Summer is the ideal time for parents and kids to have fun learning the skills of self-reliance, and what better way than to find like-minded parents and form your own summer school.
Many years ago a group of friends and I took on the task of organizing a fun summer curriculum for our young ones. Although our school district had a wonderful summer school program, in order to attend your name had to be drawn, and this meant that inevitably someone would be left out.
The thought of planning a summer school may seem overwhelming, but with just a little planning you will have a summer your children will remember for years as one of their favorites. The first step in planning is to contact three or four other families and get them on board.
Step 1: Before beginning get a fresh notebook for each family to keep track of summer school plans. Gather your friends, make some lemonade, and you are ready to begin.
Step 2: Brainstorm what you would like your children to learn and determine who has the skill to teach those lessons. Don't forget that a guest speaker may be able to help you with a skill you also need to learn. Grandmas and grandpas are a great resource.
You may want to hold a class and teach camping skills, setting up a tent, making a lean-to, fishing, fire building, and foil dinners.
Or, how about a gardening class to plant "fun" foods like watermelons and carrots, as well as fast-growing foods like lettuce and radishes. Visit a farm so kids can see how farmers grow food.
You could also teach sewing — how to make a simple quilt, pillow case or apron. The boys may want to make drawstring bags to keep their Legos in.
In a pioneer class you can teach butter churning, ice cream making in a bottle, pioneer games, Dutch oven cooking, and how to have a taffy pull or make candles (take care to observe all the safety issues related to candle making — remember, they are a form of fuel, and that means risk of fire, or burning yourself on the hot wax).
Teach children the importance of a journal. You may want to make up a form for the kids to fill out each week. The form could include a memory of summer school that week, a list of their best friends, a favorite Book of Mormon story, and a family tree of their immediate family, with a sentence or two about everyone on the tree. Have plenty of scrapbooking supplies on hand so they can make their journals personal and beautiful. Be sure to take lots of photos to add to the journal as you go.
If your calendar includes the week of July Fourth, you may want to do patriotic things that week. Sew a flag, make a meal that is red, white and blue, learn patriotic music, tell stories about the founding fathers.
Step 3: Now it's time for each person in the group to take on the responsibility for a class. You can have a different class Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – with a different parent to teach each day. Or, each week could have a different theme, and a parent could be responsible for the whole week. Do whichever is the best for your group.
One more thing — plan a few field trips. These could be as simple as a local park, visiting the police station, or as grand as going to a water park or hands-on museum.
Step 4: Set a date. When do you want to begin, how many weeks do you want to hold summer school and how many days per week do you want to meet? Be realistic here. You will need some days to just stay home and play or run errands. Decide what time you will begin and what time you will end each session.
If someone's vacation falls in the middle, fine, just go on without them. Remember to set some dates for field trips even if you don't know now where those are going to be. This is meant to be a teaching moment for your family and also a way to experience less stress this summer, so keep it simple.
Step 5: Set a budget. This is the hard one, as members of your summer school group may not all have the same financial resources as one another.