Summer can be challenging for parents, particularly if you have more than one child and they have different interests and abilities. Kids are always excited to get out of school (or wrap up the regular homeschooling year)…for about two minutes. Then they can get bored and slide into sedentary, technology-fueled routines.
For our first summer as a fully homeschooling family – with three kids of vastly different personality types and skills – we wanted to switch things up from the regular school year, but keep learning. The challenge was to find activities that would engage everyone (ages 5, 11, and 14), including our daughter with special needs. Here are some of the ideas we came up with.
Artistic and Creative
Have your kids help you create a list of artistic projects they’d like to work on this summer. Here are a few for your consideration:
- Roll it! What’s more fun than creating your very own movie? Move over Hollywood, it’s time for YOUR close-up. Grab your iPhones and download a movie app to add graphics, music, and pizzazz! You can take this in many directions as your kids take turns writing scenes, sitting in the director chair, or applying makeup.
- Embellish Your Backyard or Patio with Upcycled Decor. You can make planters out of found objects, create cushions out of fabric scraps, build a fire pit out of rocks or bricks, crochet a hammock chair from plastic bags,
- Start a Book Club. Choose a title that older children can read independently and younger ones can listen to as a bedtime story. Talk about your favorite or least favorite scenes over a meal inspired by the story. It’s a great opportunity try recipes for things you might not ordinarily make like plum pudding, shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, and pumpkin pasties. Dress up, act out scenes, imagine different endings, think of backstories that might explain why characters behaved the way they did.
- Write a Book. A progressive story is a great way to get creative juices flowing. Have your oldest child get things started with a setting, a few characters, and a problem. Going in age order, each family member gets a chance to fill in what happens next. The only hard and fast rule is that you must work with what you’re given. No arguing or rewriting what went before! When you hit a stumbling block, suggest three possible plot turns and have the family vote on their favorite. Older kids can type it up to help everyone remember the story. Younger ones can provide the illustrations by drawing or cutting out photos and images with fancy captions and embellishments applied. The possibilities are endless.
- Make Homemade Musical Instruments. Turn coffee cans, tissue boxes, popsicle sticks, paper towel tubes, plastic Easter eggs, and water glasses into homemade instruments with rubber bands and other basic household and craft supplies. When everyone has an instrument, try playing together as a band.
- Family Historian. The family historian keeps the treasured memories of your generation. It’s never too early to teach your kids the importance of chronicling life’s events. Do some ancestry research. Births, childhood milestones, weddings and other events can be immortalized with memory keeping projects. Cordon off a table for the summer and spread out family photos. Create scrapbooks, photo montages, and pictorials that future generations will enjoy and maybe giggle over.
Field Trips and Related
Nothing says adventure like a road trip, even it’s just downtown to a local museum or historic spot. Where will this summer find you and your family? Here are some ideas to get you trekking:
- Tour a Local Farm. Call a trusted neighbor or rely on the kindness of strangers to arrange a trip to an animal farm. The more enthusiastic you are, the better and more informative the trip is likely to be. If you need ideas, look online. You might be able to find a farm that has tours and visiting hours that allow kids to experience farm life up close. If you plan trips at the beginning and end of summer, you’ll see the beauty of the circle of life as crops sprout and grow.
- Go Camping. This is a great bonding opportunity. Whether it’s the sheer lack of anything else to do (collect electronics before setting out) or cuddly together for warmth, camping is prime family time. Hike, grill and laugh one or two weekends this summer on a camping trip. There are many wheelchair-accessible campgrounds with paved nature trails.
- Wildflower Hunts. Head out for an afternoon of wildflower picking. If you’re lucky enough to live near mountains and meadows, this is easy. Grab sketchpad and camera and get ready to explore. Later you can try to identify all the flowers you found and press them for posterity.
- Try Geocaching. Geocaching is like a high-tech treasure hunt or hide-and-seek game using GPS coordinates. There are geocaches hidden all over the world. They are generally waterproof containers hidden on public land that contain trinkets and log book. When you find one, sign the book with your code name and date, take a trinket, and leave a new one. See how many you can find in your local area, then look for others when you travel. You can also create your own caches.
Summer is a great time to learn about safety, particularly if you have any aspiring doctors in the house.
- Learn About Water Safety. If you’re planning on spending time at the pool, beach, or lake, consider adding a CPR and water safety unit to the mix to blend learning and fun in a practical, hands-on way. Swimming lessons are a good idea for everyone. Older kids can get CPR certified, which could help them land lifeguarding or babysitting jobs. Younger ones can pretend to “save” dolls by swimming out to them, pulling them out of the water, and resuscitating them with chest compressions.
- Make a First Aid Kit. Having a kit is great for any time of year, but particularly if you plan on camping. You can have a large one for the whole family and let each child make their own.
Kids can get cooped up in the house as muscles atrophy in front of the TV or game console. Move it outside and get those muscles working with these active activities:
- Hiking/walking. There is SO much to learn from the great outdoors! Even if you live in a city or neighborhood, you can look at the sky, the plants, any animals you see or hear. Go for a walk together or head a little bit out of town to a campsite and hike for a morning.
- Gardening. If you have a backyard, plant a small or large garden area that kids can help you tend. It’s a great learning experience and wonderful feeling to grow your own food.
- Organize Bike Rides. Get the family or neighbors together for a group bike ride or join an organized ride for a local charity for double blessings. There are a variety of bike trailers for kids with special needs.
- Build a Fort. If you have a creek or woods to explore, they make a perfect place for a homemade fort. However, you can throw a sheet over a couple of tables and create the same sense of mystery and fun. It’s a great tie-in for history lessons too!
- Tackle Home Improvements. Let kids strap on tool belts and get handy with some simple construction projects. Try building a deck, dog house, or greenhouse. Older kids can be project managers, budgeting for supplies, and practicing their math with measurements, perimeter, area, circumference, angles, and more. Younger ones can take turns hammering and drilling (with supervision), organizing supplies, and painting.
- Internships. Let your older kids find internships with local professionals in their areas of interest. Professionals get free help and kids learn. What’s not to love?
- Jobs or Business Ventures. Whether it’s weeding or mowing for the neighbors for cash, selling stuff online or other endeavors, kids can make money and learn how to run a micro business. There are so many great life and academic lessons included in this idea. Older kids can get part-time jobs cleaning, babysitting or taking jobs online. Have them create budgets and business plans for a great lesson in personal finances.
- Experiment. Whether you need to make up a few scheduled science experiments with your homeschoolers, or just want to try some new ones, take advantage of the relaxed summer atmosphere to attempt some experiments and fill out lab reports.
- Marvel at the Stars. Look online to see if any meteor showers will be visible soon. Or just pick a clear night to go lay out under the stars somewhere away from city lights. You can be sure your kids will remember that special night for years to come.
- Water conservation. Have the kids document how the family uses water and guess total daily usage. Find some averages on Google and give a reward for the closest guest. Talk about water’s cycle from the sky to land and back to the sky. Cover the importance of water conservation.
- Make Your Own Recycled Paper. Learn more about recycling by doing it yourself, making paper from pulp.
There is no shortage of ways to make summer great without springing for pricey camps or letting kids lounge on the couch. Brainstorm your own ideas and encourage your kids to keep a journal to document the fun. If there are things you don’t get around to doing, it’s never too early to start making a list for next year!