I love it when my kids get out of school and are around all summer long. I love that they can play and read for hours on end. I also love what has become a family tradition: we have had a home-summer school every summer for the past nine years. We spend two to three hours together each weekday with structured schedules and high expectations.
Every May I take inventory of what we have, figure out what we need, then order it so that we'll have it by the end of June when 'regular' school gets out. That's what I'm doing today.
Here's what we use:
Overall Guiding Syllabus and Inspiration: The Well-Trained Mind (TWTM)
Grammar: Rod & Staff Building English series
Spelling: Spelling Workout series
Penmanship: Rod & Staff Penmanship series
Math: Saxon series
Art: Drawing with Children, Drawing with Older Children & Teens, museum websites
French: The Rosetta Stone program
A caveat on the Rod & Staff curriculum: These are scripture-based books published by devout Mennonites in Kentucky. I use them because they are the most rigorous, thorough texts available. Because we are Bible-readin' Christians, I don't mind assigning my children to write out or diagram sentences like "John, the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, was the forerunner of Christ" or "Abraham, trusting in God's promise, obeyed His command"--but you might.
Usually we follow TWTM's comprehensive four-year rotating History/Science curriculum, but this year we're taking an interdisciplinary approach to that carrot of all carrots: The School of Rock. Yes, just like in the fabulous movie, we'll have courses in Rock History, Rock Theory, and Rock Appreciation. It may sound like a boondoggle, but we'll be working hard on analytical skills and expository writing, with daily, level-appropriate essay assignments.
Luckily, I've already prepared the School of Rock syllabus. My uber-friend Shauna has created 17 CDs to supplement our own collection for the listening/appreciation sections. We started the School of Rock last summer, but chose to abort the mission due the insanity of the house renovation. The kids are raring to go this year and are especially excited about our culminating Road/Field Trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland at the end of August.
We use a very effective reward system, with the kids earning stickers for every subject assignment accomplished every day. At the beginning of the summer, they each choose something they'd like to earn, a Harry Potter book on CD, for instance, then we figure out how many pages of stickers they'll need to fill up to earn it. Piano practice and a minimum of a half hour of independent reading are also mandatory, daily sticker-earning activities (independent reading is always a slam dunk).
There is occasional grumbling, but for the most part our program runs smoothly. I always have the kids start with math, grammar, and penmanship, since these are the least liked subjects. Science and history (and School of Rock this year), being the most fun, are saved for the end of the school 'day.' The baby naps, then plays with math manipulatives, pattern blocks, or puzzles while the rest of the kids study.
Special foci this year will be intensive work on essay construction for Christian and James; having Hope memorize the multiplication tables; and teaching Tess to read. I'll also get some Elton John, Billy Joel, and other piano-heavy sheet music for the boys to explore as part of both the School of Rock and their piano time.
I've got composition books full of the kids' work from summers past; it's satisfying for all of us to page through them and see their progress from end of June to end of August as well as from year to year.
Why do I do this? Because I believe knowing the difference between an appositive and a noun of direct address is important. Because as good as our school is, my kids won't learn how to parse sentences, who the Merovingians were, or how Earl King influenced Led Zeppelin during their time there. Because it gives some structure to our otherwise free-flowing summer days. Because I like being involved in my children's learning processes. Because I cherish the hope that they will become lifelong learners, and I want to give them the tools to be able to do so.