It's summertime, and the living is ... easy? Probably not, if you're a homeschool parent! Now is the time to play catch-up. Summer provides an opportunity to work on all those tasks you've put off throughout the school year—little things, such as cleaning out the closet under the stairs, teaching your four-year-old to tie her shoes, or planning a visit to grandparents in another state. Summertime is also a great opportunity to catch up on homeschool tasks that you've put off during the school year. When you're consumed by helping your children focus on their studies from September to June, little things like record keeping, reading lists, and planning courses for next year can seem completely overwhelming. Summer is the best time to catch up on these things and get ready to face the fall with confidence and anticipation.
One of the most important things for homeschool parents is to keep up records consistently. Remember, it doesn't matter how gifted a home educator you are, or what wonderful intentions you have. There also has to be follow-through. You have to do the work of keeping records. You need to keep records that are academic in nature, especially of accomplishments that are at the high school level. It's relatively common for homeschoolers to do high-school-level courses at a young age. If your middle school child is doing algebra right now, make sure to keep tabs on it. Algebra is a high-school-level course and can be put on the high school transcript even if it is completed earlier.
If you have a high school student, record keeping means creating course descriptions and transcripts that capture all their educational experiences in a way that colleges can understand. A course description is a simple paragraph describing what was taught. You can create course descriptions using a textbook description, a catalog or homeschool book description, or simply by writing a list of what your student did in that course. This might seem daunting, but start small. Try to write one each day while your child is busy with summer activities, or write one a week if they're at home and underfoot. After the first few tries, you'll find yourself turning them out in no time!
While you're busy writing your children's course descriptions, they can be helping you with the next summer homeschool task: reading lists! A reading list is simply a list of books your children have read, including title and author. Often requested by colleges, and sometimes useful for scholarship applications, reading lists are an important part of your student's high school record. Include books you have assigned your children to read over the summer, books they've used in their course work, and books they read just for fun. Encourage your children to keep track of their own reading, if possible. Unfortunately, no matter what I did, no matter what I said, my children didn't seem able to keep their own lists. They were excellent readers, and they were thrilled with reading, but they had absolutely no interest in creating a reading list for me. So, I had my children bring me stacks of the books they read, and I would add to their list each week. However it works for your family, the important thing is to make the list.
Planning ahead for the next school year is another very important summer activity. Now is the time when you should be purchasing curricula and developing your schedule and goals for the coming school year. If you have a middle school or high school student, think about what courses they'll need to cover in order to get into college. If you schedule the upcoming school year now, you can encourage independent learning in the fall—just give your children the schedule to follow! Another way to plan ahead is to read books that you will require your children to read for school. You can read the assigned literature during the summer, when you have more time, and you'll be ready to discuss it during school. It's relaxing to read great books, and you'll feel like you really enjoyed your vacation. This is one of the things that really kept me sane when I was homeschooling!
As you think about your homeschool tasks this summer, remember that you are a professional educator. Consider your own need for continuing education too. Perhaps you can attend a homeschool convention or buy books and videos that will help you be a better home educator. Invest in yourself. This is your chosen profession, and it's worth the effort. And remember to include a little rest and relaxation. Don't worry if you're a little behind on your homeschool tasks. Summer is here, and it's the best time to catch up on these things. Think how great you'll feel when fall comes around and you're ready to roll!
Lee Binz is The HomeScholar , and her mission is to help parents homeschool high school. Lee homeschooled her two sons through high school, and both earned four-year, full-tuition scholarships.