We’ve been a homeschool family since 2013 (we homeschooled from 1997-2004 as well, so this is our second go-around) and this past school year was honestly the most productive one that we’ve had. I felt like Patrick made real progress and showed definite improvement in some key areas, which made my momma/teacher heart really happy.
As we began to wind down the school year, I started thinking about things that we could do over the summer to keep the momentum. I didn’t want to “over school” him so that he felt like he was never getting a break, but we needed to do something. With all of his learning issues, two or three months of straight nothing means that it takes us the entire first half of the school year to get caught back up.
I’ve seen the ideas on Pinterest for posters and such that say “have you done…” and then list 10 things that have to be done before the kid can have some free time. I like the idea, but not the major amount of things that were involved. There are two main reasons for this:
- He needs a break.
- I need a break.
Assigning him a bunch of stuff that has to be done every day puts a lot on me in terms of follow-through, nagging, etc. (I know, I could put the responsibility on him, but we’re talking about a generally obedient kiddo with some crazy learning issues, and sometimes things are just too much). The other aspect to this is that our homeschool days look very much like me being VERY hands-on because there is still so much that he cannot do independently, so I need to take a break in the summer for my own sanity. If you’re one of those homeschool parents that never needs a break, I bow to you.
Majoring in the homeschool majors.
I took a good look at the areas where I really needed for Patrick to retain as much of what he had learned as possible, and I came to the conclusion that if we could keep his reading and math going, the rest would fall into place in the…fall. Every other subject hinges on the ability to read and do the math, so that’s where we landed. Patrick has to have 45 minutes of reading, do 45 minutes of math, and spend 45 minutes on his drums every day. After that, he’s free to do his thing.
OK, so 45 minutes of reading is a lot when reading is really hard for you. I’ve had to be creative and come up with some ideas to keep him interested and not make it feel like a chore or a punishment. Some of them are:
- Trips to the library as often as possible. We love the library, and the one in the town next to us is phenomenal. Seriously–I could live there and be their library cat or something. Plus, I’m not sure how you can be a homeschool family and not utilize the library. Patrick loves it as well, and I love that he’s learning how to find his favorite authors and types of books and that he has definite ideas when he walks in of what we are going to be looking for.
- Audiobooks. I am an avid reader, and I want Patrick to love not only reading but the experience of listening to stories and learning to love them. We introduced him to audiobooks, and it’s been a love affair ever since. He has listened his way through Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, loads of fairy tales…he’s currently stuck on the Goosebumps series, and will spend hours in his room listening to them.
- Graphic novels. During my years as a children’s librarian, there was a lot of debate about whether “comic books” are “real books.” In my personal opinion, if it’s got words and some semblance of dialogue, it’s a real book. Patrick is probably never going to read “War and Peace” (I say “probably” because God can work miracles, and if He wants my boy to read Tolstoy, then I have no doubt that He’ll make it happen!) but he can read graphic novels and find the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing he read it by himself.
We also sneak in some “creative” reading assignments, like when he asks us about something and we tell him to Google it, or having him look stuff up on Amazon. The bottom line is that he’s reading, whether it’s a book or a cereal box or a product description for a fidget spinner (which he’s not allowed to have, but that’s another therapy session)–as long as he’s reading words, I’ll count it toward his 45 minutes. Although we really don’t have a problem with the time–sometimes we have to drag him out of his room and make him do something else!
My goal for math is simple–if he can just retain the skills that he learned last year I’ll be happy. Math is super hard for him–we literally spent about three months straight on long division and he still has only a very basic grasp of it. We use Kahn Academy for a lot of his math skills–they seem to be able to explain it in a way that he can understand. This summer, he’s just doing math drills on Kahn every day, and as long as he’s getting his 45 minutes in, we don’t push him about it.
With having one arm that’s partially paralyzed, the musical instruments that are available to my little guy (I should stop calling him that–he’s taller than I am now) are pretty limited. We looked at several options, and drums won. Again, as with everything else with my P, it’s a marathon and not a sprint, but we have the absolute BEST, the most patient teacher on the planet, and Patrick loves him enough to (usually) practice like he’s supposed to.
As I said, once he’s met these three requirements, he’s free to do whatever he wants to for the rest of the day. This is probably (OK, not probably–I know it is) a controversial subject, but we don’t really limit his screen time. There are so many things that are so hard for him, and he’s so good with video games that we allow them as they are an area where he can feel successful.
He also watches a lot of movies, but that’s because his older siblings are all movie buffs, and he could speak in movie quotes before he could speak in full sentences. (It’s a point of pride with them that Patrick has been able to quote “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” almost word-for-word since he was five. This says something about our parenting skills, I’m sure.) Our big kids are all intelligent, well adjusted human beings with good jobs, so we obviously didn’t mess them up too badly.
Although we don’t limit his screen time, he is more often than not outside trying to train Gus to fetch a ball (a hopeless endeavor if ever there was one–the lights are on but no one is home), helping his dad with yard work or something on the car, running his remote-controlled car around or policing the dog’s interaction with Penny, who is Heather’s pup. She comes over every day for “day care”, and as Patrick reminds Gus and Oliver daily…”She’s a LADY dog and you have to be gentle with her.” Penny, the LADY dog, is actually a small alligator with wicked sharp teeth and a Napoleon complex, but that’s beside the point.
He also takes karate three times a week and spends as much time with his siblings as their work schedules will allow, plus we usually have Maddy two or three days a week while her momma and daddy are working and finishing school, and he loves to entertain her. So while we don’t limit his screen time, it’s rare that he’s on it for an excessive amount of time anyway.
So that’s our homeschool summer around here. What do you do to keep your kids’ skills sharp but still give them time to just “be kids?”