Doing "School" in summer
May 8, 2018 at 3:14 pm #10664
Hi friends! I have been going back and forth about doing school year round. While I will still take breaks…which we do quite a bit already, I like the idea of keeping the same rhythm all year. Here’s my reasons…I have 4 kids..11, 9, 8 and 5. With so many ages so close together, I’m looking for ways to incorporate more group learning. I feel like science is an area where this can be achieved. By using the suggestions in Donna’s Nature Stories to Natural Science I feel like I can successfully create a summer schedule for my kids by doing “science” together at this time. I would use suggestions from each grade level that each one of my kids are at, and find time to spend individually with each one, but the bulk would be together with age appropriate activities for each. I would still include some seasonal things throughout the year that obviously couldn’t be done in the summer, but I would do the bulk of science lesson in the summer. This would free up more of my time during the “school year” to focus on individual children’s blocks and take an extra week here or there when needed. For example, if my 2nd grader isn’t quite getting something, I can give the other kids the week off and spend a large amount of time with this child while she grabs onto the material and not have to worry about fitting it all in because she needed the extra attention. We (potentially) have the whole summer for those science/nature blocks! I found my self scrambling to get it all done this year. Give me your thoughts on this, everyone!May 9, 2018 at 8:45 am #10669
Oh this is funny, Kristin – I literally just finished my blog article for the next issue of the newsletter (the Homeschool Journey) and closed it and then came here and read your post. And what do you think the title of my article is–‘No School In Summer’!!
So I decided to ait a bit before pasting it here…to see if anyone else would chime in…and to think about what you wrote. Because of course, in many ways, what you wrote is very sensible and makes a lot of sense…but I am a huge fan of long summer breaks for children–it in part has to do with giving them an opportunity to go inwards and find their own ways of keeping themselves occupied–which for some children can look a lot like school! For others it can look like sludge on the couch!
I am pasting what I wrote below (I’d direct readers to the blog but it’s not there yet). I hope you won’t feel upset that I quite strongly speak against what you’ve been saying — I do feel it’s important to have this point of view get out there because generally, the opposite prevails (‘we must keep the children busy’ ‘we must take advantage of summer classes’ ‘we must not stop teaching or they’ll forget everything’)– and of course, you’ve not written in favor of any of those things. You’ve written about what might work best in a family with 4 children…so, as always, I offer this in the spirit of ‘here’s my experience, here’s my observations, here’s what I understand of the rhythms of Waldorf education–take it or leave it!’
No School During the Summer!
That’s right—‘school’s out for summer’—including homeschool! (Alice Cooper eat your heart out– I bet most of you are too young to get the reference…sigh…!)
Here in the US we are blessed with the phenomena of a wonderful loooong summer break from school. (Throughout this blog post, when I refer to ‘children’, I mean age 7 and up—school children. Tiny ones do not need a break—their natural state of Oneness means everything around them is life itself—the key is to find a rhythmic way to live with kindie and younger children, day in, day out, week by week).
Although occasionally one reads of some politician or school administrator or educator lamenting the anachronism of a modern society having an agriculturally-based school calendar (we have a long vacation because 100 or 150 years ago all the children in school disappeared during the months between May and harvest to work on their family farms) only those who have not really observed children can say that this very long break from academic work is a not a good thing.
Children change enormously over that 3 month summer break. I can remember the excitement of seeing classmates again after the break—new haircuts, several inches added to height—those were the obvious changes. But as I became an adult and had the privilege of working with children I could also observe far more subtle and important changes—children allowed to have a long break from academic work actually do better at their school work because of that break.
So much for the phenomena of the dread ‘summer loss’. Even before I became a Waldorf teacher and homeschool educator, I was puzzled by this—surely if children are taught properly, they won’t forget everything as soon as they have a break? What’s the use of ever teaching anyone anything if that is what happens! If the information just leaks away as soon as the drip is removed then surely there is something wrong with either what is being taught, or how.
Without here going into the intricacies of the Waldorf curriculum and how it mirrors the developmental stages of children, suffice to say that both the what and the how are generally approached in other forms of schooling in a very hit or miss way in terms of what children need—no matter how skilled and compassionate the teachers. Waldorf education focuses on the development of qualities—focuses on the capacities of each individual child so that their soul needs are addressed and so that capacities such as perseverance, mindfulness, flexibility of thinking, strengthening of the will and so on are cultivated. It is these qualities that are the basis of true and enduring learning—not necessarily in terms of facts and information, but in terms of knowing how to learn.
And a long summer break is part of this. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with Waldorf education knows that rhythm is talked about all the time, the great in-and out-breaths of learning, of play, of daily life with children that makes so many parenting and educating challenges simply not even arise. Rhythm strengthens the physical body, that vessel which carries the spiritual sheaths of the child and which needs care and loving attention, especially in the first seven years of childhood. Rushed though those 7 years by precocious intellectual learning, the ethic body withdraws its support. And when the child is not comfortably incarnated into his physical body and manifests symptoms which might be called OCD, hyperactivity, restlessness, inability to focus and even, in extreme circumstances, autism, then real learning, the kind which enables a child to reach her potential, is impaired.
It’s also worth pointing out that the children of European pioneers who lived and farmed or ranched across North America only went to school part of the year. Yet they did not forget their lessons and most became scholarly or at least adequately schooled people. No Waldorf in sight—but plenty of hard, meaningful work in harmony with the seasons and with the land. And—no early learning. Children only wen to school somewhere around age 7 or 8 or even older if the walk to school was long.
Many homeschoolers feel that as schooling is part of life, then there should be no break during the summer. This makes a lot of sense—homeschool is about homelife, after all. However, if one is working seriously with the therapeutic aspects of Waldorf education, then taking that long summer break is a necessary out-breath, balanced by the formed school days of the rest of the year. This sort of therapeutic approach becomes part of the healthy rhythm of family life.
And it’s not always easy or pretty. I know what it’s like to be followed around the house by a whingeling piteously bleating ‘play with me Mommy!’ And of course, sometimes we will play with our children. But in general, summer time is an especially good opportunity for children to learn to turn inwards and not outwards to face down the pain of boredom.
Unfortunately, for so many children, summer is just another time of adult-organized activities (even if the children enjoy and ask for those oboe and Thai cooking lessons). And of course, like playing with one’s child from time to time, this needs to be put into the context of balance: going to summer camp for 3 weeks or having one afternoon a week through the summer for those Russian lessons which couldn’t be organized during school time is great—but ensure that for most of the summer your child has to figure out how to organize his own activities and find things to do—without an adult providing classes, field trips or entertainment. Boredom can turn into day dreaming, a wonderful meditative inward-turning from which many fruits can arise.
One major caveat: some of you live in places (like Texas or Florida) where it is too hot to go outside much in the summer. School might better take places during the summer, indoors, with the out-breath taking place in your so-called winter time. This breathing in and out is, obviously, related to the seasons, so one needs to find a way to live harmoniously with the cycles of the seasons where one lives and not with what is written on a calendar.
May your child’s summer be filled with long days of play, adventure, reading and day-dreaming!May 9, 2018 at 9:51 am #10673
Too funny! I really appreciate your thoughts on it. And we talked about this at the conference and, of course, in your books it’s clear what your position is on summer break. I’m glad I brought it up though because it has been on my mind. The long break really resonates with me, and it’s what we’ve always done. I’ve never done any school work in summer. So maybe I just need to let this thought run it’s course and move on! Thanks for your insight!May 12, 2018 at 3:47 pm #10725
You know what I realized about my 5 Children last year? It’s not the break in schoolwork that makes them crazy, it’s the heat! I’ve done it both ways s and seen zero difference in their behavior. Summer is inherently chaotic because it’s just a completely different rhythm.
We go to park days almost every day of the week (we all have very high energy and social drives), and most park days have water sources for the kids to play in. We also do only one or two classes in activities the kids want to try just for fun but not commit to, last summer my girls took Irish dancing. We also do a camp or two in a topic that’s interesting to them. Dropping off and picking up 5 days in a row is rough! LOLMay 12, 2018 at 4:09 pm #10726
I realized I wasn’t really responsive to what you were saying, my apologies.May 14, 2018 at 8:49 pm #10737
Hi Caitlyn! You’re right, the heat does get to them. And me! I really don’t like the summer so it seems to me to be more comfortable to be inside instead of being out in the heat. Also, one of my children is disabled and he is wheelchair bound and I think I just feel different about summer now. He can’t swim or play at the park and so he ends up just sitting in his chair in the heat and I feel bad. We get outside a lot, but we choose the best weather days for it. He’d rather be out in a slightly colder day than a hot one. I’m working with the idea in my head that I might do something like 6 weeks off in spring, and another 6 weeks in fall. That’s really more our speed. It’s not the super long summer break, but 6 weeks is still a good amount of time. We are planning for some VBS camps in our town and neighboring towns and we also go up to Michigan to see my mom every summer for at least a week. There would be no school during those times. Because, yes, dropping off and picking up is exhausting! I don’t know yet. For now, my kids are expecting the school year to end in 2 weeks. Like I said before, this is a new thought for me so I’m still undecided. Hubby could go either way about it so he’s no help at all. I think for this year, I’ll take off some time to think and pray about it.
And I think your answer was responsive to what I was saying! Thanks for taking the time to chat here!May 18, 2018 at 7:07 am #10777
I believe in Summer, I remember having a free summer, exploring the neighborhood with my siblings and friends. Playing in the park nearby, and not coming in until the street lights came on! My those days were fun. I carried this memory with me my whole life and made sure my older boys, now adults, had summer. I remember one summer camping trip long ago, after a long day swimming and playing, the children, flopping down on sleeping bags, reading the newest Harry Potter book. Now that I am a homeschool Mom, Well Summer starts June 1st and ends after Labor day. Free summer, WE are not scheduled during this time, no classes, camps or the alike. With the exception of swim lessons,which are half hour, eight days, we are FREE. Will there be adventures, hikes, gardening,stories, camp fires etc, you betcha! Will there be boredom????? I sure hope SO. I want my son to be bored, the wonderful things that happen after he figures out what to do.
Please DO, Let the Children PLAY, ALL summer.June 4, 2018 at 2:42 pm #10877
Hi there! I’ve been away for a while. I wanted to update this thread on what I decided to do. I bought a “family guide” from Hearth Magic on Etsy. It is on the Secret Garden. We will read the book together and do some activities planned out in the guide. It’s for a month of time, but in my house it will probably take 2 months or even all summer. I did call it quits on “school” on Memorial day and we won’t start back up until Labor day. That’s the plan. We’ll see how it pans out. I still feel pretty strongly about schooling year round so I will definitely come back and post here if my decision changes so we can discuss more. For now, I feel like this is a happy medium. Thanks for letting me share!June 4, 2018 at 2:48 pm #10878
Oh, I forgot to add that during the school year it was working out really good to do school starting at lunch time and working into the late afternoon. Like, really good. All the chores are done without rushing, the kids have hours to play outside, I can get so much of my own paperwork/facebook/organizing/phone calls/etc stuff done without interruption and it totally did away with the “I’m bored” every afternoon. So anyway, at lunchtime, I am still putting out a basket that is filled with fun books I’ve gotten at thrift stores and never got around to using, blank paper, construction paper, crayons, markers, paints, modeling clay, flash cards and a bunch of other stuff I cant think of right now. I put on some classical music and they have at it for at least an hour. Today they worked beautifully together for almost 2 hours! Now they’re back outside building a rope ladder up one of our evergreen trees 🙂 So my summer plan is seemingly going very smooth and enjoyable. When I get the book mentioned above in the mail I will switch that basket time to reading/activity time and likely alternate between the 2 choices. Thanks again!June 5, 2018 at 8:33 am #10884
Thanks so much for giving us such a living and warm picture of your homeschooling adventures, Kristin! I look forward to reading more!June 6, 2018 at 10:51 pm #10892
Hi everyone! Posting here as I just asked Kristin’s very same question in our FB group! Mama of 5 here. Finishing grades K, 2, 4 plus a 4 year old and 17 month olds. Thank you Donna for transferring me to this thread. The sharing and wisdom is wonderful. So… I have been contemplating on homeschooling year round like Kristin even though my gut says NO!because of Donna’s very eloquent explanation. My reasoning was to finish important blocks with my 4th grader: Man and Animal and the Norse Mythology. We had some extraordinary circumstances this year that stopped our lessons for a good half of the year. But, I also recognize I’m tired, I need a break, my husband who is a teacher will be off and in our hearts we dream of camping for days and eating s’mores and do nothing structured or planned. Part of me just wanted to lessen the load I have the rest of the year. If I could do less but for longer stretch, would it work? Since I’ve now decided to take our well-deserved break starting June 14th and resuming after Labor Day, what would you recommend in terms of finishing those 2 blocks? Start with them in 5th grade. He’s 10 and will turn 11 at the end of December. Forget about them? This makes me sad just because I know his little soul needs to hear these stories. Or just present it as stories we share this Summer? Story telling is huge in our family so maybe we can do that but we wouldn’t be doing the accompanying lessons in the Good Book. I feel happy where my 2nd grader and Kindie are finishing up. And also with Summer off I can just be more present with the littlest ones. I know it will all work out. Thank you 🙂June 6, 2018 at 11:25 pm #10893
Hi Kristin! I love your idea of starting in the afternoon after chores are done and kids have played. I can’t wait to hear what you decided. It was so lovely to see a description of your homeschool life. Many blessings.
Hi Ginger! I loved to hear your description of summers. Let the children play 🙂June 7, 2018 at 10:04 pm #10905
Kristin thank you for sharing and updating this thread. So many great ideas, It was my intention to be done Memorial day too, But we finished today and won’t start up until after Labor Day.I know so many people who start in the afternoons! that is so great if it works for you. We are morning people. But the afternoon, It’s playtime, earned time, another walk etc.
Alejandra you do deserve a break and so do your children. I’m glad to hear that you will ALL have summer! 🙂
Summer time = Living outdoors
animal care, we have 11 heads and currently 6 chicks
3 cats and our old dog
long walks to town, (it takes 1 and 1/2 hours to walk one way!)
walking the dog
playing in the pool or across the road in the brook
reading, reading, lots of reading
Oliver will be in the children’s choir for, a local production of White Christmas
swimming lessons, just 8, half hour days
bonfires, camping, going to local lakes, parks and visiting friends
Unstructured unsupervised free play
biking, scooters, climbing, fishing
and hoping for boring days…that my son is so bored that creativity can take hold
aslo LAZY days and pajama days and hammock days.. LET the Children PLAY 🙂
Alejandra, what are your summer plans?June 8, 2018 at 12:02 am #10906
Hi Ginger! Thank you for sharing your summer plans. They all sound like so much fun. We’re morning folk too here 🙂 My energy levels plummet after 3 pm. Our main intention for this Summer is to rest and do nothing, which really can’t happen for parents with little ones and so many kids. But, they key to success for us in doing that is…drumb roll…camping!! We have our first camping trip coming up in 2 weeks. We like quiet areas by the ocean where we can be in nature all day, I don’t have to clean anything, and everybody is always in good spirits and so happy, tired, and full of self discoveries. Besides that, we want to share many stories, work on art projects, music, etc. I want to sew some dresses for myself and the girls (a new goal of mine); farmer’s markets, tending the garden (we used to have chickens but now we’re on a chicken break though I miss them) and just to be open for play and lots of nature. We will do some ballet and gymnastics classes but it won’t be a weekly commitment. Ginger, you mentioned your son Oliver will be in a musical production as part of the choir. May I ask how old he is and what are the commitments in terms of rehearsals and shows- including rehearsals at theater before the show? My world is the Ballet world. However, now that I’m a mom, and Waldorf, I find it really hard to think of the girls being in productions when they are so young. My oldest is 6. Where we attend there are 3 performances a year (2 in theater)! Each performance involves 2 or 3 whole days at the theater. I get it as a dancer. That’s what I used to do. But as a mom, and knowing Waldorf philosophy, I scream NO! Too awakening…wait till they’re older. Just curious and sharing.June 11, 2018 at 4:56 pm #10922
Hi Alejandra, Your plans sound lovely, sewing dresses is a dream of mine. Enjoy your camping trip. Oliver will be 8 at summers end. The theatre has a children’s production once a year, Oliver has been going to plays since he was 4 and a half< yes probably not very Waldorfy, however theses plays were child acting, and cousins performing…anyho, the theatre is doing White Christmas, my favorite movie.
A christmas tradition, that Oliver got to see this year with our family, So yes, the elementary choir rehearsal is an hour twice a week, then a 4 hour dress rehearsal and performances including dress rehearsals, 6 days. truthfully not sure how he’ll do. But he does like all the songs. 🙂
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