I have homeschooled for 10 years and I didn’t understand summer brain drain until my oldest learned her multiplication tables in the third grade. We did our normal summer activities that year – pools, picnics, Vacation Bible School, and visits to grandma.
It wasn’t until we started school again in August that I realized she had forgotten nearly all of her times tables. We spent the next six weeks refreshing her memory.
I learned my lesson – a few well-timed brain boosts throughout the summer would prevent weeks of reviewing, and frustration for both of us.
You don’t have to homeschool for these ideas to benefit! If you have a plan ahead of time, it saves on the daily nagging of, “You’ve watched enough Youtube,” or “You’ve played enough Minecraft,” or fill in the blank with of all the ways kids are natural couch potatoes without us encouraging them to do otherwise.
I’ve seen many terrific resources for summer contracts or simple checklists online, but after a few years of trial and error, here’s what we’re doing with our wide range ages (kindergarten, fifth, sixth, and ninth grades respectively).
Please note that if a child has various camps that week, we don’t worry about the lists. For example, my sixth grader has six weeks of various camps out of his nine weeks of summer break, while my ninth grader only has three weeks of camp. This year, we poured a lot of blood, sweat and tears (mostly mine) into our ninth grader’s pre-algebra studies, and I don’t want her to forget a thing!
Chores are Okay
Some of the obvious chores are personal grooming. Seriously, why do they think they only need to brush their teeth when they’re leaving the house? And, don’t forget a simple tidying of rooms. Each kid chooses a house chore each day – dusting or vacuuming a room, making a pitcher of lemonade or a batch of popsicles, etc. We don’t need to list out specific chores, because every little bit helps! And, the extra help keeps us from a half day cleaning fest on gorgeous days.
Combine Work and Things They Love
Our three oldest play instruments, and while they would love a break from practicing, the eight weeks of summer are the perfect time to stay polished or get ahead on their skills. My husband loves to remind them that they will never have more free time than they do in the summer months ahead. During summer break they can take their time to play the things they love instead of their assigned books.
Our youngest son has a daily activity. During the school year, it’s so hard to build in time with our youngest! He’ll be starting kindergarten in the fall and would very much like to watch movies all day. So, building in time for his favorite siblings to read to him, have sword fights, explore the craft closet, or ride bikes is good for all. Including me!
We have family vacations coming up and some of our kids want to earn spending money! Each day they ask if there is something they can do to earn money. This will not only help me, but it will also show them that a little bit of work here and there can really add up. One child has already detail cleaned the fireplace and has asked to pressure wash the deck! Yes, please!
Homework… Yes, Homework
Lastly, the homework packet. Rather than assign daily worksheets (Yuck!) I have put together a folder for each child. They have until Friday at noon to complete the contents in the homework packet. The incentive for completing their work is the opportunity to invite friends over for dinner or a sleepover that night. I don’t think a disincentive is necessary, unless there are major attitude or compliance issues.
Your kids might have different worksheets depending on where they are at in school. My fifth and sixth graders have math (20-25 problems), a cursive practice sheet, a 20-minute typing session, and a logic problem to solve. My ninth grader has a math lesson (simply the next one in her textbook) and a longer reading time each day. I might even ask her to read a newspaper now and then. (Gasp!)
Whatever your kids need to work on, go ahead and build it into your own to do list. Maybe you have family all over the country, so they can practice writing postcards to them. There are many online resources for math drills – just ask them to set a timer and go for it! If they have an interest in mechanics or science have them Google fun experiments. Your young readers can practice reading aloud to their younger siblings or stuffed animals.
I love the ideas above because it keeps their brains active, but also it keeps Mom from having to be the daily activity director. Once, they have completed their list, my kiddos have two hours of electronics time only, and then it’s time for them to create their own fun!
Again, a little planning at the beginning of the Summer will go a long way toward a happy break for the whole family! Plus, it will keep their brains engaged and ready to pick up where they left off. Your kids’ teachers will thank you! And, your kids might too… just not until they’re 35 or so.