Why I Don’t Do Summer Learning With My Children

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One of the challenges I face as a homeschool mom is the concern that over the summer break my children will forget everything they’ve learned over the previous school year.

Or use the summer to “catch up” on what we didn’t manage to get to during the school year.

I fight the battle with electronic devices and the urge to keep them from getting bored. Even though I know full-well what happens when kids get bored.

Necessity being the mother of invention, kids get creative when they get bored.

group of smiling children

So, ever since my oldest son started Kindergarten, I’ve always created a summer learning plan. I would carefully carve out a time of day, write out lesson plans, and print out reams of worksheets to keep my kids busy and learning during the summer.

But I discovered something that completely changed how I view summer.

My kids would grow resentful that while they’re friends played, they had to do homework. Feeling bad, I’d let them abandon their work for play and well-deserved time with their friends.

Then I’d wake up one morning and realize that summer was nearly over and we hadn’t done all of the wonderful learning things I’d planned.

And panic would set in!

Sound familiar?

The new school year would start, and to my amazement, not only had my kids forgotten very little of what they learned (usually relatively unimportant facts), but they had actually grasped important concepts that we’d struggled with the previous year.

Not only was I shocked, I was a little confused!

We hadn’t done much summer learning and yet, my kids seemed to have learned. How was that even possible?

I would have chalked this up to being a weird coincidence if it had only happened once, but it hasn’t. This very scenario has been repeated in my children over and over.

Over summer break. Christmas break. Spring break.

Just this past Easter, we took a week-long break during which my kids spent a week at their grandma’s playing and getting way too much screen time.

I am certain they didn’t read one book the entire week. We returned home and did 2 weeks of light schooling, because their friends were on spring break.

During those two weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night one night feeling panicked and like the worst and most failed homeschool mom in history. Because my 2nd grader still hadn’t grasped the concept of nouns.

A few days later, my son had a review lesson on nouns and not only answered every answer correctly, but could tell me why his answers were the correct ones.

Here’s what didn’t make that happen:

  • Drilling
  • Tons of worksheets and busy work
  • Doing lessons over and over and over

Here’s what did work: Taking a break.

I am continually amazed at how doing the very opposite of what my tendencies are is what actually works.

But when we think about it, it makes sense.

When our devices start to glitch, what is the first thing we do? Turn them off, unplug them, and restart them.

When we’re feeling overwhelmed; when our brains get tired, what do we do? Take a step back, take a break, and then come back to our task with a fresh perspective.

So, wouldn’t it stand to reason that our children need the same thing?

And even more so. Our children spend hours a day, 5 days a week, for 9 months out of the year learning. That’s a lot of learning! Their brains need a chance to take all of that learning and file it away in the proper files.

This process needs time. And overnight and weekends are not enough time for this process to happen.

So, that post I wrote a couple of years ago: 5 Ways We Make Summer Learning Fun?

Yea – that summer didn’t actually go the way I’d planned. And I’m glad it didn’t. My youngest son made enormous leaps during that summer….of not learning.

And so, my friends, as we come up on yet another summer break, I am resisting all temptation to plan our summer.

Yes, we will continue to limit their screen time, I will make sure we have lots of art supplies on hand, I will remind them when they’re bored that they have shelves and shelves of books to read.

But I will let them be bored.

I will let them spend their summer discovering the world on their own.

And I am fully confident that in September when we gather around our table for the 2021-2022 school year that I will once again be amazed at how much they retained, and even grasped, during yet another summer of not learning.

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