Summer School: Fair Fun

There is nothing quite like the fair; the sights, the smells, the sounds. For schools, this is a time of discovery and learning. A time to get good and dirty. A time to step outside the classroom and have some real fun.

As in most counties and states, the L.A. County Fair comes every fall. Each year our kids eagerly await the opening week and highly anticipate all the fun to be had. For educators though, the fun can start much sooner!

Did you know that as an educator (and yes, homeschoolers are included) you can sign up for the Fair as early as April? There is a vast selection of educational experiences to explore, with curriculum to help your students get the most out of their day. Bonus: it’s free! Educators and their students enter the fair a few hours earlier than the public and the entire event is free. At our fair, they offer free milk and a Read-to-Ride program (free carnival rides for six books read). Not a bad deal!

So what does a fair in the fall have to do with our summer school? Competitions! While the fair isn’t until August, the children’s competition entry forms are due by June 28th. The entries themselves are due by July 21. So, now is the time to get busy and get things done! For a full list of L.A. County Fair competitions, check HERE.

Once our family has signed up for the Fair, we make sure to  take a look at the competitions available. How many do we want to work on? Which are feasible for the kids to do themselves (the work has to entirely be done by the students)?

We work on one project a week, making sure that we put them in a nice, safe place until they are ready to be delivered. Through working on their projects, my kids have learned diligence, orderliness, cleanliness, creativity, and much more. They have also learned the value of friendly competition.

Come fall, our family has the opportunity to spend the day taking in the sights, enjoying some good food, and the excitement of seeing how well they did in their competitions. All together, the Fair has been a wonderful family experience; one that our kiddos will hopefully look back on with much fondness.

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Summer School: Scheduling Fun

School has ended; the books are put away, the paperwork is filed, and the heat has begun to hit. With twelve weeks of summer ahead of us; what do we plan to do with our free time? … Summer School!

Learning about sea creatures in Monterey Bay

(Gasp) Summer School? I can hear the groans of children all over America and imagine the questioning looks from parents. Why on earth would I want to do summer school voluntarily? My kids must really be behind, right? (Come on, I know that’s what you are thinking. Be honest.) In all seriousness though, there are several great reasons why we do summer school and none of them have to do with my kids’ lack of education. In fact, just the opposite!

 

Learning about Germany

There are three basic reasons why we do summer school. 

  • My kids and I get to have some great fun together! We enjoy each other’s company and learning becomes a family event that everyone enjoys!
  • My kids don’t lose any of their skills. Studies show that children will lose about twenty-five percent of their skills over a summer vacation. The beginning of a school year can be challenging enough without the kids getting frustrated at their lack of memory. We make sure we work in a small amount of workbook time everyweek. Nothing stressful and nothing too complicated. Just something to keep them “up to par” and prep them for their next grade level.
  • My kids never have an opportunity to get bored. I make sure that I keep our summer activities very hands on and fun! The kids look forward to each new learning day, knowing that Mommy has something fun for them to do. Once we are done with the activities, they know they have the remainder of the day to play and do whatever else they might have planned.

Like all other activities I plan, I try to be very organized about our summers. In order to do this, I create a routine for myself. This helps me to know on which days we are doing things and which events I am going to prep for. Here is our basic routine for summer:

  • Monday-Summer Vacation Workbooks/Hands on Geography
  • Tuesday-Science Experiments
  • Wednesday-Summer Vacation Workbooks/Fair Projects
  • Thursday-Field Trip (if available)/Library Journals for Summer Reading Program
  • Friday-Library/Park Day or Friend Visit

Now that I have our routine in place, I will start plugging in the details. Interested? Come back tomorrow for our list of summer workbook suggestions!

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Five

Fail-to-planI love it when a plan comes together. That is how I feel when I set about planning my routines. Once we put them into place and they start working for us, it is a beautiful thing.

Now that I have my chores, events, and schooling organized; I need to put them all together and get moving. Once the school year starts, I will need to put all of my organizing together and make these separate schedules work together smoothly. This will help me, once again, see where I might need to do some last-minute rearranging and restructuring. It will also help to see where I have some flexible hours, in case anything should come up.

The first things I want to combine are my chores and my schooling. As I mentioned in Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One; my first ministry is to be a keeper of my home. If the house and my kids’ education cannot be merged smoothly, events need to wait. My weekly schedule with both chores and schooling combined usually looks like this:

Monday:

  • Start load of my laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Tuesday:

  • Start load of kids’ laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Wednesday:

  • Start load of linens right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Thursday:

  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time
  • Mommy does grocery list and menus
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids
  • Grocery Shopping for Mom

Friday:

  • Testing on all core subjects (All of our testing is done Fri.)
  • Collect Library Books and Straighten up House
  • Library
  • Errands
  • Lunch
  • Homeschool Co-op or other Homeschooling Event
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids

Normally we are finished with school anywhere from 2-3pm each day, with the exception of Friday. Friday is quite a bit shorter, but I plan it that way on purpose; counting our library time and our homeschooling events as part of their education.

Once this list of chores and schooling as been combined onto one master schedule; I can now add my events. Knowing that I am pretty busy Monday through Thursday, I usually avoid planning events on those days. Should the need arise though, I am free after 3pm and know I am available. Fridays are usually the days that I try to plan anything special or extra.

With life more organized, we are free to have fun events like this one… Renaissance Night with the homeschool group!

As with most things in life, this schedule isn’t perfect. There are days when we take longer to school or there is an unexpected event which causes us to rearrange our schedule; field trips during the week can cause a temporary change for example. This schedule isn’t meant to be concrete and final, simply a structure that I put into place; one that I am free to move around and fit to my family’s needs.

1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” I pray that the Lord would find me faithful in having obeyed His Word; that my family would be a living example of what He has commanded us to do; that He would be glorified and honored through the keeping of my home, the education of my children, and the ministry we accomplish in our free time. It is not for our own name that we do these things, but His.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Three

Fail-to-planThis week is full of activities; yesterday we had a field trip, today I had a doctor appointment, tomorrow is grocery shopping and dental appointments, and don’t even get me started on this weekend. Not every week is this busy, but when it is, there are some key things that I can do to ensure events are as stress-free as possible.

Before planning out an event, there are some questions I should ask myself:        

•Did I pray about this? (Perhaps the Lord has other plans?)                                            •Did my husband say it was okay? (As a Christian wife, I respectfully keep my husband   aware of all that I plan to do.)                                                                                            •Will it take away from my first responsibility? (My first job is to be the Keeper of my home.  If this event will prevent me from doing that, I need to rethink going.)                               •Will my family benefit from the event? (Not all good ideas are good for us.)                  •Will I stress out trying to make the event possible? (Do I already have too many events planned on the same day?)

If my event has passed “inspection”; off to the calendar I go. I prefer to do my scheduling on my computer, there I can schedule email reminders and sinc with my iPod. It will also allow me to add notes regarding the event, such as “pack swimsuits”.

Prep for the event by getting any necessary materials ahead of time. Certain events, such as potlucks, often require me to bring along some food. When putting the event on my calendar, I will make sure to add these items onto my grocery list. If I have a birthday present to purchase, that will be added to my errand list. (See Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One) The day before the event, I usually try to make sure my car has enough fuel; it is always a pain to get in the car and realize I now have to stop for gas… talk about stress!

On the day of the event, I map it out. Knowing what time your event starts is helpful, IMG_8050but (especially having kids) that information isn’t always enough. How long will it take me to get to the event? How long will it take me to get out the door? How long does it take to straighten up my house and kids before heading out the door? Do I have anything else going that morning that also needs to be done? See what I mean; lots of factors will determine how the day goes. I don’t like leaving things to chance; therefore I like to “work backwards”. It looks something like this:

Event Time:          3:00pm (With a drive time of 1hr.)

Leave Time:         1:45pm ( I like to have extra time.)

Kids shoes on:     1:30pm (Plenty of time to brush teeth, hair, shoes on, and get in car.)

Straighten House:1:00pm(If not decent, I don’t leave.I can’t tell you how often that pays off.)

Lunch:                  12:00 (Plenty of time to eat in peace, wash up, and grab food/presents.)

This schedule works very well for morning events too. I simply plug in my start time and “work backwards”. This will help me determine what time I need to wake up, what time my kids need to be up, and everything else that needs to get done before heading out the door.

Because my event was organized to the best of my ability, I am not rushing around trying to do things last minute. Everything I need is set in place and ready to go.  Barring any last minute changes, I am free to enjoy my day and anticipate a wonderful afternoon.