Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer School with the Hiton Family

When Levi turned five we just weren’t ready to let him go to Kindergarten. Florida had full-day Kindergarten and we thought it was too much for such a cute little guy. So we decided to homeschool. Well, it was harder than we thought and after a few months Levi was enrolled in school! But we’ve always remembered Lani’s parents saying “We put our kids in public school and do home school!”

So a couple of summers ago we started a tradition of a “home school summer school.” Basically the way it works is that before the kids can go out to play they need to do three hours of summer school. They can set their schedule for what they do each day. Some things are required (piano, math, writing), other things are optional (e.g., geography) and because our kids love to read so much, reading does not count. Lest you think we are mercenaries, we did do tennis lessons and counted that as “PE.” The kids make themselves a schedule and I make a chart to track their progress (they get to move forward one space on a little game board for every successful day of homeschool, receiving prizes along the way (mom, you know where I got that idea!)).  

This summer has probably been our most successful homeschool ever. The kids decided that they didn’t want to get robbed of their playtime and so they have been getting up at 6:00 most mornings to get an early start on homeschool. This has the great benefit of helping them to be tired out around 8:30 or 9:00 so we don’t have as many problems with late summer nights! There is something great about getting up early in the morning. The kids have had much more focused scripture study and journal time, and for the most part, everyone has stuck to their schedule. We’ve had a lot of fun with Khan Academy, Geography Quizzes and MindSnacks (Chinese and Spanish). We also bought a workbook for each kid and used math worksheets and letter tracing when we got desperate for activities (letter tracing only for Joseph and Katrina) :).

Part of the summer school plan is accomplishing at least one really hard thing. I love what Clayton Christensen wrote in How Will YouMeasure Your Life: “Self-esteem – the sense that “I’m not afraid to confront this problem and I think I can solve it” – doesn’t come from abundant resources. Rather, self-esteem comes from achieving something important when it’s hard to do.”

I sat down with each child at the start of the summer and invited them to pick one really hard thing that they wanted to do and we tied the “big prize” at the end of the summer chart to not only doing home school each morning, but also accomplishing the hard thing.

Levi wrote an awesome book called Journey to Oregon. We were able to go to BYU’s Y Mountain Press to see it actually get published.

 It’s an awesome book about a family’s adventures on the trail west.

Annemarie also took on a big writing task. A couple of years ago she wrote a short  book as part of her summer school challenge. This year she decided to translate that book into Chinese (she has been in the Chinese immersion program for four years). She put an incredible amount of consistent and focused effort (including about 20 hours in the past two weeks). With help from her Uncle Cameron, she finished this week!

Annemarie plans to print out the book like Levi did, and has also made it available as a Kindle book. Regardless of how many sales it gets, I think it has built her self-esteem because she’s done something hard.
Maria and Joseph are still working on their hard things and I’m sure they will accomplish them. All in all it has been a great summer of summer school!