Is school out for summer at your house? Growing up, I never had a concept of a ‘real kid’ summer. I had divorced parents, which meant two different households. All school year, I lived with my Mom, and for the summer, I went to my Dad’s. It was bittersweet because on the one hand, I missed all of my school friends (and would get quite jealous when I came back after summer break and heard about all the fun and wonderful adventures they had without me), but summers with my Dad were awesome because we took A LOT of trips and I got to see much of our beautiful country through vacations with him. My then-stepmom was super education-oriented. She seldomly participated in leisure activites-everything had to have an element of learning to it. She would call my school and request the entire next year’s curriculum, then delegate the information to me in a form of worksheets/workbooks/research papers. She planned our vacations around what we would be learning the next year in school. For example, the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade, we went to Boston and walked the Freedom Trail and I got to see Plymouth Rock (I remember being quite disappointed at the size of that thing). These experiences were amazing because when I went back to school the following August and the teacher covered these topics in school, I already knew a lot of the information and felt as if I have lived it…because I had been there!
As a family, we are not in the situation to be traveling the country and soaking up all of the historical and natural value that lies beyond our city (although I wish we did-I envy you Worldschoolers). But, I do find that learning resonates best with the kids when there is an element of real life experience to go with it. During the normal ‘school year’ August-May, we certainly have a routine of sorts, even if it is ever-changing. I am diligent about record keeping and trying to stick with a few daily elements through consistency. But, in the summer, I try to take a more relaxed and laid back approach to homeschooling. We do not stop learning, but rather, we learn in a different way. We take a slight break from formal english and spelling studies, and only use math in a real world way. This summer, I am calling it Summer Science, where everything we do is through the eyes of science. And as nature would have it, coincidences come about that foster that goal.
The last week of May, I was ending my morning run around 6 am and opened my front door to let my dog out. When I followed her to the yard, what I saw completely took me by surprise. It seemed almost supernatural. I was literally shocked and couldn’t find words to speak (if anyone had been awake to speak to.) There was a swarm of a magnitude I couldn’t describe. There were creatures swirling just above my head, dodging, flying, swooping. It wasn’t until I saw them start to fly one by one into an opening in one of my trees that I realized what they were. I was staring at a colony of….BATS! I was sooo excited! I am not one that is easily scared by wild animals, and the little I do know of bats is that they eat mosquitos, so that’s the first thing that crossed my mind. I told my family as soon as they woke up and my kids were overjoyed. We made up a calendar and I pulled lots of resources to start a bat unit study.
Our moon and star tree (aka the bat colony) they emerge from the star and return to their nest through the moon.
Bat unit study (credit to royalbaloo for the printables!)
If we were going to have a colony of bats living in our moon and star tree, then I was going to learn more about these amazing creatures, and it only made sense to wrap it up into a homeschool lesson. As a family, we have been observing the bats at dusk and jotting down the times they come out of their nest. We watch them for a few minutes until the mosquitos and bugs drive us inside. It is quite exciting! Two nights ago, a red-tailed hawk that lives in one of our other trees dove down and almost caught a bat in mid air! The commotion was something out of a National Geographic show.
Another happenstance that took place was that we doing yardwork as a family last Sunday and we found something curious. As I’m squatting, pulling weeds, my kids are picking through the dirt, playing some kind of game of pretend. Suddenly, we find something small, white and oblong. At first, I think, that’s an egg! But nooooo, it’s too small to be an egg, it must be a pebble. Right? Well, the kids are playing pretend anyway, so I call to them, “Look I found an egg!” I fetch an insect viewer cup and we place it in just for giggles and I go about my arduous weed-pulling. Sure enough, another shakes free from the loose soil of the roots of the weeds. It’s another egg! 45 minutes passes and we’ve found 9 total! Each time, the kids coming to retrieve them from me and place them in our insect viewer cup.
We covered the eggs in moist soil as we had found them and I put the lid (with holes) on the viewer cup and placed it on our front porch in the shade. We are all enthralled by these mystery eggs and are taking guesses at what they could be. Definitely not turtle eggs. Too small to be bird eggs. We landed on a reptile, leaning towards the possibility of these little ring neck snakes we get in our yard. But-I thought all snakes lay eggs in clutches in a single nest-not scattered across a 30 foot distance one by one as we found these. Anyway, fast forward 5 days later, and one of the eggs hatched in our cup! It is, in fact, a lizard!!! A Brown Anole to be
1st baby lizard hatched
precise. We LOVE lizards and reptiles in general, so this was a wonderful surprise to us. We let the little guy go in our yard and we will be closely observing the remaining 8 eggs to see if they are all also lizards and if they are the same species. Of course, I have to make this an official school lesson, so we get out our Smithsonian Animal Encyclopedia book and research different kinds of lizards. I have also printed a lizard packet with an observation log and lapbook ideas.
Lastly, we got invited to take over half of our homeschool co-op’s plot in a community garden in our town! Our plot is only split by 2 families, so I was over-the-moon when it was offered to me. We volunteered for a work day last weekend which happened to be the last day of the season. Harvest Day. My kids got to harvest green beans, pole beans, tomatoes, carrots, spinach and so much more. They got to dig in the dirt with other kids and catch and observe millipedes. We got to taste fresh vegetables straight from the earth, grown with love and care. And the garden regulars were gracious enough to let us take home a bounty to cook for our dinner that night. I was so thankful and proud and humbled to be able to participate in this community garden and help others. I am looking forward to a season full of hard work and reward and lots and lots of learning.
It is in these ways that I keep our summer learning going. Really giving the kids a chance to get outside and soak up nature, exploration, and learning. I know that when we come back to our table in August for a more structured routine, they will feel refreshed and apply all of their summer experiences toward moving forward in their homeschooling. How do you celebrate summer through the spirit of homeschooling?