S9 E20 | Making the Most of the Middle Months: Ideas for Fun & Footloose Summer Learning (Shiela Catanzarite)

S9 E20 | Making the Most of the Middle Months: Ideas for Fun & Footloose Summer Learning (Shiela Catanzarite)

Show Notes:

The middle months are those wonderful summer months when most of us have ended our formal academic year and are taking a break to travel, see family and enjoy a lighter more laid-back schedule. Though most of us are vacationing, we don’t want to take a complete break from learning. In fact, some of the most impactful, enjoyable learning happens in these months—and sometimes while on vacation! Making the most of the middle months is simply looking at June, July and August and seeing what learning opportunities are embedded there. It’s about learning differently and often in ways that are more carefree and fun for your family. There are many different educational topics and opportunities unique to the summer months that won’t be available when formal homeschooling starts back in the fall. With a little review and a little planning, you can ensure your family experiences the best the middle months have to offer.

About Shiela

Shiela Catanzarite is an author, speaker, editor, and communication coach. She's a 20-year Charlotte Mason veteran homeschooler and has worked as Jeannie Fulbright’s editor and designer for 20 years helping develop Jeannie’s award-winning Apologia science curriculum and most recently her Charlotte Mason products published through Jeannie Fulbright Press. Shiela is the author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry and is finishing up her second book in the series Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture, to be released spring 2024.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary, Shiela has been teaching language arts in some capacity for 40+ years. Her passion remains helping students understand the elements of language and how to use these elements artfully to communicate effectively. Shiela is currently a language communication coach, working one-on-one with students who have language learning and communication challenges. She also writes curriculum for her private middle and high school English language communication classes that focus on writing and speaking.

Both of Shiela's and her husband Bruce’s daughters attended private universities on scholarship and went on to pursue graduate studies in medicine and global business. She attributes their love for learning and academic achievement to homeschooling with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methodology.


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Show Transcript:

Shiela Catanzarite Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show, a show that discusses Charlotte Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. I'm your host, Shiela Catanzarite, author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry, and soon to be published, Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture. I'm so thankful you joined me today, and I pray this episode deeply encourages you as you learn more of Charlotte Mason's life-giving methodologies and how to implement them to bring greater freedom, confidence, and joy to your homeschool days.

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Well, hello! I am excited to be with you today. Thank you so much for joining me on this episode, where we are going to talk about making the most of the middle months, which are those wonderful summer months when most of us have ended our formal academic year and are taking a break to travel, see family, and just enjoy a lighter, more laid back schedule. And even if you do homeschool year round, there are learning opportunities you can take advantage of during the middle months. And this is very different from making your kids sit down for an hour each day in June and July and work through the Summer Bridge Workbook in an effort to avoid the "summer slide". Making the most of the middle months is really looking at June and July and also August — if you're not starting back school until September — and seeing what learning opportunities are embedded in those months. There are many different educational topics and opportunities unique to the summer months that won't be available when formal schooling starts back again in the fall. So you're not really taking a vacation from learning, you're just learning differently, and often in ways that are more carefree and fun for your family. Before you begin your middle months, celebrate the year you just finished in a fun and special way, and be sure to honor each child's accomplishments and growth. This is so important and there are a lot of fun ideas to help you do this. Let your children plan the celebration so it reflects meaning to them. This brings closure and ends the formal academic year in a positive, celebratory way. And you can even include other homeschool families that you did activities with or invite extended family over, but definitely when you're going into the summer months, make sure that you plan a time to celebrate what was just accomplished in the homeschool year. Well, I want to offer some ideas of how to approach the summer months in a way that makes the most of the time, and all it takes is a little bit of review and some planning.

So you want to start by evaluating how your homeschool academic year went. How do you feel about it? Are you happy with what was gained, or do you feel like you lost track and got behind? Well, I would set aside some time this month and review everything that you had planned to accomplish in the home school year. See where you're at in terms of what got completed and what's still unfinished, and do that for each one of your children. Break up your evaluation into specific areas of homeschooling so you could start with the academics, and just list the subject and review the curriculum that you did for each of the learning topics. Write down what got done. And so, for instance, math, you could say we completed all the lessons in the curriculum or no, we still have two lessons left, or we skipped lesson five because we wanted to complete it last. So for each subject, make a list of what was learned and what was left and determine if there's anything that needs to be completed before summer, or even during the beginning of summer, and what could possibly be left for fall, or what doesn't need to be completed at all. And this will give you a big picture of the learning that happened in your homeschooling. I think it would be really, very encouraging and would give you a lot of clarity. And one idea to easily do this is to just take the table of contents for the curriculum that you use for each subject, go through it and just check off what was done, and maybe circle the things that wasn't done. And from that, you can determine if something needs to be learned before you get into the summer months, or if it's something that can wait until possibly next year. If it's something that you don't feel is necessary for the homeschool year, you can just cross that out. And do this for all the subjects and when you're done, make a list of the academic topics that you feel need to be covered or reviewed during summer. So maybe you have one or two math concepts that need to be solidified, or a few grammar concepts that need to be mastered. Perhaps there's a part of history that you feel should be covered, or maybe a biography that still needs to be read. So list these as a part of academic learning, and go ahead and extend them into June, and you may find that you could accomplish these goals just in a week or two. And you could go ahead and do that and then extend your summer months in halfway into August or halfway into September.

So extend the academic year just a little bit to catch up on those academic concepts. And maybe it would only take you a few hours a day, and then you could have the rest of the middle months completely off the formal learning and just give yourself freedom with the schedule and really look at it: what do we really, really need to solidify before we move on? And that's the wonderful thing about homeschooling is the freedom that we have. So I would encourage you to do that first. And you may feel like, well, we do have some topics that we want to cover, but we need a break or we have a trip coming up 1st of June, and we don't want to be doing academics around that time. So just have the freedom to go ahead and finish it before you start your summer, or take your trip and do your travel and then come back to it. But it's important to determine what you really want to cover, because you don't want to go into the summer months feeling like you've left gaps. You want to be confident that you've finished well, so whatever that looks like for you, plan for it. So that's the first thing: you want to bring closure on the academics and celebrate the learning and the growth that took place. Next, consider what skills could be solidified in the summer months, things like math facts or spelling or handwriting. You could choose a fun copywork program to solidify the handwriting, something that allows for creative visual expression, and maybe a new curriculum, or a new set of copywork that feels new and different for your children, something fresh. A way to do those spelling words that are tricky and your child is still struggling with, again, something different from what you were doing during the school year that feels new. And for math facts, find games or songs that you can play in the car, something hands on and fun for your kids. You also could have a math review of the week, so maybe just one hour on a Monday morning, one day a week where you're just reviewing the math facts so you don't lose them over the summer. Something as simple as that. And again, you're not sitting down for formal homeschool lessons, you're just allowing for important learning in a more laid back approach. And the middle months are also a good time to correct any mistakes that you saw your children consistently making in math or spelling or grammar. Do some immersive — I call it spot teaching — to correct the mistakes and make sure you fill in those gaps.

And I would add in here habits, as well. The middle months are a great time to continue habit training. Look at the habits that you wanted to have in place this year and sure up it needs that are still needing attention. So think about how can you creatively habit train on a lighter, less formal schedule? Think about fun ways to keep training and then plan for it. Even things like table manners or social manners, you have a little more freedom in the schedule to give more time and attention to those. And usually the summer months, people are out and about more, and so that's a great time to train your children in those social manners and confidence when you're out and you're around others. One of the benefits of the middle months is the extra space in the schedule, so you really want to take advantage of that. Think about things that, gosh, we wanted to do that and we just didn't feel like we had blocks of time to do that. Make sure that you plan for that over those middle months. Middle months are also great times for more reading, more family read-alouds, your children can do more personal reading, you can do more personal reading. There can be leftover reading that did not get done for history or some of the other subjects — science, that reading can all be accomplished in a more laid back fashion in these middle months.

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Another idea is to think ahead for the fall and determine if you can pursue learning opportunities during the summer that relate to what you'll be studying. For example, maybe you're going to be studying the American Revolution, and you have a trip to Northern Virginia in July to visit your family. Well, you can add a few days to the trip and visit Mount Vernon, where George Washington lived. It's a wonderful historical site that's so fun and interesting. So look at your history and geography studies for the fall to see if you can learn ahead over the summer. You may be able to visit an art museum that houses work from an artist you're planning to study, or perhaps attend a concert featuring a composer you just studied or are planning to study. And you can do many studies over the summer months through visiting the national parks or even the Creation Museum. These places have built in learning activities on site that your children can participate in. You can even plan to notebook the experiences that you had at some of these museums and these national parks. So look at all the subjects that you just completed and the ones that you're going to study and plan for hands-on learning through vacations and outings. And I did a podcast called Homeschooling Out and About, and it gives a lot of ideas for hands-on learning for each subject. So you can go and listen to that, I think you'd find it really helpful. And I also created a free PDF that goes with the podcast, listing out and about learning ideas, and I would love to send it to you. So simply go to my website and you'll see where you can request it.

Besides all the vacations and trips, the summer months are a great time for creative expression and even handy works. Some hands on creative projects, some of the ones that your children have probably wanted to do or thought to do during the year take too much time. Maybe you felt like, oh, that sounds like a lot of fun, but our schedule is too packed. Well, summer's a great opportunity to immerse in some of these projects, and it could be something like learning a new piece of music, journaling, creating art. It could be a sewing or cooking project, or writing a story. Try to remember things your children mentioned during the school year that you just didn't have time for. And you can go to Pinterest and let your children pick out a creative learning project for the summer. That would be a great way to spend even some of the rainy days or the days when you just need to be in, having a creative project that's ongoing that your children can work on through the summer and accomplish after a few months is a wonderful way to spend those summer months. And I would ask your children, "Is there something that you've been wanting to do that you didn't have time for during schooling?" And if they come up with an idea, made sure to make that happen for them. And last thing I would encourage you to do is focus on relationships. Prioritize really engaging with your children. And one idea is to take your children on dates. We did this with our daughters, weekly dates, and it was just such a life giving time. And you want to go one on one. It's critical to build your relationship with each of your children outside of formal homeschool mom. And sometimes in homeschool, we get in an educator mode, and maybe we're more serious or even more strict and that's needed at times, but our children need to see our fun, personal side, and they need us to express care, acceptance, and affection outside of their school performance. So take that time and space of summer to really enjoy your children as people, and give them your one on one undivided attention. Tell them the things that you're too busy to tell them during the harried homeschool days. Celebrate how they grew during the year or how you see them growing over the summer. Tell them what you observe. Cast vision for how you see them maturing and ways they'll mature in the next year, and make sure that they know how much you believe in them. These lazy summer months and the long days are such a great opportunity to really, really connect with your children.

There are many other ideas for making the most of the summer months, but there's only one family like yours and what you choose to do will be different than anyone else. It's easy to plan for the summer months if you have taken time to cast a vision at the beginning of the year of what you want to see happen in your homeschool. If you think about what are the memorable moments? What are the impactful moments that we want to see our family engage with? Ask your children that and plan for it as a family. But if you've already created a vision, it's easy to plan for the summer months. You can go back and review the vision and catch up with the things that you had planned to do, but maybe hadn't yet had the opportunity. You can also tweak your vision to include things that you didn't think of at the beginning of January, and I actually did a podcast on creating vision that helps you think through the different areas of your life and the gains that you want to see. And I created a free PDF that you can fill out that helps you think through each area of your life and your children's life and your family's life, and it helps you create that vision. And I think the podcast would be helpful for you, and I would love to send you the PDF if you simply, again, go to my website and go to the resources tab, there'll be a place where you can provide your email and request the specific resource and I'll email it to you right away. And I would love to offer you any of my resources. You can look through them and just request it, and I'll send it right out to you. I also would invite you to my newsletter. I have a Language Arts newsletter that I send out every week that's really fun with ideas and all things related to Language Arts that you can apply and add to your homeschool easily. I feature pieces of writing from my students using Living Verse Language Arts and Poetry and the students that I teach. And so if you, again, provide your email for one of my free resources, that will put you on my newsletter list and you'll be able to receive that every week.

Well, I hope that this episode has been encouraging for you and that you feel excited and have a vision about making the most of the middle months. Summer is such a special time, filled with a variety of opportunities for your children to continue learning and to continue growing, and all it takes is a little review and a little planning to ensure that you have the best that the middle months can offer you and your family. And I just want to end by saying, this isn't just for your children, but it's for you too as a homeschool parent. It's a time for you to think about, what can I do during these middle months while I'm not so busy with the homeschool lessons and the teaching. You have more space in your schedule and you have more time available. Where do you need to get away and be refreshed? Is there a trip that you can go on with someone? Is there a project you've been wanting to engage with, something creative? Maybe there is a book series that you have been wanting to read, or maybe you've just been wanting to get away by yourself for a night or two with a friend. Think about what you can do to be refreshed. Your children need the best of you. Charlotte Mason said that, "The children need the best of their mothers." So what can you do in the middle months to become the best that you can be for yourself and for your children? Make sure when you're planning for the middle months, you're planning for you. You're planning to grow and to become the woman that God has called you to be, and the mom that your children need you to be. You need to show up refreshed and renewed and ready for a new school year, and I think if you take some time in the middle months to plan for that, that you can actually accomplish that and you'll be so much more energized and ready for the year to start.

And I would encourage you in that to attend a homeschool convention or a homeschool retreat in your area. Get with some other moms, get some fresh and new ideas for curriculum and activities and field trips. Do some thinking alongside some other families. Find out what's worked for them with curriculum. Find out activities that they've enjoyed, and also plan to connect with some other homeschool families, either over the summer or when the school year starts again. Maybe there's a co-op. Maybe you can research a co-op for the fall, or a weekly play date, a weekly park day, anything like that where you can prioritize relationships with other families and plan for some refreshing, new things that you can bring life to the homeschool as you come off of the refreshment of the summer going into the fall. So lots of ways to invest those summer months in life giving ways, not only for laid back learning and fun learning, but for preparing for an even more life giving and effective homeschool year. Thank you again for being here. I hope you enjoyed this time, I certainly enjoyed being with you. Feel free to go to my website, to the contact page. Ask me any questions you may have. I'd love to connect with you and I will see you next time. Have a blessed week.

Thank you for tuning in to the Charlotte Mason Show. If you want to learn more about Charlotte Mason and discover a beautiful Language Arts curriculum that uses her methodologies, go to my website at ShielaCatanzarite.com. There you can find my new blog where I discuss Charlotte Mason's principles for Language Arts, and how to implement her philosophy in your homeschool. Please enjoy my free resource on how to mark a poem. Simply provide your email address and I'll send you the free PDF that teaches a simple, hands-on, Charlotte-Mason-inspired way to bring poetry into your homeschool. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode.

Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve healthcare you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medishare.

Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the U.S.. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you there. Have a wonderful week. I look forward to being with you next time.

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