Summer — a Help or a Hindrance?

A common question among homeschoolers is: Should you teach through the summer or let your students have the time off? Perhaps your students need extra help on lessons, but you need the break? Summer can be a relaxing time and a difficult time all at the same time. (Sometimes students may choose to use summer to get ahead, but that does not usually upset routines too much, so I will save that topic for a later date.)

Speaking from personal experience, our family did something a little different each summer. When the extra help was really needed to catch up, a 1/2-lesson in math was assigned for each day. However, when only one student was assigned schoolwork and the rest of the household was operating on a looser summer schedule, getting those lessons actually done was often as tricky as threading a needle in the dark while wearing mittens. I must admit, on some days it felt like punishment for both student and teacher, rather than the reality of extra time devoted to learning.

Our best success in retaining knowledge came from playing many games that used math skills during the summer and finding other creative ways to keep using the recently-learned material instead of allowing it to slowly fade into oblivion. Any game using money or keeping a running point score provided painless practice in math. When all the board games and card games became boring, we invented new ways to combine them and keep on playing. The “Gee Whiz Quiz” came about during one of these summers, adding a scavenger hunt atmosphere (and some age-appropriate math) to the well-used game closet.

Once I suggested that my children host a backyard carnival for their neighborhood friends. The planning and preparing of simple, midway-style games kept their minds active in anticipating problems and finding solutions. Another time we researched the solar system and plotted it out across the length of our lot, starting at the front sidewalk near the street and ending at the alley behind our house. Seeing the actual scale-model distances between the planets gave us a better idea of the vastness of the universe. The family vacation could be chronicled as a newspaper for Grandma, or simply journaled one entry per day in a hardcover notebook.

Free reading time has always been a summer favorite. Reluctant readers can be enticed to try something different by letting them watch a video version first to capture their interest. My son watched Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and found it so fascinating that he read the entire book. I try to read a couple of books over the summer, too. It is a recharging time for me, and my students get to observe reading as a not-just-for-kids activity.

Our minds often need the summer break, just as muscles need a rest period after vigorous exercise. Whenever possible, allow the time off, but with a few mind-stretching activities mingled in to keep the thinking processes sharp. Encourage your students to use their “free time” to expand their knowledge of a hobby or pursue an interest they do not usually get time for during the school year. Just because the lessons are on hold, it does not mean they cannot be learning.


  1. Anonymous says:

    I LOVE Summer vacation!!!! To me it is a right of childhood to lay about watching their favorite television shows, swimming in the pool having sleep overs and just relaxing! As a Preschool Teacher and homeschooling Mom I see clearly how children are pushed, pushed, pushed to learn, learn, learn! In the public schools the ONLY reason children are pushed so much is because they HAVE to pass state testing requirements. If they don’t pass the tests they don’t get money for the school district! How sad! Maybe just maybe they lose some of what they are taught in school over the summer(by the way that has been shortened too) but I have always found my children coming back to the school year refreshed and relaxed and better! I feel that children are too rushed to grow up and they don’t have time to enjoy relaxation time because as parents and educators we believe that perhaps if children’s every second is not filled with some sort of learning experience that they may “forget”. Life changes we are always learning. Life learning. I would rather my son spend a summer day fishing or picking summer fruit off the trees than sitting in some stuffy old room figuring out math problems. Childhood should be a journey and not a race! My son will be entering High School this Fall. Along with his High School Diploma Courses he will be taking a course in Video Game Design. My son raises chickens and ducks as well. Adulthood is breathing down his neck and as a full-time Preschool Teacher I know too well how life has gotten more difficult and stressful add to it the hard economy on all of us! So if my son wants to spend his summer laughing with friends, picking fruit and fishing than I say go for it! You only live once! By the way the things I was taught in school are all but obsolete! A new study out has said that by the time a High School Senior graduates the things he/she learned as a Freshman are also obsolete! Maybe some things ARE worth forgetting!

  2. I am frustrated by summer because the kids do go backwards on the hard stuff – mostly math. I always say we should go through summer, but it just never works out. We need the break. I think we’ll keep our fingers in math. Even one or two lessons a week would be better than nothing, just so we don’t totally forget. And I think we’ll do a lot of reading by the pool each day and then maybe one science lesson a week. Finalizing my plans as we speak. Oh and my hesitant reader will have to read a few pages from any book every day. Done! yay! ;)


  1. […] I’ve mentioned before, we don’t take a long summer break. This is a nice article, Summer Help or Hindrance. I find a long summer vacation more of a […]

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