to the plan through winter and spring. Of course, if life requires an adjustment, we flex as necessary (because, to paraphrase Jesus, schedules were made for man, not man for schedules!), but the girls and I find it helpful to have a general idea about our official "school days."
I don't see a need (among any children, really) for a 12-week vacation or a complete break from academic-type pursuits in the summer months. In fact, what most consider the "traditional" school calendar these days is pretty pointless. For one thing, it's based on the notion that most children are farm kids who need summers off to help during the growing season - but that's obviously no longer true for the vast majority of Americans. And, more to the point, the long summer break doesn't even accurately account for how things were when most American families did live an agrarian life. Instead, if we complied with reality of 100 years ago, school-aged children would study from January through to spring planting, taking off for several weeks to help with the sowing but then returning to school most days through summer while the plants did their growing. Formal lessons would again cease during the harvest - perhaps half of September through most of October - and would resume through November until just before Christmas. That was a logical schedule, accounting for people's real needs at the time. In contrast, the typical school calendar these days is an artificial construct with no logical foundation in what's really necessary or best for children or families.
All that said, we've built into our home learning calendar a summer hiatus - a roughly six-week period when we modify our academic pursuits in order to rest and take advantage of the short window of beautiful weather we experience in our neck of the woods. It's only six weeks by design - that's plenty of time "off" - and I most definitely do not take a long break now just because "everyone else" does; in fact, if we lived in the south, we'd study through the summer when it would be too hot to enjoy the outdoors and then take a hiatus in the fall when the weather there is lovely. We're starting our summer hiatus today because it works for us, not because we want to match or comply with what the institutions do. In fact, I almost wish I lived somewhere else just to prove the point.
For these six weeks, I've put away most of the usual "school books," and will limit our daily time spent on formal academics. But we'll still read every day - as a group and independently - and the girls will review math facts and spelling words at least three times a week. In addition, they'll continue with piano lessons and also begin voice lessons - a new musical adventure about which they are beyond excited. And we'll work on special projects: making individualized, illustrated books to summarize our study of plants and animals this past winter and spring; doing some nature study activities we couldn't get to this winter; developing our cooking and homemaking skills; working on some particular study skills strategies; and, perhaps, doing mini-units on our state history and the Olympics.
We'll still have plenty of time for "summer fun." We're planning for one or more outings with friends each week and some special family trips as well. The girls will swim at least once a week, too. Plus, they'll have a week at the Fine Arts Camp sponsored by a local church and we'll take our annual family vacation to Lake Lundgren Bible Camp. And, because the time we'll put into our modified academics for the next few weeks will be shorter than our typical daily load, the girls will have even more time than usual to pursue their own creative endeavors as fueled by their amazing imaginations.
As for me, I began a quest today to re-establish some healthy habits I've let fall by the wayside for the last several months; with a little consistency, I'm very excited to see the fruits of my labor within relatively short order. And I plan to devote a good deal of time to some of my favorite relaxing pursuits: scrapbooking (I have lots to catch up on!) and compiling our current online educational portfolio, in addition to regular blogging and having more freedom than usual to spend time with local friends. I'll spend enough time on planning more formal learning activities to give each of our days a bit of structure without forgetting to give myself a rest from that as well.
I'm excited for this different season and the special activities and time to relax it'll bring. But it's not summer vacation the way institutional schools define it; it's just a shift in our daily patterns to account for opportunities that this time of year affords. Homeschooling is, at root, a lifestyle of learning; thus, though the particulars of our focus will change in different seasons (of life and through the calendar year), the learning never ceases.