Last summer, I sought to extend the classroom into our summer by organizing and mandating some very structured learning. Both my kids began last summer with reading and math goals and required amounts of time to spend on both. At the end of the summer this structured learning became a painful battle for all of us and I vowed to do things different this summer. The whole magic of summer is that it is unschooled. There is no early start time or bell schedule or homework. And yet there are still millions of ways and opportunities to learn.
Here are some of the Wallaces Most Valuable "Unschooled Adventures."
The Family Read Aloud- As an English teacher, I used to have the kids set reading goals because I
So this summer, I thought it may be fun to read a book out loud. I remembered loving listening to my mom read Winnie the Pooh as a kid, but I worried maybe my kids were too old for a read aloud.. However, when I came upon the book Bad Unicorn at the book fair this spring I thought maybe it would work. I mean what kids wouldn't want to hear the story of a Unicorn Princess who eats humans. But even I was amazed at the results, both my kids love the story and beg for me to read it each night. The are visibly sad when the chapter comes to an end and it has prompted conversation between all three of us about the book. There is something magical about each of us discovering a story at the same time. This is a tradition I hope to continue each summer and something I want to do more of in my classroom as well.
Running Club- I have been running pretty regularly for the past three summers. This summer my daughter suggested maybe she could join me on a run. Our first time out was a disaster. I thought we would just run for about 20 minutes, but 4 minutes in she had a side stitch and had to sit down. We were both frustrated and disappointed, so I decided maybe we needed a little guidance. We downloaded the Couch to 5k app and started with walking and running intervals. Soon my son decided to join in and following the apps plan we began running together 3 times a week. It has been so interesting to see how each of them approaches a challenge and what motivates them. The difference in their learning styles and motivation has made me adapt my training approach for each and is good reminder of the need for that kind of adaptability and differentiation in my classroom. We are about five weeks into the program and both kids are nervous and excited about the opportunity to complete in a 5K this fall.
Shared Responsibility- Neither of my kids get an allowance or really have a list of chores that they need to accomplish each day or week. They clean their rooms, put away laundry and clear the table, but never on a schedule. This summer my husband decided to teach them to mow the lawn. It began as a necessity. He is doing a major remodel in our bedroom and didn't have time to mow, so he showed the kids how to mow and told them this is their new job. A few weeks later, after a long day of meetings at work, my husband announced that he has trained the kids for two new jobs- Mackenzie is now in charge or dishes and Will is in charge of laundry. I was a little suspicious of how this would work, but sure enough all I had to do was ask and each went off to do their job. My husband explained
Traveling- Last summer we traveled to South Dakota, Wyoming and Yellowstone and I was struck by the incredible learning opportunities that present themselves through travel. This summer we embarked in a week long adventure to visit family in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan by way of Wisconsin and Canada. My husband and I joke that any ETA needs to be doubled when we hit the road because we love to stop along the way. This trip was filled with many mini-lessons about geography, science, history and culture. Our textbooks were the roadside signs, travel apps and Google. Travel is one of the number one reasons I love summer vacation. It forces us to see more of the world, which ultimately makes us more educated and compassionate.
When I talked to other moms about their summers, I started to feel a little guilty that neither of my kids have kept a journal this summer, completed a reading workbook or flipped a single flashcard. But then I reflect on all the learning that they are doing and I remind myself that learning is everywhere not just in structured schooled situations. As my kids get older and are involved in more and more activities, it started to feel as if every minute we have is scheduled, so I am going to continue to embrace the freedom and flexibility of summer and keep our lives unschooled.