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Summer Learning and Project Contracts


This week’s Blog Cruise question is, “Do you school during the summer? What do you do? Why or why not?”


I think learning is a natural part of life and can hardly be avoided.  Obviously, then, we continue to learn during the summer, even though we do not do formal schoolwork.  We read, do projects, have fun, work in the garden, swim, and enjoy nature.    


It is so refreshing to take a complete break from formal schoolwork for a while and just have a vacation.  We haven’t been able to go on trips for years, but we have a pool, woods, a creek, and a library, so we can holiday at home.  This year we’re hoping to manage a short family vacation, and I want to go on several daytrips with the children as well.


Although it is good to take a break from schoolwork and to allow oceans of time to follow personal interests, we have found that sometimes children need a bit of guidance.  Inertia so easily sets in, and by the end of the summer none of the things they wanted to do has been done.  So now we make lists of summer goals and projects and sign them like contracts.


Early in the summer, the children list their own goals, including everything from drinking iced tea to going to the beach with friends to learning more about computers.  Anything can be put onto their lists.  Each child and I then pick the top goals and discuss how they could be accomplished, or at least started.  And then I try to make sure that each child has the opportunity progress on his or her main goals as the summer continues.   We also try to meet as many of the little goals as possible. 


As they get older, I expect the goals to be more substantial and to involve more time.  For example, Miss 7 might want to swim every day, while Miss 17 wants to work on a farm several days a week and get 2 months ahead on her schoolwork.  Perhaps these are impossible goals, but we won’t know until we’ve tried.


Their list of goals also gets a few additions from me.  We’ll keep up with Bible memory work, music, and nature study.  I also want them to be physically active, practice their French and Dutch, and work on a new skill every week.  That skill can be anything from crocheting, to walking on their hands in the pool, to designing a web site, to cooking a new recipe—anything to keep them active, busy, and away from books.  (Unlike many families, we have the problem that our children read way too much.)  I also want everyone to spend some time on a big math project, but we haven’t decided exactly what we’ll do this year.  And we want to contribute to the community in some way;  this year we will likely be doing therapeutic riding again. 


So I add these projects to the children’s lists, we discuss them, and then we sign and date the lists.  Voila!  We’ve got the summer’s goals and projects all planned ahead of time.  Of course, we’re completely flexible if something else comes up, but at least we’ve always got a list of things we want to do. 


And this year I’m planning to make a list for myself as well.   


One Comment

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