I am concerned about letting my kiddos have their traditional “break” from school during this upcoming summer. A typical summer break for us means that we still read daily, but the kids don’t have regular schoolwork. But, in this unconventional time of a pandemic, I worry about not continuing with lessons over their designated time off.
Although my first-grade daughter’s daily load of homeschool takes several hours a day, I know she is still missing work that she would be doing if she were physically at school. Also, it is great that the teachers are utilizing systems like Kami and Google Slides that allow my daughter to do her work electronically; but I worry about her not practicing actual writing like she did before.
There is no question that there has been a decrease in the hours that she is “in school.” She is not working with professional teachers anymore, and there is research to support the idea that she may fall behind because of this pandemic. The research I am speaking of also stems from Oregon.
So, my question is: should we continue to homeschool over the summer?
I wish you all could have seen my daughter’s face when I told her that I was thinking of continuing with lessons over the summer. “What?!” she cried. It was like I told her she would never have a new toy again, or something to that effect. Truthfully, I had to suppress my laughter because the look on her face was one of pure horror. I proceeded to try and explain why I had these concerns and suggestions, but she had already run off to her room in tears. Sigh.
When she had calmed down sometime later, we had a serious talk about it. Surprisingly, she didn’t push back too much. She is certainly not excited about this, but as much as she didn’t want to admit it, it seemed like she understood. I don’t have concrete plans so far, but I do have some ideas.
My plan consists of Monday-through-Friday engagement with 1) “ABC Mouse” lessons 2) regular reading times 3) regular writing activities and 4) regular math activities.
I would be willing to bet a lot of you have heard of “ABC Mouse” through their heavy and constant advertising. We have paid for the service for several years now. If you have never heard of it, ABC Mouse is an awesome educational website that teaches kids 2-8 years old a variety of skills using fun games and activities. Unfortunately, this one is not free, but it has a low cost (I believe currently it is around $9.99 a month). In the beginning it was great, but then my kids started goofing around a bit with it. When kids start with this program, they start at a certain point on a “learning path.” As they move through the activities, they progress to challenges that increase with difficulty. My kiddos dutifully completed many lessons on the learning path and earned a bunch of “tickets.” With those tickets, they bought a bunch of pets in the game. Now, it seems they skip the learning path lessons and just tend to their pets. Grrrr. Fun for them, but not so educational. So, this summer, I am going to be a toughie and insist they get back on their learning path lessons and progress as they are supposed to, rather than hopping around to their chosen sections.
To plan this summer homeschooling schedule, I will lean on some of our local, awesome community resources. First, we will participate in the “Summer Reading Program” through Multnomah County Library. Registration begins on June 1st through the Multnomah County Library website. This program motivates kiddos to continue reading over the summer break by offering prizes when the kids meet certain levels of achievement. The program lasts from June 15th to August 31st. The idea is for kids to complete one activity or reading session per day (whether they are reading or being read to). Each time they complete an activity, they check a box. Once they reach 15 boxes, they receive prize 1. Thirty boxes=prize level 2, and 45 boxes=prize level 3 and means they have completed the program. We do this game every summer, and the excitement never fades. Although libraries are currently closed, the website encourages people to check back on June 1st to see how the “gameboard” situation will work. We read every night before bed, but this summer program will motivate them to read with good ole’ prizes as well. A win/win.
There is a massive amount of activities relating to writing online. I was excited to find a local website called “Active Children Portland” that offers a plethora of educational resources. In their “Writing” section, they provide two weekly writing activities for students in various grade levels. The website also has sections relating to 1) soccer and exercise 2) nutrition and health and 3) virtual field trips. I definitely plan on utilizing these provided activities. We also like to practice writing by doing “reports.” I ask my kiddos to write about anything they are interested in. It could even be an episode of their favorite TV show. No matter what the subject is, they are practicing their handwriting and brainstorming skills by doing reports. It’s also fun for them to become “experts” in their chosen subjects by studying deeper into their interests.
While researching local math resources, I noticed that many of the materials relate to high school students. But I did find a referral to Khan Academy through the “University of Portland” Math learning strategies webpage, along with other age-level math resources. I am a huge fan of Khan Academy. This website offers beneficial math lessons free of charge and helped me immensely throughout my college experience. They also offer resources for kids at all age levels. They have a program called Khan Academy Kids that is specifically for ages 2-7 years old. Then there is the standard Khan Academy website, which has activities that range from Kindergarten math skill level up through Calculus.
Putting it all together-
With some organization and help from ABC Mouse, along with elements of reading, writing, and math, I am feeling optimistic about summer learning. Now comes scheduling.
I certainly do not intend to cram all these subjects into every day. My idea is to split them up. My daughter has a personality/work ethic that is remarkably like my own; she does not like to leave work “lingering.” We both like to knock out our work first thing in the morning and relax for the rest of the day.
With that in mind, we will do our lesson first thing after breakfast. We get our reading time daily with our nighttime book reading, so that is a good constant. These other activities will be busted up into different days of the week.
Since there are 4 main activities: I figure I will do two subjects per day and then alternate. A loose example would be “Monday- ABC Mouse and a Khan Academy lesson. Tuesday- Writing assignment and a library reading activity. Wednesday- ABC Mouse/Khan Academy lesson. Thursday- writing assignment and library reading activity. Friday back to ABC Mouse and Khan Academy.” Rest for the weekend and pick back up Monday with our pattern, so it would be “Monday writing and library reading” assignments.
I think rather than planning the time learning spent by number of lessons achieved, we will just set a certain time. I am thinking one hour per activity will be good for our kiddos, because that is the average time they are spending now on their homeschooling lessons. Two hours per school day, one hour on each subject. Reading times will vary, but we can add other books to make it last an hour. I also plan on spending half of that time reading to them, instead of them reading to me.
As I said before, these plans are not concrete—but it is the beginning of my plans for how to keep these little guys learning through the summer.
I am not suggesting that everyone continues homeschooling their kiddos through the summer, but I will suggest scouting out these wonderful, educational resources that we have online. For me, it seems like my kids prefer to learn through engaging, bright colorful games rather than through my good old-fashioned pencil and paper lessons. There is a lot out great education to be explored online.
I wish you all the best of luck in finding great resources for your kiddos.
Stephanie McCoy was born and raised in Portland, Oregon-where she still lives. She recently graduated with a Master’s in Education degree from Concordia University. In her free time: she likes to read and write, get outdoors, embrace her kiddos and husband, and watch travel documentaries.