Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lesson Plans Heat Up - Summer Home School Part 1

Aren't Kids Supposed to Have the Summer Off?

Most of the year I plan lessons that revolve around the aspects of learning to read better:  decoding, fluency, comprehension, etc.  As the calendar turns slowly toward the end of school, my thoughts turn to the learning I'll do with my favorite students of all - Reading Girl and Soccer Boy. 

Although many of my school students are shocked when I remind them, learning does not, and should not, stop when the big state tests are over and when the last bell rings.  Learning is a life- long process.

We started a semi-structured summer school program for our kids back when they were still in pre-school.  We somewhat flexible, but try to maintain a schedule of learning throughout the summer, even when we're traveling.  We do generally take our beach weak mostly off - but the rest of the summer is full of exploring, skill maintenance and reading.

There are several reasons why we practice summer homeschooling.

1)  We want them to maintain what they've gained during the school year -no summer slump for our two if we can help it.

2)  It gives them something to do.  It eases boredom while at home and on car trips, and provides fewer hours of screen time opportunity.  T.V., Atari (yes, we are totally old school here), and computer time are only available when all school work and chores are completed for the day.  In practicality it means that no more than 30 min., if that, of screen time is usually feasible.

3)  Enrichment!  We have loved our kids teachers!  They're fantastic - don't get me wrong.   But they have 24 other little minds to teach.  Our kids don't always get the push they need, or the focus they want.  Both of our kids are old enough now that they told us what they wanted to study during the summer, and believe it or not, they're excited about starting.  In fact, when the package from Amazon was spotted on the table tonight they both wanted to know if they could start on their summer school work now. 

4)  My kids are often my Guinea pigs.  This summer, for my own professional development, I need to learn more about Vocabulary Their Way and Nancie Atwell's Writing Workshop.  What better way to become familiar with that material than to teach those lessons to my own kids.

5)  We need it.  For the most part, the Woodsman and I have great students.  We enjoy what we teach and what we do, but come summer we get to teach kids who really want to learn, and we get to learn with them.  Hands down these summer lessons are my favorite to plan and to teach.  There's just no contest. 

So.... here's what we'll be doing this summer...


We'll be using Nancie Atwell's Writing Workshop approach.  We'll mostly be writing poems, and possibly short stories.  Neither kid got to do enough creative writing this year.  We're going to read contemporary poems, talk about what makes good writing, and work at writing our own poems.


Soccer Boy requested more science experiments this summer.  We'll do experiments together from The Everything Kids Science Experiments Book.  They're a little more involved and will need parent guidance.   The kids will also choose one or more experiments from  Science in Seconds for Kids to do on their own.  Science in Seconds at the Beach will also be tossed into the beach bag to supplement the Jr. Ranger Programs - we go to Assateague National Seashore -  and to give us something to do if it's not a "beachy day".  These experiments will be so much fun they won't even know they're learning. 


Soccer Boy just started the Magic Tree House  series, and also has plans to read The Spiderwick Chronicles.  Reading Girl has stacks and stacks of books teetering in her room and on her bed.  I'm pretty sure that she'll be reading a lot of Beverly Cleary, and Nancy DrewThe Redwall  series and The Chronicles of Prydain are also on her "must read" stack.  I'll be continuing to read aloud the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and we'll spend our car time listening to all of the books on CD we can haul away from the library when we're there for our weekly summer program visit.  We'll also be logging our books to complete our library's summer reading challenge. 


Word Study

Reading Girl's spelling is way beyond her grade level so we'll be working primarily on Greek and Latin Vocabulary.  We'll be using Vocabulary Their Way as our guide.  Soccer Boy will be focusing on r-control and complex long vowels. I'll be drawing lists from Word Journeys and pulling activities from Words Their Way.    This is an area where many kids get stuck and he will benefit from some extra work before next year.


One of The Woodsman's many talents is his gift for teaching math.  He'll be teaching Reading Girl long division, and starting to work on the times table with Soccer Boy.  I'm sure they'll play some math games and puzzles too.


Soccer Boy got a mandolin for Christmas and it hasn't been played much.  Both of us need to learn to play this summer.  We'll be working our way through Teach Yourself to Play Mandolin.  Reading Girl's hands are finally big enough to start learning some simple chords on the guitar.  She's really into Taylor Swift so we'll be working our way through the easy Taylor Swift book.  This book has easy piano, but also guitar chords.  Both kids will also continue to practice piano and work on theory from the Bastien Level 1 books. 


For the most part this will take care of itself.  Both kids love to draw, paint and craft.  I'll provide several craft books (My Little House Crafts Book and Nature Crafts) and the file folder of projects collected from Family Fun  magazine.  Farmer Dan is also an artist and a potter, so there will be several more formal art lessons (primarily drawing and clay work) as well.

Review Work and Prep for Next Year
Reading Girl requested Brain Quest Book 4.  She did Book 3 last year and loved all of the activities.  Soccer Boy will be doing Scholastic's Grade 2 Success with... series.  You'll notice that the workbook summer learning activities are at the bottom of the list.  These don't always get done every day.  They primarily come out when we're traveling.  Although Reading Girl loves her Brain Quest book so much that she'll probably whittle away at it some every day.

Wow!  This is a lot - I know.  But, we've got the ten best weeks of the year to learn and play together.  Don't worry... there will be plenty of time for totally unstructured play and imagination building.  After all, I'll be spending a lot of time in the garden and processing food in the kitchen. 

Hope this post has given you some ideas on what to do with your own scholars this summer.  I'll post a Part 2 soon where I talk about routines and management ideas.  Until then, happy planning.  Go talk to your little darlings and see what they're motivated to learn this summer.  There might be a little resistance at first, but once you unplug the T.V. they'll quickly decide that learning is better than boredom. 

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