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Did you know that the U.S. has the shortest school year of any developed country with only 180 school days?
Many of the countries that are known for high quality academics teach students year round. Kids still get plenty of breaks for vacations and family time—they just take longer breaks more evenly spaced throughout the year. It’s more like the calendar for college students…
- Fall semester, followed by 2-3 weeks off for the holidays
- Spring semester, followed by 2-3 weeks off for Spring Break
- Summer semester, followed by 3 weeks off before fall starts up again
This is close to what Japan’s school calendar looks like. 3 semesters and 3 evenly spaced vacations. Australia has 4 terms, each with a two week vacation in between.
Why Homeschoolers Should Teach All Summer
A kid’s brain is rapidly forming new synapses and connections… and pruning the neurons and synapses that aren’t used. Kids’ brains don’t have an off switch where we can temporarily pause the loss of unused connections or save the rapid brain growth for later.
Kids need to learn year round to make the most of this amazing stage of brain development.
2-3 months is FAR too long for children to go without practicing their beginning sounds, working on handwriting, or thinking about counting and one-to-one correspondence. Plus all of these concepts can be taught with play all year long, so homeschooling never really feels sitting at desk and trying to stay awake for a lecture!
Our Family’s Homeschool Schedule
My family is very relaxed about our homeschool schedule, but we definitely homeschool year round. We take vacations when we want to— a day trip at the lake, a long weekend at the beach, a week to go visit friends out of state, two weeks to visit family a few hours away. We don’t get burnt out because our vacations are pretty well staggered throughout learning.
And to be honest, we’re still learning even when we’re on vacation. I might not bring formal lesson plans or a weekly homeschool schedule, but I tend to integrate learning into everything we do.
When we’re at the beach, we talk about the seasons and the different kinds of weather. On a flight to visit friends, we talk about what each friend’s “letter” is. (“What’s Nicole’s letter? Nuh-nuh-nuh-nicole. N!”) Everywhere we go, we talk about the plants and animals and colors we see. After homeschooling for awhile, learning becomes a normal part of every activity— vacations, errands, walks to the mailbox… everything!
Top Educational Toys & Homeschool Supplies for Summer Learning
When we’re not on vacation during the summer, I plan out fun educational activities that just feel like playing all day! Below are some of my favorite educational toys and homeschooling supplies for summertime learning.
1. Sand & Water Fine Motor Set
I LOVE this set of fine motor skill toys. It includes a pipette, a scissor-like scoop, a sand spinner, and a toddler-optimized squirt bottle.
This set is perfect because each tool works completely different muscles in the hand and wrist. Overall, it’s great for developing scissor skills and getting ready for handwriting practice. The pipette and the sand spinner take some extra practice and patience to learn, but hey, those are early science skills!
When we’re stuck inside, we also use these for our sensory bins.
2. Water Table
My son could play with his water table every single day and never get bored of it. We use the fine motor skill set. We splash each other. We use it to refill our giant pipette squirt wands for science class. We send rubber duckies down the slide over and over again and talk about taking turns.
Water tables can be used to teach it all…
3. Phonics Cube Reading Blocks
These Montessori phonics blocks are my new favorite toy for long car rides (and plane rides, whenever that can happen again).
The spinning reading blocks don’t come apart, so they’re perfect for on the go learning. Kids can spin the blocks to practice rhyming or sound out the words to start reading. Some of the combinations aren’t actual words (“san,” for example), so they also work on differentiating real words from made up ones.
The mini blocks can be used to make new words on the floor. But I wouldn’t recommend those for the car!
4. A Bike or Trike
I love going on long walks with my son, but he now gets bored in the stroller and tired on his feet after too long. We got this convertible tricycle from the grandparents last year, and we love it.
The handlebars let the parent help steer and give a little extra power to the kiddo’s pedaling. Once your kid gets older, the parent handlebars fold all the way in so your kiddo can go it alone!
Long walks or bike rides are so great for noticing changes in the environment and talking about different seasons and weather patterns, all while getting in some awesome gross motor practice.
5. At Home Splash Pad
For those of you who are still wary of public parks and being around a bunch of other kids, a mini at-home splash pad is awesome. We got this one with ABCs on it so that we can keep up with letter recognition and beginning sounds as we splash around.
Even after quarantine is over, I know we’ll keep using this every summer. Sometimes it’s nice to just play in your own backyard without packing up to go somewhere. Plus right now we’re potty training, so I let my son run around naked in the backyard while we splash. I move our potty outside so he can get in the habit of stopping what he’s doing and running to the potty. And it’s no big deal if he has an accident outside!
I know even though this summer is going to be different, it’s still going to great! What are your favorite summer toys?