435 | Summer Homeschooling in Disguise (Jennifer Cabrera) | REPLAY

435 | Summer Homeschooling in Disguise (Jennifer Cabrera) | REPLAY

Show Notes:

Homeschooling year-round makes total sense, but sometimes we just need a break from planning and pushing. Here's a look at the pros and cons of summer homeschooling and my hack for continued learning while enjoying the traditions of summer.

About Jennifer

Jennifer Cabrera, the Hifalutin Homeschooler, is the writer of homeschool truth, humor, and inspiration. Jennifer lives in Salado, Texas with her husband and three brilliant boys. She is a licensed Physician Assistant/MPH, but set aside that career for her ultimate life's work. She is also the author of Socialize Like a Homeschooler: A Humorous Homeschool Handbook and Revolting Writing, a hilarious writing, vocabulary, and illustration journal for reluctant writers. She is a featured speaker with Great Homeschool Conventions and her memes and witty insights are widely shared on social media.


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Show Transcript:

Hello and welcome to another Hifalutin Homeschooler episode of The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Jennifer Cabrera and I am one of many hosts here on the podcast. Each week, we bring you an encouraging conversation, inspiration, tips, tricks, and or humor from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home.

Now, while the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we do not pretend to have the answer to every question related to homeschooling, but we do hope to keep it real through lessons we've learned and urge you toward Jesus Christ and prayer with him as the greatest parent-teacher conference available.

Here's a riddle for you, parents. Homeschoolers love them. Enemies of freedom, hate them. What are they? It's the Tuttle Twins books. With millions of copies sold, the Tuttle Twins help you teach your kids about entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, the golden rule, and more. Get a discounted set of books with free workbooks today at tuttletwins.com/homeschool. That's T-U-T-T-L-Etwins.com/homeschool. And now on to today's show.

Hello and welcome to another edition of the Hifalutin Homeschooler's version of the Homeschool Solutions, which are by no means 100% foolproof, but great care, love, laughter was put into bringing you this episode about homeschool hacks for summer. And we just finished this week and I'm absolutely exhausted and if you can hear it in my voice, I'm a little bit stuffy because — pollen. And we are sliding into summer and to 6000 other things that have decided to pile on our plates. It's really not, you know, a let down from school. You don't get this reprieve and you get to lounge, because when you have high schoolers, they want to do everything all the time because time is running out. And actually I'm about to have two seniors, which is very overwhelming.

So now, really, I have two seniors coming up and half a freshmen, half a freshmen. Why do I say half a freshman? Because, well, he's my guinea pig. The other two didn't start out as homeschoolers. I pulled them out of school, they started in the third grade. But my littlest guy was supposed to wait another year before he started kindergarten, but there he was, and he was kind of bored. So we started him a little bit early and now I'm kind of freaking out because I don't want him to graduate when he's 17. So I'm kind of slowing him down. And even though on paper, with all the academics that he's done, he could technically be a freshman coming up, he's really only supposed to be starting the eighth grade. So I told him, I'll call him a half a freshman, and then he'll probably have one of those super senior years where he gets to go to, like, take some college courses or learn underwater basket weaving, or starts his empire of whatever he decides to go into, which right now will be something around real gardening and Minecraft gardening. It's probably somewhere in the middle there, I'm not really sure.

But summer has arrived and it's really our last summer together as a homeschool family. I mean, we'll always be "that" homeschool family, but my oldest two are going to graduate next year, and as of right now, their plans are to run off and leave me and not come home until they have to because they've run out of cash or they need their laundry done. No, that's not true. They say things like that to tease me, but I know they will miss me at least a fraction of how much I miss them. And that's if they leave because nothing is cemented yet and we don't know where they're going to end up. But let's talk about summer. This summer, we want to cram in all those little things that we never got to, which isn't going to happen because the list is a mile long. We had all these great plans that we were going to get to while we homeschool, and we did a lot of them, but, you know, time is short. It really is shorter than you think because when they're in the fifth grade and you know, they're still shorter than you, you think, oh yeah, we'll do that when they're sophomores and we'll do that when they're juniors. And then this year we'll do... We have plenty of time and then whoa, you're here. And it's that last summer. So while we're busy cramming all of those last minute things that we want to do with the boys before they head off in whatever direction, knowing that we can still reconvene together next summer maybe, let me share with you some of the thoughts and activities and things that we've tried in the past that have worked and not worked, and learned some new homeschool hacks that maybe will make your summer a little more enjoyable and less stressful, and get more of the things in that you hope to get to before they're flying from the nest, so to speak. No, really, I have one getting his pilot's license in two weeks. Woo!

Okay, so our first year homeschooling, I was like a nut job. I did all the things. Everything over did. Crafts, even me, yes, we did crafts. But we did every page in every book that we use, every curriculum page. I was so proud of myself because I was so worried I wasn't going to get it all done, or people were going to think I was ruining my kids. So like over did and then we were exhausted. So we took the summer off. We weren't even going to try to do that whole homeschool through the summer thing. But we did read a lot of books together and we watched the movies, and we ate fun filled snacks, which, by the way, that is still one of my absolute favorite things to do in the summer with my kids with homeschooling: pick a read aloud that we know there's a movie but we haven't seen it yet, and read the book even through the groans and the moans, when they have to shut off their computer and actually listen to you do all the voices. They secretly like it, I'm pretty sure, but that's one of my favorite things to do. So note that right now, movie time themed snacks, compare, argue, whatever. Good times.

So we did that that year, but I wasn't adding anything extra because I was completely burnt out and the year or two after that, I kind of learned to ease off during the year, that you don't have to finish every page. In fact, you should skip some because they're pointless and they just put them in there so the book looks thicker and a little more important, and then sometimes you don't even need to follow curriculum. You can write your own. Needless to say, I calmed down a little bit. And so as the summers wore on, I got to thinking, you know, we could do more than just read together. And so one year I decided, you know what? Let's try that homeschool year round thing. Summer school. 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, okay? I wasn't sure that we were actually doing it right. I had planned for us to tackle some elective type subjects like geography. We learned the 50 states that year with word games and lots of like, little puzzles. And we would basically pin the tail on the United States kind of thing. And then we did some wacky science experiments also. And it kind of works out. If summer school was an ice cream cone, you know how keeps melting faster than you can eat it sometimes, and it's melting from both ends so there's stuff escaping and dripping off the top, obviously, but it's also dripping out that little hole at the bottom where that little chocolate plug's not working just right. And then everything is getting covered in fire ants, and you're watching the creamy middle disappear before you can get to it but you have good intentions, but they're dripping away as this summer boils on.

Now, our first year to do "summer school" went okay, but all this stuff kept starting and stopping and interrupting and making me sweat, literally and figuratively. But here are the eight reasons why our homeschool plans melted away that year. Number one — Vacation Bible School. We didn't do "school school" at a desk and all that, obviously. But that week we couldn't do our homeschooling because they had to go to a Vacation Bible school. And it says it right there in the title, school — Vacation Bible School. So my twin Ds, they only went two days to Vacation Bible School that year. We were at a new place and it was a new church they had never been to before, and the kids were acting like rowdy kids. It just totally threw them for a loop so they didn't really want to stay but my littlest made it the whole week, and he learned some fun stories and did some crafts and silly anecdotes. And he got a head cold. Which led to a week of snot. So the following week, we trudged through some studies at home that I had planned, and of course, the head cold made its way right into the twins, even though they hadn't finished Vacation Bible school. Vacation Bible school tried to finish them, and no one can listen when they have their ears and nose stuffed with tissue. And so that didn't go as planned with our homeschool summer courses.

And then there was Broadway. Okay, so it wasn't actually Broadway, but community theater is way better and tickets are cheaper and you don't need a plane ticket or a hotel stay and your children can star in the summer musical, and they can rehearse six nights a week and completely screw up their sleeping and dietary habits. Though maybe having dinner at 11 p.m. is just them preparing for college life. But that year they were in a summer musical and they learned choreography, public speaking, singing in time and rhythm and unison and on key. Okay, but that totally passed as some sort of school, right? But what I had planned was pushed to the side again. And another thing that ruins home school summer plans are personal electronic devices from the underworld. I've pretty much decided that Minecraft, though creative and somewhat educational, is cocaine in digital form and therefore the spawn of hell. Of course, it doubles as a reliable babysitter when you just need quiet. Well, never mind that your child has become a cube craving zombie that will show your face off when you call time on a three hour binge. Just wait, when they've shut it down and finally quit growling, they're now going to talk you into your own zombie stupor. Play by play, redstone by pickax. Your sanity will waver. That's the plan. Just to make it stop, you'll let them log back on to the babysitter. See? We're all addicted. Digital narcotics, I tell you. But seriously, I had to put limits. I still have to put limits, though I only have really one Minecrafter these days, but they all want to be on those screens, right? So those electronic devices are the main push, I think, for a lot of parents to want to do homeschool in the summer. Just to keep them off the electronic devices somehow.

Okay. And other things that wreck summer homeschooling, other people's kids. All these happy-go-lucky public school vacationers are undermining our visions. So my kids thought it was absolutely discriminating and abusive that I forced them to learn while the other kids of the world were eating snow cones and riding around in ski boats. Which is not exactly true, but that's what they were seeing on the commercials when I let them turn on the TV once a week, which is still not true. Just about every fun filled lesson I arranged began with a protest of this unjust treatment that year. So, it matters not if we were taking a vacation the second public school was back in session, or if that we were going to take off the entire month of December, or maybe April or May of the following year. They live in the right now, and right now it's not fair if everyone else in town is on vacation but us. So that kind of put a damper on my excitement of all the lovely things I had planned for homeschool that year.

Okay, and then there was the heat. When it's 99 degrees out of a heat index of 107,000, it's hard to muster the energy to do anything. And I know a lot of people say, "This is why we homeschool. It's just to hot to go anywhere. It's just too hot to do anything." And even though it's nice and cool inside on the AC, somehow it's like my brain knows it's hot outside. And if you walk out in that baking pan, that's our driveway just to get the mail, your neurons begin to misfire. The energy and IQ is literally evaporating from your body. By the time I grapple for the front door, I'm desperate in need of iced tea, a ceiling fan, and a nap. We can't be walking up the stairs to our classroom in this kind of a climate. Movement of any kind is counterproductive, and therefore I need a cold beverage and a body of water to submerge in.

Okay. And also that year that we tried to actually do homeschool in the summer, I completely lost my mind and signed the boys up for a camp called Ninja Warrior Camp. Now, as I drove them to their first day that week, it suddenly occurred to me that I had committed something really nonsensical: I actually paid for someone to teach them how to fight amongst each other more effectively. It was like signing toddlers up for splatter painting lessons and then trusting them to feed themselves spaghetti marinara. When I picked them up that week, they told me they had learned to cut open a watermelon with a machete. That was money well spent. Now, they have learned some great tips on dealing with bullies, which was awesome. But three hours climbing trees, body slamming bullies, and samurai fruit salads, and we were back to that whole exhaustion thing. Okay? So what were we doing trying to fit in this homeschooling again? They were learning so much. They were learning how to be fruit ninjas. They were learning things at the theater. They were learning how to argue effectively with mom and her lessons and ideas, and how to wiggle their way out of it. They learned how to treat a head cold and then live through it and take care of each other, sort of. They went to Bible school, "school". So what was the point in this summer school thing, right? Or all along, were we not already homeschooling? Because isn't that what homeschooling is? Life learning? Now, despite all the interruptions, we did accomplish a lot that summer. They learned the 50 states, and I'm pretty sure they can still sing them. They went to Bible school. They learned how to be fruit ninjas. I mean, it was a productive summer that I did not want to repeat the following year.

So after that little stint of hard core summer school at homeschooling, that is, I decided I would come up with a smarter plan. And in a weary stupor one morning the next May, I came up with a summer homeschool hack and never lifted a finger. Now, hold all of your applause until the end. I know, it's pretty awesome. I was looking for a way to ensure that my kids wouldn't bury themselves in digital debris with the 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.

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Now, it really does make more sense to spread the equivalent of three months of idle neurons evenly across the entire year. I get it. Summer homeschooling makes sense. But after that one try at it when I asked my boys what subjects they wanted to study this next summer, "No," they held in unison like a feral boy choir. "We want the summer off like everyone else." So I crossed my arms, one eyebrow rose with a grin. They knew what I was about to say, and their eyes rolled in anticipation and their heads nodded sarcastically as I repeated one of my many domestically famous mantras: "Well, it's a good thing we're not like everyone else." Which is true, even though we did want to take the summer off.

Cue the violins while I explain the horrific reality of the adult world: sadly, it's nothing like the K through 12 calendar traditional schools wire kids brains to expect in life. If the school calendar held true into adulthood, my boy's father would 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 because he would get a new one in September, right? And a promotion. That's how it works, huh? Level up? Sadly, 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, right? And we could watch them collect dust and leak the knowledge that we spent blood, sweat, and printer ink learning this school year. But we're so much better than that, we homeschoolers. And you guys are not spending 7,659 hours a day on video games. Nope. I've said my peace and counted to three.

So I barked this at them and then turned away before I could see their wavering resolve. Actually, my wavering resolve and their sad 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 cellblock, I mean school, 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, sunburns, junk food, fun-filled-freedom awaited. And then someone came along and coaxed us into the library reading challenge for bookmarks and little plastic finger puppets. And we woke up to find ourselves at two or three 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. And herein lies the summer homeschool dilemma: do we keep their noses to the books and get ahead of the pack? Or 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. As you can tell, some summers we have the energy to teach Latin to a deaf puppy, and the next year we're signing them up for all three Vacation Bible Schools in a 20 mile radius. Well, mine are now too big for Vacation Bible School, and unless anyone knows of an impending zombie apocalypse and the return of all dead languages, we are not learning Latin.

So here's my plan that I've used for the last several years that requires absolutely no planning — the three 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 three items on a checklist before they can disappear into the digital abyss. The first thing is 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're averaging, on a good day, maybe an hour. I mean, it's quite interesting, though, to see what they pick to learn. Boredom breeds curiosity. The category is broad so they can watch a documentary on a brilliant giant octopus. They can try a new recipe with eggs and have a fire extinguisher nearby is all I have to say. Continue working on an online Stem course if it's truly educational and not Minecraft. Memorize the lyrics to a new song. Conduct a science experiment (if we already have the materials because I'm not running to the store for a grape). Okay. Read something. Work on a jigsaw puzzle. Follow a YouTube How to Draw video. Do four lessons of algebra two online if that's what floats your boat. And yes, I have one of those kids. But first thing you do, your first of three somethings is to learn something. You can set the parameters because you know kids will push the boundaries. "I'm going to learn how fast I can eat Pringles without using my hands." Okay, that may not count for some, but it may for others. It's up to you.

Now, the second something is to play something. All right. My dudes have no choice in this category: they must spend 30 minutes playing a musical instrument for which we fork over loads of cash for in lessons and tuning and restringing and all those things. So 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 their favorite sport or talent or skill is. Learn to play chess, learn to juggle, learn to beatbox, master the moonwalk, ride a bike, do pajama yoga, but play something. It can be board game and you can decide whether or not mom has to play, or if the kids have to play together without tearing up the pieces or flipping the monopoly board. Learn to play the kazoo.

Okay, so the first thing was learn something and then play something for at least 30 minutes. So already, if you've learned something for about an hour and you've played something for about 30 minutes or however long you can stand to hear them squawking on the clarinet. So you got an hour and a half and you can spread that out or you can have them do all three things right in a row, but I find that if you make them do all three things (and we get to the third something in just a second), before screen time, they will get done. If you allow screen time between, you will lose your resolve and waiver and give in or forget that you haven't done the third one and they have no incentive to do the third.

So what is the third one? The third something is to clean something. And this is perhaps the best part of my plan. I'm open to suggestions or shows of initiative for what they would like to clean, but they must clean something. Now my youngest organized his shoe rack disaster in the garage one year, which was great because it wasn't something I thought about but had been tripping over for days. And often, my husband has plenty to assign them outside, or they can call him at work if he's not here, and if he is here, he'll hand them a rake or a lawn mower or hedge trimmer or, you know, even to clean out the garbage cans. I mean, that's just kind of something you don't really think about doing. But for a task to count, it must be assigned or approved as an acceptable chore and inspected upon completion. So you do have to get up and put down your lemonade and check that out. But you also want to make sure that they're not saying, "Yeah, I cleaned my room," but they did that yesterday and it was already clean. It has to be something different. Doesn't have to be something huge every time. They can clean the coffeemaker for you. You know? They could bathe the dog. That always helps. Or brush the sides of the pool. Or weed the flower bed. Lots of things, lots of things.

So they must be inspected to make sure that they actually did something that needed to be done, and that they did it to your approval. And then they earned their digital privileges because they finished their three things. And hopefully they've also learned and earned a sense of obligation and given a peek into what's outside of that screen — remembered something that you do like to do. And I have one that, well, like I said, all my kids play musical instruments, but one particularly, want to get him started practicing on his guitar will. Then at some point I'm like, okay, that's enough because the floorboards are shaking and, save some for tomorrow.

So that's my big homeschool hack that takes no planning on mom's part. It frees you up but also allows them to bank on that boredom factor that really gets kids thinking more creatively, finding out who they are, what they enjoy. So you just give them some rough guidelines to follow: so learn something, play something, clean something. Now, no one's invented anything just yet here at my house over the summers of doing this Three Somethings. But I do have one that learn to code video games in all kinds of different languages. I have one, like I said, that's about to be a pilot. He has a simulator that he practices on, and I don't know if I'd call that playing or learning, but I think it's a little bit of both. And then I have a piano player who loves to pick out new tunes and show me when I don't let him get on the computer. It's amazing what he can learn to play. And he loves hands-on science things. He's growing his own vegetables.

And so this plan worked really well for us for several years, and we plan to implement it again this summer between the 2000 things else that they have going on. But still, they often groan when they want to do their gaming and stuff, and they have to do their three somethings. So don't think that it's a fix all, and it's just kumbaya all the time, but they don't feel shafted as much as had I planned every little moment with actual curriculum because they are getting to decide how to spend this time. They are in some control. And now that they actually have gotten older and a little more mature, they see that they need help sometimes to step away from the gaming. Because they lose track of time and there are things that they want to do and they just need reminding. So we're not doing summer homeschool per se. We're trying to savor the season. Make it last. I think it's important that we start to teach our kids at a younger age (obviously, than the public school does) that it's a childhood misconception that all responsibilities get put on hold or tossed out with last year's grammar pages at the end of the school year. Learning is continuous. It's not a pump and dump situation, and you don't want to put life on hold as far as your learning and preparing for your future. And we don't want to stop teaching our kids through the summer, but that we can change things up and do things differently just to keep it more exciting. Change with the seasons. What new ways can we learn? What is there for us to do today different than before? And when we're living and learning and lounging all at once, it's okay to slow down. Smell the sunscreen from time to time — after we've done our three somethings, of course.

Okay, if you simply must have something to work on in the summer, or if your kids actually really like to do some work during the summer, or you're looking for something exciting for the fall and you have a reluctant middle school writer, my new book is out — Gross Out Grammar for Revolting Writers. So the first book was Revolting Writing that came out and it is for reluctant middle school writers or creative writers who like to work during the summer, maybe. Move on to some creative journaling with exciting, kid rousing, gross out humor. Also some chapters on video games. They even get to design their own restaurant menu and even design a disease. A lot of would you rather writing prompts. And now the gross out grammar companion is out. And this is introductory grammar lessons that are themed with the chapters of Revolting Writing in full color, fun, silly illustrations, full of laughter and jokes and little stories and things to read that will get them cracking up and seeing that grammar and writing do not have to be the boring, tedious assignments that kids often, especially middle schoolers, get bogged down with and think that they can't write. It's not that they can't write, it's that they haven't ever been enticed to write about something that interests them or makes them laugh. This curriculum gets down on their level and excites them to see that writing can be fun. It doesn't just have to be, "What kind of a tree would you be and why?" and, "Tell me about your best day ever." So lots of laughs. Lots of fun. I suggest for ages 9 to 13. However, you know your kids best and you can decide whether or not it works for them by looking online at my website — HifalutinHomeschooler.com/books. You can look at pictures inside the books there and get to know them more, or you can also see inside on Amazon, although there's better pictures on my website. But both books are available now for purchase at Amazon, so check those out if that sounds like something your kids would enjoy. And you enjoy your summer and I will talk at you next time. Until then, stay weird and homeschool on.

Thank you for joining me here on the Homeschool Solutions Show again. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share for healthcare you can trust. To learn more about why over 400,000 Christians have chosen Medi-share, go to greathomeschoolconventions.com/medishare.

Now, if you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast, and while you are there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show, and this will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected with our community. Also, you can find us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom and on Facebook at Homeschooling.mom. So let us know what you thought of today's episode. Leave us a comment. Let us know what you think.

Lastly, have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling event of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit hall in the United States. Find out more at greathomeschoolconventions.com. I hope to see you in Texas.

Also, if you'd like to connect with me, you can find me at Facebook at Hifalutin Homeschooler and on Instagram @hifalutinhomeschooler. That's H-I-F-A-L-U-T-I-N Homeschooler. Also, you can email me directly with any questions, concerns, anecdotes. I love to hear stories from other homeschoolers. That's [email protected]. Until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.

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