Friday, June 3, 2016

Our Summer Schedule :: 2016

Let's talk a bit about summer school!  We are not year-round schoolers, but we do arrange a bit of schoolwork into a light summer term each year.

Our summer vacation runs from the beginning of April through the beginning of July.  This shifted school calendar originally began when my Big Kids were in Year 1; I had a baby due in September and wanted to get a head start on our school year in case I needed to take time off.  Since then, I have had a baby due in April and a baby due in May, and both times I was grateful to be finished with our year before their arrival.  This past year, I had a baby in November, and we were several weeks into Term 2 before he arrived, which made the rest of our school year much easier.  All that to say: our adjusted schedule is mostly baby-related and specific to our family's crazy needs. :)

But since then, I've uncovered enough good reasons for our family that I didn't expect:
:: We start up the year when there are no outside activities, so we aren't starting everything new at once.  Piano and art lessons pick back up when we're already adjusted to the new routine and have ironed out the kinks in our lessons.
:: There is a lot of margin in our year's plans.  You moms schooling with littles know that margins and flexibility are absolutely essential when you're managing babies and toddlers alongside your homeschool.  I have had a new baby just about every year I have been schooling!  That means I like to allow myself LOTS of margin time.  I like to know that I can take as much time as I need and not feel the pressure of finishing before the next school year rolls around.
:: Similarly, if I have to take off for illness, family visit, some difficulty, or a particularly busy week of outside activities, I know I have that wiggle room and can take as much time as needed stress-and-guilt-free.
:: I start my school planning before our charter school's year ends, so I have time to order next year's necessities while I still have funds available.
:: We can do day trips and vacations when the beaches aren't crowded.
:: And for my own mental well-being: I like to feel like I'm "ahead."  When everyone else hits the February blahs, we're looking at the last half of our last term and I'm getting year-end exams ready and considering "summer" plans!  This is one way I de-stress our years.  It's totally a mental game (we still school for just as long as everyone else!) but it works for me.

Obviously there are some cons too, but so far this is working for us!


So that's the why.  Here's the what!  First, our Morning Basket:

Our Morning Basket continues during the summer with some books we didn't have a chance to get to during the school year.  Here's what's on our shelf right now:

:: Poetry - The Golden Treasury of Poetry, A Small Child's Book of Verse, A Child's Book of Poems, The Jessie Wilcox Mother Goose (not pictured)
:: Religion - Leading the Little Ones to Mary (finishing up), The King of the Golden City (we have the oop edition put out by CHC, I believe -- the one is the same but doesn't have illustrations), the Bible (we like the Douay-Rheims)
:: Nature Study - The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, Botany in a Day, The Big Book of Animals Every Child Should Know
:: Folk Songs - The Battle of the Kegs
:: Stories - My Naughty Little Sister, The Big Alfie Out-of-Doors Storybook, Pinocchio, Kindergarten Gems (I'm aiming this read-aloud slot at my littles.  We save the books aimed at the Big Kids for naptime and audiobooks in the car.)


I also printed out a simple weekly checklist for my Big Kids.  As usual, in addition to daily piano practice and chores, they spend a bit of time each day (about 30-45 minutes) working toward these weekly tasks:

:: Math. Currently the Big Kids do three days of math a week, each session taking about 20 minutes.  One day, they do a lesson from RightStart Level G (their hands-on geometry drawing program).  One day they do a page from Math Olympiad (this is a new addition to our schedule and they love it!).  And one day they work from their current math book, Jacobs' Algebra.  (Cate also does some math, but with me.  We aim for a RightStart lesson twice a week.)  Including math through the summer is what allows us to do math 3-4 times a week during the school year with no guilt. ;)

:: Map drill.  They choose a region they have already learned to quiz themselves on by filling out a blank map.  Then they check their work and make note of any errors to keep in mind for next time.

:: Italian.  They play an Italian game twice a week together with their younger siblings, and once a week I also give my Big Kids a short written activity to complete.

:: Latin and Grammar.  They do one exercise from Getting Started with Latin and one from Winston's Grammar a week.  (Gianna moved ahead in grammar and finished the next couple months of lessons, so she actually doesn't have that on her list for summer.)

:: Free reading.  The kids asked if we could do some scheduled free reads like we do during the school year.  So we're doing Anne of Green Gables (three chapters a week) and books from the One Small Square series (their choice, a few pages a week).  We're also continuing our Sunday reading from this past school year, Treasure and Tradition.

:: Penmanship.  Once a week, they spend ten minutes with their Prose and Poetry Notebooks.

:: Typing.  We used Typing Club this past year, and I'm now letting them work on their typing speed for ten minutes a week.

:: Recitation.  This is something we do together.  We review the memory work we have already learned in a once-weekly session, usually while driving to the beach. ;)  At the beginning of the summer, I move everything from the daily, weekly, and even/odd notes to day-of-the-month notes for ease of use.  Then I open up Evernote and go through our Memory Work "notebook" for the dates of each week all at one time.  So for example, on last week's drive to the aquarium, we reviewed all the memory work for the 23rd through the 29th (that whole week).  We aren't learning anything new -- just keeping those items fresh.  And enjoying them! :)


So that's the school-ish stuff.  But of course our plans involve lots of summertime fun too!  The rest of their day is free time, which they spend in a variety of ways...

Audiobooks + Legos.  Almost every day at naptime, I start an audiobook and my oldest four play with Legos for a couple hours while I tend to the baby and listen in.  If he ends up falling asleep too (not often but occasionally), I even get to lie down with a book! :)

Chess.  Gianna gets out the chess book and sets up the various exercises for herself.  I'm not entirely sure that it's helping her chess game, but she enjoys it!

Time outside.  I'm sprucing up the backyard this week with new toys

Outings.  I'm not a big outing person, so I choose when we leave the house pretty selectively.  But based on my kids' request, we've got going a weekly park day and a weekly nature study outing (both with friends) and a weekly trip to the beach (with Daddy).

Shakespeare.  Since seeing The Winter's Tale last month, the kids have been memorizing bits of scenes, casting parts, and thinking about how they would stage it all.  I have a feeling there will be some performances here over the next couple months!

Writing stories.  Gianna has two stories in the works: "Charity, the Duke's Daughter" and "A Gift for George Washington."  She dutifully writes every day. :)

Handicrafts.  They are still busy with origami (last year's handicraft focus), and Gianna has been digging into Fun with Paper.  Summer always means more opportunities for the girls to cook, and the boys have been busy with beeswax.  Handicrafts is one of my weak points, so I usually take the summer to ease into something they can then continue into the coming year (with an eye toward handmade Christmas presents too).  This summer, we'll be doing some felting kits they got for Easter and I hope we'll continue felting through school year.  (Wish me luck because I don't know what I'm doing! LOL)

And lots of drawing and reading, of course!


And what's Mommy got going on this summer?  I always make for myself way too many a few goals, some fun and some necessary.  

:: Develop a simple programme for The Laws' Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling.  I want to use this in our home to its full potential, so I'm breaking the book into reading assignments and accompanying challenges.
:: Work on some calligraphy -- alongside Gianna!
:: Read.  I have a few monthly live online discussions I'm hoping to keep up with this summer, including a new one on CM's Volume 2 and one on Circe's Restful Teaching video series. Our local study group is reading through When Children Love to Learn, and some friends and I have a monthly fiction book club too. And I've got some book goals of my own: The Story of Charlotte Mason and some novels.  And some pre-reading!  All good stuff.
:: Run. Trying to improve my time for a race I'm planning to run this fall. (Not aiming for anything remarkable -- just hoping to increase my current pace which has not bounced back since Justin arrived!)
:: Mount wildflowers. I have a backlog of pressed wildflowers to add to our collection.
:: Blog projects. I've got a whole list of posts in progress that I would love to start ticking off and getting up here!
:: Get Italian materials ready for next year.  I also want to reorganize the way I store my Italian supplies and preview some written resources for the Big Kids.
:: Re-read Nurture by Nature as I consider my kids' "types" and the best way to present this coming school year to them. (I did this last summer too.)  Managing all the personalities in my home requires me to be constantly mindful and I consider it one of my biggest challenges. This book has been a help!  It pegged my most difficult child to a T. ;)
:: And plan our coming school year, probably the most important task of all!  I've got Years 5, 2, and 1 next year.  Thankfully AmblesideOnline does most of the work for me, but I still have a lot of prep work ahead of me if I want our days to run on smooth rails this fall.

And if you'd like to see our plans from the past, here's last year's and the year before's.  (You'll note they look very similar. :))

What are you up to this summer?


  1. So we're just about to start our last week of school and I just completely cribbed my summer weekly checklists based on this summer posts and the previous ones. Thanks for making things easy for me! :-D And it was so fun taking a little trip down memory lane and reading our comments back and forth in the last two years too.

    Your project list looks nice and ambitious, just like mine. :-) Besides the school planning, I'm also planning a desperately needed revamp of our schoolroom (I keep thinking about posting a pic on Instagram, but I'm not sure I want to admit I've allowed my children's desks to look like they do...), time at the lake and pool w/ family and friends, some gardening, some blogging projects, and hopefully some camping and backpacking too.

    And I loved your discussion about your school year, especially the part about the feeling ahead! I've been doing the 6 weeks on, 1 off schedule for two years now and the one thing that gets me about it is feeling like I'm behind at this time of the year. So many people seem to end in May, and here we are, just finishing up on June 10th. It was actually supposed to be the 17th, but I figured out how to finagle the schedule a bit to get us done a week earlier. But I am looking forward to having all of July off and not starting until mid-August... there's pluses and minuses no matter what!

    1. Haha -- glad to be of service! ;) And since you said that about our past comments, I had to read through them too. Fun to see that we're still chatting about the same kinds of things two years later! :)

      I can't wait to see your schoolroom -- if not the "before," then at least post-revamp. We don't have a schoolroom, which is good in that when you're schooling in your dining room, you can't let it get out of control! And bad for the same reason. :)

      Sabbath schooling has always intrigued me because I think it seems such a steady scheduling approach, but I am a plow-on-through kind of person and enjoy taking my break in a big chunk. (Which means that maybe I *should* try it, now that I think about it, just to slow me down! ;)) But I can imagine something working like that for us later, when I'm juggling even more students and need the more frequent breaks.

      Congrats on (almost) finishing your school year!

  2. I love this Summer overview. I really relate to your way of teaching and household management. I have 4 kids under 5. Could you share some tips on meal prep/planning/expectations? When do you fit it in (what time of the day?). Do you serve healthy foods or easy prep? How do your kids help? And most importantly when do you find time to clean up lol? I find I avoid housework because I would rather nurse the baby, read books, go for walks... :). I've seen your blank chart with meal brainstorming with the kids, but I was looking for more specific advice. (P.S. I love your nap time school and morning basket and plan to do it this year!)

    1. First, when do I find the time to clean up: my kids honestly do a HUGE chunk of the housework. They each do two chores a day plus help with laundry and dining chores. Add that up with three Big Kids, and that's a lot of stuff getting done on a daily basis. (And in addition, I give out chores for punishments. ;)) I have one main task per day on my list, so that's easy enough to get to while the kids are playing outside in the mornings. Other than that, I'm responsible for dinner, baby care, schooling, and making sure everyone stays happy and healthy. So the housework is not at all overwhelming for me at this point. When I had four kids under four (!), housework was a MUCH more difficult situation than it is now with so many helpers. :) So hang on just a couple years while training those kids in good cleaning habits and you'll have quite a bit of it off your plate! :)

      Meal planning: I plan by week on Sundays, usually, since I most often do my grocery shopping on Mondays. We have about three simple meals that we rotate through for breakfasts and lunches right now, and those the Big Kids can make and serve. (Super easy.) I'd like to up my game in that area -- I used to make fancier breakfasts. But now is not the time! :) Everyone is happy this way for now, and I'm able to school my middles while I'm wrangling my baby in the mornings while the older two handle breakfast prep. It's a load-off for my schedule.

      As for healthy or easy prep, I like to think both! :) I don't subscribe to any particular styles or trends in cooking, so we don't eat high-protein or paleo or anything like that, but I also don't do a lot of convenience/processed foods. My method for doing simple scratch cooking is to keep a fairly small rotation of menu items, do some freezer or batch cooking, and include meals that can be prepped in the early afternoon while the little kids are at nap or eating lunch. Menu items that keep me at the stovetop stirring for the half hour before dinner don't work well here except on the weekends. So I do soups, pastas, meats and vegetables with rice... Cooking mostly from scratch, but not ya know, rolling my own pasta dough with almond flour or anything. LOL My husband makes dinner once on the weekend usually (breakfast for dinner, his specialty ;)), so that gives me a day off. And on beach days, I plan leftovers or have a couple frozen pizzas on hand. That reminds me: we do have leftovers once a week usually. One of the days I plan a big batch of something that can last two days -- either the main dish or the sides. So that's another "easy" day for me.

      Okay, that was scattered. :) Let me know if you have other questions!

    2. Thank you, that was so helpful!!! It's so good to hear that it can be ok to rotate through a few/easier kid friendly meals. I do need to spend more time on prep. My mom used to do that too and I've just fallen out of the habit. And great point to train the kids in housework. That's actually one of my summer goals. Thank you again for being so thorough... I plan to come back to this post and re-read. :)

  3. And how do you use charter funds for a Charlotte Mason curriculum? Do you go through an online one like Connecting Waters or use a charter that is classical by nature?

    1. Our charter is a parent-choice charter, not online but all homeschoolers. So we are free to use the curriculum and the methods we want. I don't purchase much of our CM materials through the charter -- I mostly use the funds for piano, art, and swim lessons as well as regular school supplies (notebooks, pencils, printer cartridges, etc) and quality art and handicraft supplies.

  4. I am about 1/2 school year behind you. Would you be willing to include a copy of your summer checklist? That visual would be so helpful as I go into OUR summer planning mode. Thanks!

    1. Sure -- email me at joyouslessons AT gmail DOT com and I'll send you a pic. :)

  5. Thanks for sharing all of this with us. It's so great to see what other families do during the summers.

  6. Did you end up making a lesson plan to go along with the Law book? Just got it and LOVE it, but unsure how to work it into our school in a systematic way....feeling like it would be a great thing to start in our summer morning time! Would love any tips/plans you have!

    1. Hi Chelsea! We have been using the activities he lists out in the first half of the book on and off for the last couple years with great success! But I don't have them in any format to share, I am sorry! I have meant to do that but just haven't had the time. But short answer: I choose a "challenge" for the week based on his activity titles -- like Zoom In, Zoom Out, Record a Nature Event, etc. I read through the section, and then share the ideas and the examples he has there with the kids. Then we do it for our nature journal entry that week. We usually choose based on what specimens will be available, what the weather will be like, where we'll be meeting, etc. It hasn't been super formal but it has added some nice variety to our journaling time and improved our ability to engage, observe, and narrate! :)