Many families considering homeschooling opt for doing a trial run during the summer to see how things go. That’s not necessarily a bad idea – if you do it right.
I’m not trying to discourage you when I say most homeschooling parents would agree that, no matter how you go about it, a summer trial isn’t the same as actually jumping in to full-fledged homeschooling.
However, if you try to jump into full-fledged homeschooling, you might mistakenly decide that homeschooling isn’t for you simply based on the fact that most kids are going to balk at the idea of their mom (or dad) turning into their teacher and making them do schoolwork during their summer break.
My suggestion is to try a homeschool year instead, beginning in the fall. This can be trickier if you have older kids (middle school and older) because there are sometimes more hoops to jump through to return them to public or private school if you decide homeschooling isn’t for you, but for younger kids, I always tell people that you’re probably not going to ruin your child in a year.
If you really do want to do a trial run (or just a transition period) during the summer, try these tips to make it as successful (and balk-free) as possible:
Take time to deschool.
Because it is already a time of outside activities and a more relaxed schedule, summer is a fantastic time to deschool. Basically, deschooling means giving your traditionally schooled child some time to decompress and break free from the schedule and structure of a traditional classroom.
If you’re transitioning from public school to homeschool, this can be a very important part of the process. Deschooling gives kids a chance to rediscover their natural curiosity and tap into what captivates their interest.
Even if you’re still on the fence about homeschooling and really just want to use the summer to see how it could work for your family, look at summer break as an opportunity for low-key enrichment, not full-on formal learning. If you decide to homeschool, there is plenty of time in the coming weeks, months, and years to spend on formal learning.
If you decide that homeschooling isn’t right for you right now, you don’t want your child to enter school burned out from a summer of seatwork and worksheets. However, he could go back excited about the things he learned in fun, laidback ways over the break.
Explore different ways to learn.
One thing that may be hard for both you and your children to wrap your minds around is that there are all kinds of ways to learn without pulling out textbooks and worksheets. Spend the summer looking for the educational opportunities in the every day moments of your lives and trying out a variety of informal learning techniques.
- Explore nature study
- Read – Check out your local library’s summer reading program. Not only will it provide reluctant readers with a little incentive, it’s likely also a good place to meet other homeschooled kids.
- Trade in the math worksheets for living math.
- Try some fun summer learning in the areas of science, history, and geography.
- Choose some creative ways to encourage writing.
- Find a pen pal.
- Check out Flat Travelers.
- Take field trips.
This is also an excellent time for you, as a potential homeschooling parent, to educate yourself by learning the homeschool laws for your state and reading up on a variety of homeschool styles. You don’t have to determine your own style right away – it will probably evolve over time anyway – but reading about different methods is an excellent way to see how unique ways to learn can look.
Work on establishing routines.
Instead of using summer break as a chance to practice formal learning with your kids, use it to begin to establish routines that will be helpful as you begin homeschooling. Keep consistent wake times and bedtimes in place (within reason – it is summer break, after all).
Consider using the morning hours for those low-key learning activities and leaving afternoons free for play dates or free time. Then, when the school year rolls around, you can transition the morning learning time to more formal learning activities if you decide to homeschool.
You might think about using the summer to work on teaching life skills that will make the homeschool year run more smoothly, such as meal planning, cooking, and housekeeping.
Get involved in the local homeschool community.
Use the summer months to get involved with the local homeschool community. While it is important to maintain special friendships with former schoolmates, it’s equally important to help your child begin to forge homeschool friendships.
One thing to remember is that homeschool groups often suspend the majority of their activities during the summer months, too, due to vacations and crowded venues. So, you might want to check in with local groups now to see if they have any field trips or end-of-the-year parties planned. Giving your child an opportunity to connect with homeschooled kids now might even be worth a day (or half day) off of school.
Plan on going to a curriculum fair together. Our local support group has information packages for new homeschooling families and some plans in place for connecting newbies to veteran homeschoolers.
Kids often come to our local curriculum fair with their parents, so going to yours might offer an opportunity for you and your child to make some connections. Even if it doesn’t, attending a curriculum fair together gives your child an opportunity to offer his input into the curriculum you’ll be using if you do decide to homeschool.
Deciding to homeschool can be a huge, life-changing decision, so it’s understandable that you may want to test the waters first. These tips can help you do that without burning your child out over the summer.
If you’ve done a summer trial before making the decision to homeschool, did you do something that you found particularly helpful?
This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.