In Defense of Summer School

Because it’s playing in the yard after sleeping late.

Because it’s reading without a page quota.

Because it’s the flexibility to learn about what you’re interested in at that very moment.

Because it’s science experiments masquerading as water balloon fights and baking cookies.

It’s slow, sweet, less structured… that’s why I loved ‘summer school’. The term is used loosely – we never spent a summer hunched over our desks every day, ticking all the boxes, and earning all the credits. There was definitely more of that structure to our conventional school semesters. But we also never had a summer where we stopped learning. There were three especially impactful traditions we kept that you can easily weave into your summer routine, even on a small scale:

Group Reading

My number one favorite summer school tradition was group reading. Every summer Momma picked a book (’Treasure Island,’ ‘Little Women,’ ’The Hunchback of Notre Dame’…) and every afternoon when the little brothers went down for their naps, we took refuge from the humid Georgia heat inside while she read aloud to us.

Sometimes we practiced needlework while she read, sometimes we practiced our calligraphy, most of the time we just soaked it up. Not because we had a book report due or because we had a test coming up, just for the love of Story.

This was so critical to my personal development – I learned that reading wasn’t just something you did because you had to, reading could also be something you did because you loved to.


Vacation Unit Studies

When our family took our annual beach vacation, we learned about tide pools and lighthouses and the myth of mermaids. We sketched in our nature journals after a long day playing in the surf, hunting sand dollars and hermit crabs. We were our own little researchers-in-the-field: collecting data and then throwing it back ‘to its family.’

As our family aged, we started having more extreme summer adventures. One Christmas, we found flippers and snorkels under the tree…we had been enrolled in scuba diving classes! Our beach trips since then have taken us deeper and deeper beneath the waves.


We loved any excuse to dress up in historical outfits. Our costume closet could dress us appropriately for any time period between in ancient Egypt and the 1940s. One summer, we put on our best A-frame dresses and threw a USO-themed party at a nursing home. Some summers, the family would participate in Civil War reenactments: hoop skirts, bonnets, limited modern conveniences…it was like school sanctioned make-believe.

Sometimes it’s easy to feel condemnation or discouragement when you read about the things other homeschoolers are doing. Please don’t let this post do that to you! All these summer ‘assignments’ were things that we (kids) already enjoyed doing and Mom & Dad just made the effort to do it more often.

So, this summer, find the things your kids already enjoy and go do more of that! Leave us a comment below and tell us what your summer school ‘schedule’ looks like.
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