Summer Homeschool Hack

In a weary stupor, one morning in late May, I came up with a summer homeschool hack and never lifted a finger. (Please hold the applause until the end.)

I was looking for a way to ensure my kids wouldn’t bury themselves in digital debris with a summer spent “logged-on.” I envisioned their unbridled video gaming rotting away their IQs and personalities. But I wanted a summer homeschool program that involved no planning, no curriculum, no glue sticks, and most of all….no guilt.

I know what you’re thinking. Homeschooling through the summer? Who put what in my coffee that morning? Summer is supposed to be this great magical chasm in education that makes childhood special.

But just hear me out.

In years past I’ve had some awesome over-planned and underappreciated summer homeschool extravaganzas ready and waiting to underwhelm my boys’ sense of adventure. See Blockbuster summer reading, and Cooking Across the USA. Really, we had a lot of fun, but it was still school-ish.

Oh, but not this year. This year I’m spent, exhausted mentally and physically. So, I’m throwing caution to the wind and exposing my lazy genius at the pool this summer with a new plan.

I’m calling it “3 Somethings ” until a better title presents itself to me while sunbathing.  Specifically: Learn Something. Play Something. Clean Something.

The details are below. Keep reading to learn more; while it’s still free.


“Summer Homeschool” is a 4-letter word

Not really. It’s 2 words, 16 letters, and 1 space.

But we’ve tried the year-round homeschooling thing. It went over like a bucket of farts. Mostly because I dared to use the words “homeschool” and “summer” in the same solar system while talking to my kids.

Naturally, a bucket of farts would be more welcome than unit studies in a house with three boys. But, it makes more sense to spread the equivalent of three months of idle neurons evenly throughout the entire year.

So, when I asked what subjects they wanted to study this summer…

“Noooo!” they howled in unison, like a feral boy’ choir. “We want the summer off like everyone else!”

Humpf. I crossed my arms. One eyebrow rose with a grin. They knew what I was about to say. Their eyes rolled in anticipation and their heads nodded sarcastically as I repeated one of my many domestically famous mantras.

“Well, good thing we’re not like everyone else.”



Cue the violins while I explain the horrific reality of the adult world.

Sadly, it is nothing like the K-12 calendar traditional schools wire kids’ brains to expect in life. If the school calendar held true into adulthood, my boys’ Dad could chunk all those pesky medical charts in the trash on his way out of the hospital on Memorial weekend, schedule a tattoo and a piercing, and then run to his truck whooping and bad-mouthing his boss. Cause he would get a new one in September, right? And a promotion. That’s how it works, huh? Level up!?

Uh, no.


Learning in the Real World

Sure, we could set our brains on the stove that I’m not cooking on (I mean if we’re taking off work, WE’RE TAKING OFF WORK!) and watch them collect dust and leak the knowledge we spent blood, sweat and printer ink learning this school year.

But we’re so much better than that.

“And you guys are not spending 7,659 hours a day on video games. Uh-uh. Nope. I’ve said my peace and counted to three.”  I barked and turned away before they could see the wavering resolve in my eyes.

Still I get it. I was a kid once. There was nothing quite like the feeling of freedom after dumping the entire contents of my locker into the garbage and tearing out of the cell block when we were kids. We were planning late nights watching movies, week long games of monopoly for blood, sleeping until noon, pool worn toes and fingers, sunburned-junk-food-fun-filled freedom awaited!

Then someone came along and coaxed us into the library reading challenge for bookmarks and little plastic finger-puppets. We woke to find ourselves at 2 or 3 different vacation bible schools at 8 a.m. gluing beans to a paper plate in remembrance of Daniel not getting eaten by a lion. Family reunions, summer house cleaning, swim meets, band camp, school supply shopping… it all ate away at our slovenly summer dreams.

And suddenly we were at meet-the-teacher night wondering who slipped the roofie into our Capri-sun. Time was up. Back to the grind.

No time to get bored and solve world hunger.


Boredom, Books, or Bust

And here in lies the summer homeschool dilemma. Do we keep their noses to the books and get ahead of the pack? Do we take a lighter approach, but fill every waking moment with enriching educational activities, sports, and camps? Or do we let them go free, provide no guidance, and let them wallow in their own boredom and potato chip grease?

Homeschool moms everywhere disagree with each other. And we even disagree with ourselves from year to year. Some summers we have the energy to teach Latin to a deaf puppy. And the next year we’re signing them up for all the free vacation bible schools in a 20-mile radius.

Well, mine are too cool big for vacation bible school this year. And unless anyone knows of an impending zombie apocalypse and the return of all dead languages, we’ve decided to forgo Latin for the time being.

So, here’s my plan that requires no planning…


Summer Homeschool Hack: “3 Somethings”

Every weekday of the summer that we are at home and do not otherwise have a scheduled engagement or plans with friends, my kids are required to fulfill 3 items on a checklist before they can disappear into the digital abyss.

Kid's Summer To-Do List

  1. Learn something. Anything. This is where they get to choose, and I don’t have to plan. Seriously, handing over the reins to their own education never felt so much like a vacation. Set a minimum amount of time to spend learning. We are averaging 1 hour a day. It’s quite interesting to see what they pick to learn. Boredom breeds curiosity.

The category is broad. They can:

Watch a documentary on the brilliant giant octopus. Try a new recipe with eggs and nearby fire extinguisher. Continue work on an online STEM course. Memorize the lyrics to a new song. Conduct a science experiment (if we already have the materials). Read something. Work a jigsaw puzzle. Follow a YouTube how-to draw video. Do 4 lesson of Algebra II online if it floats your boat. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

  1. Play something. My dudes have no choice in this category. They must spend 30 minutes playing the musical instrument which we fork over loads of cash for lessons on each year. If your kid doesn’t play a musical instrument, maybe have them explore musical genres just spending time listening to a wide variety of songs and styles.

Or have them practice whatever is their favorite sport, talent or skill. Learn to play chess, juggle, or beatbox. Master the moon walk. Ride a bike. Do pajama yoga.

  1. Clean something. Perhaps this is the best part of my plan. I’m open to suggestions or shows of initiative for what they would like to clean. Lil D organized the shoe rack disaster in the garage of his on accord this week. But often I or my husband have plenty to assign both inside and outside the house.

For a task to count it must be assigned or approved as an acceptable chore and inspected on completion. As small as taking out the garbage to as tedious as vacuuming the inside of the family bus, things get done. They earn their digital privileges and hopefully some sense of obligation.


So Far, So Good

No one’s invented anything just yet, but D1 is coding his first video game in java, D2 can land a small private plane in inclement weather on his flight simulator, and Lil D brought me to tears playing the theme from Winnie the Pooh on his piano.

The plan is working well so far. Still they often groan when they want to get gaming and I ask if they’ve done their “3 somethings” yet. But they don’t feel they’ve been shafted of their rightful childhood sabbatical.

For all intents and purposes, we’re not doing summer homeschool.  We want to savor the season. Make it last. We swim, sleep late, read together a few nights each week and we’ve got a couple of fun camps lined up, family coming to visit, and a long weekend trip at the end of summer. But I want them to avoid the childhood misconception that all responsibilities get put on hold or tossed out with last years’ grammar pages at the end of the school year.

We’re living, learning and lounging all at once. It’s okay to slow down and smell the sunscreen from time to time. After we’ve done our “3 somethings” of course.


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