“What! You make your kid learn in the summer, too?” Well, yes and no. I don’t “make” him, he just doesn’t stop because the calendar changes to June.By Ann ZeiseIn fact our decision to switch from using curriculum to unschooling started one summer. We were camping in the back yard, watching a meteorite shower. To describe where we were seeing the meteorites we all had to learn or relearn the names of the major constellations. Of course, the strange names led to reading about the Greek myths and Indian legends behind the names. This led to the study of Greek history and Scott read the D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths about the Odyssey. Greeks led to Roman city planning and construction, and how they invented the conveniences of modern life, such as running water and roads that drained. We also bought a big history book call “Ancient Inventions” at this time, and it is still often referred to. Somehow the computer game, SimCity, entered the picture, and hours were spent creating new cities. So, one day when out and about, Scott asked where our town’s commercial, industrial and residential areas were. So I drove us to City Hall to look at the city plan. The clerk couldn’t answer our questions, so dove into the back and brought out the city planner. I introduced my son to him by saying he’d been playing SimCity, and the planner questioned, “Have you solved the transportation problems yet?” I didn’t get a word in edgewise after that! We watched a “tilt-up” shopping center going up, and talked about the physics of the machinery necessary to lift the walls and then hold them in place. Later on, we visited the architect’s office. They were thrilled to have a young visitor, as a builder isn’t often the subject of school field trips.All this learning going on and it wasn’t even September yet!
Each summer our plans include a trip to our cabin in Maine on the Kennebec, right across from Swan Island, where Benedict Arnold rested his troops on his way to (or was it from?) Lake Champlain. We’ll explore the natural and historical features of the area. We’ve befriended the family of a boat [baht] builder in Booth Bay. Chet Rittall will show Scott how to carve wood and might loan us his wooden sailboat to take out for a spell. Later we’ll get a taste of Maine lobster [lobstah] steamed on seaweed in the traditional manner. “Supah” will be followed by Gramps telling the tallest of Maine Tall Tales. His daughter and her sons homeschool, and will be groaning when they hear these stories being told again.
Reading never stops around our house. It is something fun we just do at quiet times mornings or nights.
We are fortunate to have a backyard swimming pool we call our “chemistry experiment.” Scott has learned to do the water analysis and add the proper chemicals to “balance” the pH of the water so that algae will not grow. The reward is having friends over a lot for lazy afternoons swimming. The boys “pay me” by helping out with the garden surrounding the pool. Tired of the water? Clip away at the hedge for awhile! Always something needs upkeep outside in the summer, or other garden fun.
Summer also includes Boy Scout camp, where Scott will select and earn a few more badges, but also have just a lot of boyish fun, singing and putting on skits around the campfire, and eating his own campfire-cooked meals.
Math takes the form of games and tricks or more serious life skills such as shopping or building projects. Scott was still about nine when he was able to do travel calculations. “If the sign says 60 miles to our destination and I can go 40 miles per hour on the average here, how long will it take us?” I thought this would be hard for a kid who hadn’t yet mastered fractions. Took a lot of thinking, but he did figure that we wouldn’t get there in an hour, since we’d only get 40 miles, and we still had half of 40 miles (20 miles) to go; therefore it would take an hour and a half.
One unusual thing my guys do is help out at the “Hot Chips” conference at Stanford. Scott and husband Fred help with registration, with Scott running “go-fer” for the adults. They, in turn, get to listen to all these scientists and engineers tell about the newest computer chips. Scott gets a taste of the working world of Silicon Valley this way and gets to meet some of the Valley’s more interesting scientists.
Scott has also announced that he is going to learn to fish this summer. Success will be measured more in lack of equipment lost and time spent with friends, than in actual fish caught in city lakes.
Toward the end of summer, the whole family will attend the Home=Education conference in Sacramento. There will be a teen session running parallel to the adult session, which Scott, finally a teen, qualifies for! He’ll get to do a variety of fun things with the other homeschooling teens and find out how they do indeed unschool high school. If I’m likely to find you there, email me! I’d love to meet you.
More Summer Learning Links
Dear Uncle CHiN,
I feel like we didn’t get enough done during the “school year.” Should we homeschool through the summer?
Other ways to ruin your child’s summer
If your children could tell you what they really want to do for vacation, you might find out that your meticulous plans to keep them occupied this summer is all for naught. Mothers Who Think.
Stress-Free Summer Plans
Or How to Homeschool Year Round without Noticing! ShhhI’ll let you in on a secret we’ve always homeschooled year round but don’t tell my children! By Tamara Eaton.
More about Unschooling
Constructing Knowledge With Children
How to Report Unschooling to School Officials
How To Unschool Legally
Natural Learning Method At Home
Pros And Cons of the Unschooling Homeschool Method
Resources For Unschooling
Success of Unschooling vs. School-At-Home
Unschooling All Summer
Unschooling Beginning Guide
Unschooling Mail Lists, Social Networks, etc.