Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What a difference a summer makes.

We took a 3 month break over summer. I learned much from this long break.

The first being that three months is too long to take off formal schooling. Our kids need structure and schedules. They become emotionally adrift when they face a long period with no structure or schedules.

That's not to say that I over schedule the kids, but they appear to be more emotionally grounded when they know that there is a definite morning routine. Their little faces have been beaming each morning since we started up school again. I walk into the kitchen only to find them sitting at the table with paper and pencils in front of them, waiting to do dictation. They love doing dictation. I love giving it because I can cover basic grammar and spelling at the same time as handwriting practice.

I thought I was being clever by having a lazy summer with just lots of reading, mental math, play and art. I should have continued to do school 3 mornings a week to help the children feel like their world has remained the same. They loved the freedom and at the same time emotionally came apart. Next summer we'll keep a happy blend of school and vacation.

The other surprising thing I discovered was that their handwriting and spelling improved dramatically this summer. This was despite no handwriting or spelling practice. I credit the jump in handwriting skills to their being 3 months older and all the arts and crafts we've done this summer. They did an enormous amount of fine motor skill activities and I think that paid off.

The only reason I can think of for the spelling improvement is that they both read around 10,000 pages this summer. We've been keeping a log since the third week in June because I am paying them a penny a page. It's amazing how well that motivated them. They both want to hold $100 bills in their hands. I'm only too happy to oblige if it means they read.

We're going to have a delayed start to the formal school year because my parents arrive in 10 days for a 3 week vacation. I've learned my lesson, so we're going to do some school while my parents are here, but it will be impossible to get into the full swing of things before they leave.

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