My family is an unschooling family. Basically that means our children are not in conventional school and we do not have any curriculum requirements for them. We do have certain unschooling household rules (that are based on character expectations more than academic) but our learning has no limitations or guidelines. So you could say that we don’t ever “do school” and yet, at the same time, we “do school” every day. Including during the time when conventional schools take summer vacation.
If you’re familiar with The Magic School Bus you may recognize Ms. Frizzle’s line, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” That’s a bit of a motto that my boys have adapted in their day-to-day lives (especially the “get messy” part). We are continually learning as a family and I’d like to share some ideas that can make learning as natural as living:
Ask your kids questions and explore the answers together. Make a point to get engaged in their world and their interests. Let your kids teach you about what they want to spend their time doing and why. Listen to them.
Go to the zoo and read the signs. Stay at each animal as long as a child likes. Instead of following the regular route, start with your child’s favorite animal or visit the animals in alphabetical order. Ask questions, “What does it eat? Why does it do that? How does it feel being in a cage/pen? What time of year does it have babies?”
Read a book aloud as a family. Some of my family’s favorites include Swiss Family Robinson, Little House on the Prairie, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. You can find a great list of family friendly read alouds at Simple Homeschool.
Have snacks outside. Spread a blanket on the ground (in the back yard or at a park) and enjoy some fruit snacks (i.e. real fresh fruit). Talk about the sounds and the smells around you.
Go to a farmer’s market as a family and ask questions. Ask the people running the stand how they grow their produce or make their product. As them what their favorite part of the process is. Perhaps one of your children may decide to have a table at a future market.
Go for a walk and see how many different kinds of birds (or trees, or flowers etc) you can see. For an added bonus, bring a camera and let the kids take pictures. Feel free to print the pictures when you get home and identify them. Or simply add them to a memory album.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to do it with no ulterior motives. Children cannot be forced to learn and they will pick up very quickly on whether you are trying to teach them something specific or if you are doing it simply to spend time with them. Let them lead and you’ll be surprised where their interests may go.
Let’s make the effort to enjoy our children during the summer break. Get in their world and bring them into yours. Won’t it be great to tell them, when school rolls around again, how much you will miss having them around and spending time with them?
What is your favorite thing to do with you kids during summer vacation?