Many homeschool parents start to panic when springtime comes around, thinking about all the coursework their students haven’t completed yet, and wondering whether they will have to spend their entire summer catching up on Latin and math. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly when the school year is “done,” especially if you’re the kind of parent who scrambles frantically to finish every problem in every book before you let the family relax for the summer! I encourage families to make a few simple plans for summer. First, choose peace. Second, plan a popcorn party. Third, keep is simple or fun. Let me explain….
During the times when I felt like there was just too much work to finish, and I saw our summer melting away before my eyes, I knew I had to re-evaluate what we were doing. Maintaining a sense of peace and balance was important to our family, so I needed to make some choices. First I looked at each course we were trying to finish, and asked the question, “Does it need to be done?” I knew that public schools considered 80% completion to be sufficient for course credit, so if we were 80% completed with a course, I decided we could be done with it for that year too.
Next, I asked myself how pushing to finish a course would impact my mental health, and weighed the pros and cons of finishing up. Of course, sometimes subjects do urgently need attention, but sometimes it’s not required for high school credit, and the cost is enormous stress. If something needed to be finished during the summer, I tried to have my children work independently, to reduce the stress on me. Independently means you don’t teach them every day; they learn on their own. If your students need some kind of accountability, they can show you their work from across the room, if necessary!
The Popcorn Party Plan
When I think back to my high school years (at a public school), I remember that some of my classes were significantly easier than others, and that not every one was hard. As homeschoolers, I think we sometimes lose sight of that truth! Not all of our students’ courses need to be intensely rigorous! When you think your children already know something, or you need to create a quick and painless class to fill in a perceived gap, consider trying the Popcorn Party Plan yourself.
We had a gap in high school. One of my children absolutely loves economics. During high school, he studied it at every opportunity, and it was a frequent family topic of discussion (because he was the son who liked to talk!). My other son, however, did not like economics, so it wasn’t until his junior year in high school that I suddenly realized I’d neglected to cover economics with him at all! I needed a fairly quick and painless way to catch him up, because he was already pretty bogged down with heavy academics in math and science, and didn’t really have the time or energy to add another big course. I knew that just by the sheer fact of living in our home, he’d probably been exposed to more than his fair share of economics, so I just needed to find a way to fill gaps and make a half credit course. Using the popcorn party method, I chose a series of challenging educational videos, and we watched the series about economics together, discussing the issues along the way. He can now have a relatively coherent discussion with his brother, the economics geek, which tells me he learned what he needed to fill the gaps!
I know a family who got bogged down in the American Revolution, because they were enjoying it too much. They found themselves close to the end of the year, and far from finishing their curriculum. They had covered a lot of current events, and were really looking forward to covering the Civil War era, but were concerned that they wouldn’t have enough time to cover it thoroughly. This family decided to compromise, and cover the middle period of American History a little more lightly by using the popcorn party plan. They watched videos on the missing topics, just enjoying it together with a bowl of popcorn. This method was better than skipping that section altogether, and more realistic than a summer of tests and worksheets. It also enabled them to thoroughly cover the Civil War era, which they really enjoyed.
Simple or Fun
So you have chosen peace, and finished the school year using the popcorn party plan. You can still do some academics that are simple or fun during the summer. I have a friend whose daughter avoided math all school year, and was pretty behind. They decided to have her work independently through the summer on math, but she did just one lesson a day, to keep it from being overwhelming. Another friend was stressed about starting Latin during the summer, so I asked her whether her child desperately needed foreign language credits. She didn’t, and decided it wasn’t worth the stress! A dad asked me about reading during the summer, and whether he should push the classics. I think summer is a great time to snuggle up with a book, but don’t worry about literary analysis. Grab books from my College Bound Reading List. Choose peace, and just enjoy reading this summer.
I talk to a lot of parents who wonder whether to incorporate simple SAT or ACT test prep during the summer. I think it’s a good idea to help students keep their skills fresh during the summer, especially if they plan to take the SAT/ACT the following year. The great thing about test prep is that it doesn’t require parental supervision! Just get one of the workbooks and have your student do a small section a day, so they don’t get overwhelmed. If you have the time, watch my free webinar, “Taking the Mystery out of the SAT and ACT” for some helpful and encouraging tips.
Summer is Important
Remember to take a break. Think balance. Weigh what is important. Choose peace. Be willing to try new ideas, and let go of things that might be unnecessary. You’ll be a better homeschool parent when the fall comes around again!
Lee Binz is The HomeScholar. Her mission is “helping parents homeschool high school.” Her free mini-course, “The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make When Homeschooling High School,” is a great introduction to high school essentials. Her free newsletter provides monthly encouragement and support. Her homeschool transcript solution teaches parents how to create high school transcripts for every homeschool style. You can get a daily dose of high school help at her blog, The HomeScholar Helper, recently voted as the “best homeschool business blog.” You can find Lee online at www.TheHomeScholar.com and on Facebook.com/TheHomeScholar