I love summer. I love the weather, the activities and the times we get to spend together as a family. As a homeschool mom, every season provides an opportunity for learning. Summer just happens to be the time we are more laid back and focused on fun topics. As my kids have grown older, summer is a time for them to really develop their passions.
I used to worry that maybe we allowed a bit too much exploration in our home. This fear only came up because I was comparing myself to many of the other moms who were homeschooling year round. It seemed other families were following their normal curriculum and as much as I hate to admit it, it was hard for me not to worry that I might be failing my kids. One summer was especially hard. I decided I was a terrible mom because my son didn’t love all of that great historical fiction. At every homeschool playdate or meeting, moms would talk about all the literature their kids were reading. My son was 8 years old, reading the Encyclopedia of Aircraft and somehow I was sure he wasn’t reading well or at his “age level” because he didn’t enjoy what all the other boys his age were reading.
That was the summer I tried to force the kids to follow my summer plan for them. This plan included a beautiful list of fun summer reading. It was a complete failure! So, we went back to what was actually working for our family.
I think work-at-home, homeschooling moms tend to struggle with comparing themselves and their children more so than homeschool moms who aren’t balancing a job. This applies to homeschool bloggers as well as oftentimes you are balancing just as many hours! It’s easy to fall into the “I’m a failure in this area” mode when in reality most often the things we are forcing on our kids are things they don’t love and aren’t passionate about to begin anyway.
My daughter just completed her final year of High School. In October she’s off to her Top Choice college where she earned their highest merit scholarship. My son just completed his Sophomore year. Turns out, allowing my kids that time to develop their passions and have input into their learning was the right thing. It’s helped both of them become independent learners.
So, how do you start your children on this path of lifelong learning and what does it look like from a practical sense?
Begin early by letting them explore
Set up an area that is just for them. Provide hands on activities: toys, games, and books all with a theme or topic that is of interest to them. Try to provide activities they can do on their own.
Set a general time for learning
Set up time blocks for learning where you allow your child to explore activities in the area you set up for them. Have your child help set the area up so they are excited about the space. We turned off the TV in the morning so we never had to pull the kids away from “just one last show.”
As your kids grow, keep an eye out for their gifts and interests
Encourage them to practice if it’s something like music, dance or a sport. You can often find older teens or adults who are willing to mentor your child. If your child wants to follow a passion, like flying, encourage them to work and earn money for lessons or camps. It’s a great test of just how passionate your child is about something when they are willing to work to pay for learning opportunities.
As you see your child’s interests take off, let them take more and more of a lead role
You can do this slowly by first helping them find great resources. Then, let them become the expert with you monitoring closely. The final step is transitioning decision-making over to your child. We’ve done this with my daughter and are now doing it with my son. It means they might make mistakes but it’s better for them to make small mistakes while still under your wing than to be on their own with huge life decisions on their shoulders.
We are not at the end of our homeschool journey yet. We’re fully enjoying this summer as a family before our daughter leaves for college. Each day with our son is an adventure. He still prefers non-fiction and that’s okay.