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    Big Picture Summer Planning

    May 27, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    I don’t let myself plan for summer until a few things have happened. We have to have logged 165 days of school, I have to have finished all of my pre-reading for the rest of the year, and I have to have made my lists of what is left for us to finish in order to call it done for the school year. If I plan too early, it becomes a temptation to drop the balls I’m juggling — to finish poorly instead of sprinting across that finishing line. Planning is great — I love planning. And it’s for that reason that I don’t plan until I’m at a safe place. Because finishing well is just. that. important.

    Big Picture Summer Planning

    Last year was the first year that I planned very extensively for summer. Well, one summer, back when my oldest was seven, I planned a lot. And then our summer was destroyed beyond recognition. I suppose I was planning-shy for years after that.

    It wasn’t until last year, when Pam debuted her free Summer Fun Binder printables, that I gave it a go.

    Turns out, I love planning for summer, and Pam’s kit was super helpful! I’m using Pam’s printables again this year as well. (You can click here for Pam’s Plan Your Summer Kit — it’s free!)

    Getting a Grip on the Big Picture

    June Calendar

    The three printable calendar months help me a whole big bunch. In fact, last year this was what I loved the most. Somehow, it gave me the visual I needed in order to plan well. Since I tend to view schedules the way a lot of people view space, keeping the schedule clutter-free is important to me. But this doesn’t mean that we don’t want a few well-chosen things. Looking at a month at a time, or mapping all three summer months out and lining them up in front of me, really helps me see if the schedule is too full, too empty, or just right.

    The first thing I do, then, is sit down and write in all the things that are already planned. How do I know if I want to add more if I don’t even have a way to look at what is already happening for sure? I have to be able to see it. So I write in swimming lessons, music camp, whatever it is that is already on the calendar.

    After that, I can add in some fun things, like a day at the beach or a park day with friends.

    Making an Average Morning Chart

    Average Day Charts are how I survive. Truly. I am inert when left to my own devices. Having a chart where I can ask the question “what next?” helps me oh so much. Whenever I haven’t bothered to do this — to define what the ideal day looks like to me — I’ve frittered my time away.

    In the summers, I make Average Morning Charts. I guess I call it that in order to emphasize that most of the day truly belongs to the children.

    This year, we are doing some things we’ve never done before, and some things we always do. For example: Circle Time. We always do a short Circle Time. (That time slot isn’t how long it really takes us — I always add in a bit of margin on charts like these.) We read a little Bible, continue a bit with our read aloud, and in summers I like to add a science selection. The big question I get about this is whether I require narration. I don’t. I do try to have good conversations with them, but I want this to feel more like family time than school.

    Average Morning Chart Summer 2015

    For my little group, Circle Time is still the best way to start our days, even in the summer time. It gives the children something good or true or noble or interesting to think about for the rest of the day.

    We’re doing a bit of school this summer, more than we’ve ever done before. There are a couple reasons for this.

    In regard to my oldest, I think there is danger in teens having too much free time on their hands. It isn’t that we’re having any trouble with our son, but rather that I think part of the transition to adulthood involves summers with more structure and responsibilities in them.

    So, he’s continuing with math. He’s also preparing for a Latin class he’ll be taking in the fall (more about that some other time) that is supposed to require about an hour a day. In the summer, he’ll spend thirty minutes on the average day. In addition to this, we’re a bit behind on Grammar of Poetry, and so we’ll do a lesson a week of that until we complete it.

    My girls are continuing with MEP because during the year I’ve only required math four days per week. MEP is written to be five days per week, and so we easily have a month left at the end of the school year by doing it that way. Including math most days should prevent summer slide while allowing us to continue to skip math on Fridays. Having a very different kind of day on Fridays has been huge for us, and it isn’t something I want to give up, so this is how we manage it.

    And then there is my youngest guy. He’s doing a bit of math in the summer because he loves math and fights with me if I say there is no math. So we do math. Sigh. The other thing we’re doing is his phonics lessons, and that’s because I want him reading as well as possible when we start the school year. To be honest, it’ll be too easy for me to skip phonics lessons in the fall when it’s so busy, and so I want to make hay while the sun shines, as they say.

    One last thing about these charts: we do not do this every single day. It’s summer, after all. So if we’ve planned a morning at the park, or the children have swimming lessons, we might do some of it, or we might do none of it. The chart is just so that the days we spend entirely at home have some structure and direction.

    Loop Schedules

    I’m mainly mentioning these because people ask me about them a lot. I have a vacuuming loop schedule, a deep cleaning loop schedule, and also a cooking helper loop schedule. I wrote about all of these last year, and I’ve modified them a bit (mainly shuffling jobs around) so that I can use them again this summer.

    Don’t Forget Your Summer Movie Nights

    We do hardly any screen time as a general rule (there is no TV in our living room), but in the summers, I love to plan movie nights. This is a special privilege our children gain when they turn seven. Years ago, we started what we call the 7Up Club. This is for all the children 7 or older. As the years went by, we added an 11Up Club (population one at the moment) because our oldest was ready for some movies that weren’t appropriate for the younger children. Basically, the girls still pick movies like A Little Princess while E-Age-13 is excited to watch Thor.

    What’s something special you are planning for this summer?

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  • Reply Running on Empty | Afterthoughts August 26, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    […] still remember when Pam taught me to plan my summers. I had been sort of haphazard about them before, and it always felt like they slipped through my […]

  • Reply Congetta June 1, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Hi Brandy,

    I have more of a practical question as I also live in California. I will begin privately schooling my son for the first time in the fall. He will be entering the 4th grade. I know that attendance records are a requirement here among other things. Do you include the schooling completed over the summer as part of your legal attendance record requirements?
    Thank you.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 1, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      I haven’t in the past, but I was thinking that I really should… I would probably have to say that each day of summer that we did lessons equaled *half* a day of school, though, because it is really very light.

  • Reply Celia May 28, 2015 at 5:36 am

    Do you wake your kids in the summer? My problem is that we tend to stay up later in the summer and thus I struggle with even a loose schedule. I have a wide range of ages so the younger sister want to be up at 7 or 8, but the teen would love to sleep until 10.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 28, 2015 at 8:49 am

      So far, all of my children have been early birds. Once or twice, my husband has had me wake them for breakfast, but it has literally been that rare: once or twice per child. He likes to read a bit of the catechism and Scripture with him before he leaves, so they are expected to be there. BUT…I don’t actually have any children who want to or are trying to sleep in. I really don’t know what we’d do if that changed (which I know it might)…

  • Reply Catharina May 27, 2015 at 8:30 am

    I’m not American, so I’m probably asking a dumb question, but my mind made a complete stop after I read ‘logged 165 days of school’. Is that the amount of days in your school year? Or is that when you start your sprint towards the finish line?

    I’m always envious when I read American blogs in May, with all this talk about summer break. Our summer break doesn’t start until July 15th and is only 6 weeks.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 27, 2015 at 8:50 am

      Each state in the US is different. Some states do not have attendance requirements at all. My state requires me to keep track of attendance, but doesn’t tell me how many days to do. However, our public schools do 175. Legally, we are a private school, but we feel it is safer to aim for around the same number of days. The AO curriculum actually fills 180 if you do it as written.

      What I’ve figured out is that if I make a list shortly after day 165 and allow the children to read more in a day than we normally schedule, we start this sprint to the finish line that takes us up to somewhere between 170 and 180 days. It has rarely taken 180. 🙂 It also helps them focus, rather than languish, at the end. I actually get *better* narrations for some reason! 🙂

      Only six weeks would be tough! Do you get other breaks throughout the year? Our summer break is usually 8-10 weeks, depending on when the children finish their lessons.

      In an ideal world, though, I would move my summer break to spring time when the weather is better. It is so incredibly hot here in July and August that we often would rather be indoors if we aren’t swimming!

      • Reply Virginia Lee May 27, 2015 at 9:04 am

        I hear you about the ideal world thing. I’d put our extended break in the fall when we do lots of hiking and are desperate to get outdoors before the winter hits. Ugh! We tried this one year and it did not go so well. It seems that our extended family, church plans, and so forth are on the summer break page. Who’d of thunk it. =) It was hard to get any length and consistency of schooling in when cousins kept dropping by and specific church plans all fell in the summer time. But we did switch to 6 weeks on 1 week off with a bit longer of a break at Christmas and summer. That works very well for our family.

        On a different note. We really liked Thor (the first one), but watched the trailer for the second and it just seemed ok. Have you seen it? If yes, what did you think?

        • Reply Brandy Vencel May 27, 2015 at 10:15 am

          I don’t think I’ve seen the second Thor, but Karen (above) liked it! 🙂

          That is the trouble we run into also, VL — all the activities really are in summer, whether we like it or not.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel May 27, 2015 at 10:16 am

          Ps. Your autumn sounds nice. Our summer is about six months long and our autumn is about 30 seconds. 😉

        • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog May 27, 2015 at 11:21 am

          Yes, I liked the second Thor. 🙂 And it leaves you hanging at the end a bit which makes me wonder if they will be making a third one.

          • Brandy Vencel May 28, 2015 at 8:46 am

            I hope they do! Thor is my fave. 🙂

  • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog May 27, 2015 at 7:43 am

    I just had to throw in there that we love a lot of the super hero movies….Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Avengers…….


    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 27, 2015 at 7:55 am

      I really think that is my favorite genre of movie! This is his first one, and he’s a big Nordic myth fan, so we thought it a good starting place.

      • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog May 27, 2015 at 9:21 am

        And there’s the sequel to Thor to follow-up with too! I like them both. They are two of my top two super hero movie favorites. 🙂 I really liked the first Avengers….it has some really funny parts that crack me up every.single.time I watch it.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel May 27, 2015 at 10:18 am

          I liked Avengers, too! Supposedly, the next Avengers is going to tie a bunch of the movies together so we recently watched Guardians of the Galaxy, even though I object to any movie with a talking raccoon in theory. It was okay — there were places where I laughed inappropriately because it was ridiculous, but in a way it felt like Star Wars, so maybe I just needed to get in the right mindset for it.

          • Karen @ The Simply Blog May 27, 2015 at 11:17 am

            Well, my hubby and I had a date night the other night and we went to see Avengers 2. It was good. It had the humor like the first Avengers has and it does tie some things in together. I will say though it did have some language and a few parts that were a bit edgy.

            My hubby and teenage daughter both liked Guardians of the Galaxy. Me? Uh…not really. Well, it was okay I guess. But I think I dozed off several times in the movie. 🙂

          • Brandy Vencel May 28, 2015 at 8:46 am

            I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt this way, Karen! 🙂

  • Reply Julie Z May 27, 2015 at 4:15 am

    I can’t wait to hear if the Latin Class in one of Dwayne Thomas’s online courses. David has done so very well in that course, and I actually steered Dwayne towards your blog several months ago. We have been more than thrilled with his Latina Lingua. Also with Grammar of Poetry, how much prep work, if any, is there involved for you as the teacher? I purchased upon your recommendation, and now am wondering what I need to do before I begin in the fall. Your thoughts?
    Thanks MUCH!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 27, 2015 at 7:19 am

      You need to do … wait for it … ZERO prep work!! Well, that is, as long as you purchased the DVDs. If you didn’t, it probably depends on how much you already know. The lessons are short, though, so if you do one a week, your prep time would be minimal regardless. It really is a great program. I plan to publish a review in the next couple of weeks.

      As far as Latin…shhhh…. 🙂

      • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog May 27, 2015 at 7:42 am

        So you mention the lessons in Grammar of Poetry are short. About how long would you estimate a lesson each week would take, including watching the DVD?

        • Reply Brandy Vencel May 27, 2015 at 7:54 am

          The DVD lessons vary in length but I think they are never longer than, say, 20 minutes. Really, a parent could give this to the child and do nothing, but I’m sitting in on the lessons so that IF he has a question, I can answer it — plus I’m ignorant in this so it’s a good education for me, too. After that, he works on the assignment for 10-15 minutes. If it takes longer than that, he has the week to work on it off and on. The assignments that take longer are the ones that require them to actually write their own poems because they have to fit the meter and rhyme scheme and that is…well, sometimes hard! 🙂

          • Karen @ The Simply Blog May 27, 2015 at 9:23 am

            Length-wise…that’s not bad at all! I may add it in then as part of my daughter’s English credit. As of right now, I have her scheduled to do IEW’s Advanced Communication Series, plus literature, poetry, and narration. Grammar of Poetry might just be a good option to round out that English credit!

          • Brandy Vencel May 28, 2015 at 8:45 am

            Oh, I think GoP would be a great addition! 🙂

      • Reply Julie Z May 27, 2015 at 8:52 am

        You got it…no more questions on that one! 🙂

  • Reply Nelleke from P.E.I. May 27, 2015 at 3:55 am

    I haven’t started planning yet, but I am thinking of beginning to explore PEI history and geography with my children. Oh, and lots of nature study. That has really suffered lately with having a baby and cold weather at the same time.
    I love your idea of a typical morning plan. We will still be home most days, as going out seems quite difficult with four little ones.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 27, 2015 at 7:17 am

      Going out is VERY difficult with four little ones! I used to joke that I didn’t leave the house without my husband until our youngest was four. That is an exaggeration, but there was a kernel of truth in it!

      I wish I could come see PEI in the summer! Goodness! I bet it’s amazing. Nature study is something we do a bit of in the summer, but the heat keeps us from lingering too much once we hit July and most days are triple digit temps. (And of course really dry due to the drought.)

      There is still the garden, though! Special studies abound there, which is nice. 🙂

      I hope you show us your plans on your blog sometime…once you make them, that is. 🙂

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