The Wisdom of Summer

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It’s been a tough homeschool year. Plans were derailed, spirits slumped, and school became a slog through the three R’s on more days than I care to remember.

I began homeschooling my kids with a sense of excitement and purpose and with a unique vision of how our family would approach education. We’d go on nature walks, do projects, read scores of books and have a grand time learning together.

That vision certainly did not include my children telling me on a regular basis that they “hate school” or asking, yet again, “Do we have to do school today?” Nor did it include my own feelings of burnout that would surface on many mornings as I looked over our task list for the day.

There were some fights and some tears. Okay, there were a lot. I suspect that my children might have even wondered a few times if the big yellow bus might be able to carry them away from a tired, dispirited mother nagging about the multiplication tables or handwriting practice for the tenth time in an hour.

When we reached our required number of school days for the year, we all felt a deep sense of relief, perhaps too deep. I ended our school year with a nagging question in my heart:

Why are we homeschooling if we are so happy to get to stop homeschooling for a couple of months? 

After we baked brownies and basked in the freedom of our first school-free day, I noticed my kids reading on the sofa. Then, they asked me to help them find out how many bones are in the human body (answer: 206). Then, as I was catching up on long neglected housework, I overheard my kids discussing which continent they would each draw.

Here we are, dipping our toes into summer and the learning has not stopped. The workbooks are put away, but the questions are not. The desire to experiment and to find out is stronger than ever.

This summer, I’m opening myself up to rethinking all of it for next school year…the schedules, the rigid expectations, the pressure to hold on to some resemblance of public school just so I can reassure my inner fear monster that we’re checking all the boxes.

Will I decide we’ll never use a formal curriculum in our homeschool again? I’m sure I won’t. Will I stop requiring my kids to work on the tough stuff, like those pesky multiplication tables? No way.

But I just might figure out a way to better hold on to this sense of peace and joy in learning so that by the end of next school year we’re not all so desperate for a break.

Just as traditional resources like books and curriculum can help open up the world to our kids, so can uninterrupted stretches of freedom, peace, and rest. In summer, without pressure or hurrying, our kids can have time to ask the big questions, learn what they love to do, and discover who they are and who they aren’t. 

We’ve all heard the old advice that an ideal career is one that we would engage in even if we didn’t get paid. Perhaps we can apply the same logic to education: the ideal learning is that which you don’t have to force upon your kids. 

Watch your kids this summer. Are they still writing stories even though they don’t have to for school? Are they looking up planets and constellations? Are they studying animal behavior? Are they building their own computer?

Such endeavors may be passing hobbies or turn into lifelong passions. Either way, I believe our kids deserve the space and support to try things out and to just be. 

They need summer, and so do we.

I don’t have the balance for next year all figured out. I’m not sure how to let my kids be themselves and learn what they love while still gently pushing them to work on the things that aren’t their favorites. 

But I’ve got some time to work on it.

I’ve got summer.

Summer has a lot to teach, and I’m ready to learn. How about you?

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