by Julianna Dotten, updated by Amy Pentimone
It’s summer, and it’s time for a break. After all the hard work put into teaching through a difficult semester, the last thing you want is for your kids to forget everything. And, your kids have to do something on summer break. So why not consider launching some projects that will both teach and provide some well-earned fun?
Looking back on my homeschool years, it was those hands-on learning projects my parents encouraged us to work on that taught me the most. Sure, the math, science, and English are essential, but learning to teach yourself a new skill remains an invaluable part of education.
Just to get you started, I’ve come up with ten projects my family enjoyed.
- Start a business. No, I’m not talking about an enterprise that will support your whole family, at least not in one summer! Instead, why not try something simple that captures your child’s interest? Small businesses offer great opportunities to learn basic marketing, customer relations, and money management — even if your child is only bringing in $10 a week. One year when I was elementary age, my siblings and I went door-to-door selling homemade sourdough bread and cookies. Another time, my brother made picnic tables to sell, working all summer on them. We never made a ton of money, but we learned a lot … and had a little fun while we were at it!
- Grow a garden. Here’s agriculture, health, botany, and survival skills … right in your own backyard! Besides, someday your kids just might need to know how to grow their own food. Start with what grows really well in your area (for us, it’s zucchini). You want your child’s first summer garden to be a success, so start simply. Later, your family can experiment with harder-to-grow items like peppers, corn, or melons.
- Get some animals. If your children are old enough, caring for an animal brings a new level of responsibility. If you can, I’d highly recommend looking into chickens. We even kept a few in the backyard of our urban duplex! Once we moved to the country, my parents discovered a new way to teach responsibility: dairy goats! Stumbling out of bed in two feet of snow to milk the goats instills some serious character-building. Whether it was delivering newborn goat kids, mucking pens, or selling farm-fresh eggs to customers, animal husbandry became a large part of my brother’s and my education.
- Write a book. Yes, it’s actually quite doable! Years ago, my family discovered the book Learn to Write the Novel Way. The author takes you step-by-step through the process of writing a novel from brainstorming ideas to developing characters to proofreading. At the end, you design a cover and take your book to be spiral-bound at the office store. Believe me, nothing motivates kids to write more than the prospect of coming out with their own book!
- Remodel. Okay, this one isn’t quite as fun, but we found it very practical. One year, my grandparents decided to move in with us for the summer. But there was one problem — we didn’t have a guest room that would work. Feeling a bit ambitious, we decided to remodel our two-car garage into an apartment for them. We tackled much of the job ourselves through YouTube videos and asking friends for help. Those few months not only taught us much about construction, but we also grew together as a family. (Believe me, when everyone has different ideas about how a task should be done, it can create some great opportunities for conflict resolution!)
- Take an educational trip. Through numerous cross-country road trips, we’ve had the opportunity to learn from a variety of people and tour historical sites like Fort Necessity and Lookout Mountain. I’ve seen kids come away from such trips fascinated with history for years to come. While COVID-19 has made changes to many travel options, this can still be a great time to road trip and learn things along the way!
- Read! Of course, you should be doing this all year, but sometimes the busyness of the school year pushes reading to the back burner. Why not find a fun family read-aloud and settle back for a few hours of enjoyable learning?
- Learn a hands-on skill. Your children will never regret learning skills like sewing, carpentry, mechanics, cooking — the list is endless. If you have practical skills you’ve never taught them, summer is a great time to take time. Otherwise, why not find a friend who might be willing to share a hands-on skill?
- Take some field trips. For ideas, check out our Colorado Events Calendar. You’ll want to confirm that any activities you are interested in are still available, but as the summer continues, more places seem to be opening back up!
- Volunteer for a ministry you believe in. Whether it’s for a few hours weekly or a one-time event like Vacation Bible School, volunteering as a family builds relationships in a deeper way. I’ll never regret the emphasis my parents placed on nurturing an appetite for service. They actively sought out ways for us to use our time and skills to help family members, church families, or local ministries. We have learned so much from relationships built around helping others. If you’re looking for a place to start, CHEC offers many benefits to volunteers.
We know it’s been an unusual past three months for everyone, and after “sheltering-at-home” I think we’re all ready to have some new routines this summer. We’d love to hear from you! What educational activities have you found for the summer?