A Country School by Edward Lamson Henry

Sometimes it’s hard to know when to officially STOP the school year when you homeschool.  
But when the weather begins turning so irresistibly beautiful, it’s even harder to keep plugging along endlessly with school work, with no real STOP date in sight.
Oh, I can hear you now–

I can’t stop, I haven’t finished the curriculum!  Look! My kids still have all these blank pages in their workbooks and journals, and we’ll never finish them all in time for summer.  
Maybe you’re feeling guilty that you didn’t do a “good enough job” and so you don’t actually deserve a break, hm?  Beating yourself up a bit, are you?  All I can say is, I know, and I get it, and I’ve felt that way so often.
But you still need to stop at some point.

Listen mamas, whatever you do, DO NOT try to “just keep going” and think you and your kids will be fine.  That will not go well, I promise. We all need rest; that’s why God gave Sabbath to man.  It’s for our good.  So now is the time, ready or not, that most of us need to begin thinking ahead to the year’s end, and what we can be doing these next 4-8 weeks to wrap things up.

So here are a few tips for you:

1. Check your calendar and see how close you are to the 180 day requirement. Determine now exactly when your summer break will officially begin, and tell your kids.  Start a countdown to help you stay on track (what? you think teachers don’t do that in public schools?). 
Here, we always finish a couple weeks before our local district.  That’s because the schedule I’ve found that works best for us is to take only 2 months off completely for summer break (easing back into school Aug. 1st) which allows us to take FOUR week-long breaks throughout the school year. 

2.  Look over your curriculum and decide what it is that you really want to tackle these remaining weeks of school.  For us, since our homeschooling is driven by unit studies in both Science and History, I am pacing ourselves to get through MOST of our Botany studies (there is no way we can finish it all by our planned June 1st stop date) and all of our Ancient History studies (ROME is the only big kingdom left for us to tackle).  I’d also like to finish one more Life of Fred book in Math. So ask yourself–what is it that you really want to wrap up at this point in your child’s school year? And to help you decide…  

3. Focus on meaningful learning from here on out.  Because honestly, when you look back one day, are you REALLY going to feel better about the education you provided to your kids by doing a few more worksheets or workbook pages?  By cramming in a bit more skill practice sheets?  Or would your last few weeks be better spent building relationships with your children as you enjoy field trips and outings together~perhaps one a week, from here on out?  Consider what have you already studied this year, and how can you “drive home” some of those BIG ideas with hands-on experiences, a trip to a museum or a visit to a local farm, factory, or trade shop. Many things are free and all you need to do is make a phone call to schedule it.  At the least, you could plan a weekly morning out with other homeschool friends, or a nature walk through the woods or parks a couple times a week.  These are the things your children (and you) will remember later.  Be intentional. Make your learning meaningful and enjoyable.

4.  To keep things fresh and fun this time of year, take your learning OUTSIDE as often as you can.  You and your kiddos will be happier.  We like to spread big blankets under a shady tree, or sit at our backyard picnic table in the sunshine to do our studies.  I can’t tell you how much this helps this time of year.  Remember to keep a smile on your face, and relax a little…it’s almost time for summer break! Growth happens slow and steady, and you and your children have worked hard this year, and learned SO MUCH…just a little longer and you’ll be there, celebrating another milestone.  

5. This is the time of year I begin pulling together some things for portfolios (we don’t submit to the state yet, but I still like to have a portfolio from each year for US to cherish).  And as you can imagine, there are not many skill and practice sheets in our portfolios!  😀  So what does go in when you’re in first grade?
I keep a running bin where my kids can put some work pages and lots of artwork that they want to keep (titled “work I’m proud of”).  Each year I go through the bin with the kids (which, by the way, takes forever) and they look at things and decide which are the very best that they want to put into their 3-ring binder from that year.

Finally, along with our portfolio samples, one special thing I like to do is print our pictures from the year. 
This morning, I also took a half hour at my computer to upload and order about 100 photos from various projects, adventures, experiments and field trips from our school year.  A few of these will be placed in my daughter’s history and science journals, and the rest will go into our “Pictures from First Grade” album I will give to my daughter at the end of the year when we have a little party to celebrate her “graduation” from first grade, and a year of hard work.  These little photo albums will become so precious to you and your kids.  Trust me, even though we have all our pictures saved on our computers or Facebook, it’s really wonderful to have a tangible set of photos grouped together for your child to keep as their own.  Over and over, you’ll see them open it up and look through it, or share it with friends and loved ones who come to visit.   

I’d love to hear from you now…
How do you wrap things up each school year?  As a homeschool parent, do you find it’s hard to STOP school, officially, for summer vacation?  Are you feeling restless and in need of a break yet?