Summer Vacation

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summer break


Do you take a summer break from school or a summer vacation? Does it really matter which one you call it? I’m going to draw on my 15 years of home education experience and say, “Yes—it matters!”

A summer break connotes (implies) a lull in activity, a break from the traditional bookwork, and maybe some actual downtime to relax. But a Summer Vacation denotes (specifies) a true break from schooling.

Let’s use my daily life as an example of the difference. I work outside the home three days a week. I take a 15 minute break after about 3 hours on the job each day. I walk away from whatever project I am working on, go wash my hands, and sit in the break room while I eat my food. Then, as soon as the break is over, I go right back to what I was working on before the break and work until it is done. A vacation is when I do not have to go to work, when I am free to either sleep late or get up early and beat the other hikers to the forest. A vacation may mean a trip across state lines or spending the night at my Mom’s house and taking her with us on an adventure the next day.

A vacation is the absence of regular work. A break is just that—a break—with the regular work returning soon afterwards. Our children deserve to learn the meaning of what a vacation truly is. Let them sleep in or get up early. Let them help you plan the trip—across town or across the country. Summer vacation is the thing that’s missing from most public school children’s lives because it is now so short that their parents treat it like any other school break. As homeschoolers we can do better—much better!

Summer vacation can include a family camping trip or your teen starting a small business. You can still learn things, but the regular routine of math, language arts, science books, and history lessons needs to disappear. Summer is often filled with gloriously long days, lots of sunshine, and star gazing at night. Summer vacation is what defines many of our childhood memories. Think back about what you did on summer vacation. Did you take a trip to see the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty? Did you spend a month living at Grandma’s house? Or maybe, you learned how to swim one summer. Whatever that memory is, hold on to it and think about what memories you can make with your own children this summer!

Now I know some of you are going to say, “But we cannot take a summer vacation because of . . . (insert your excuse here).”

Let me challenge you to take one anyway. Maybe your child thrives on routine and does not do well with change. Good. This year you can get him or her up at the same time every day, but choose to do one thing differently each day. Teach them life skills they will need after graduation instead of math. You can keep the routine of times and places and still enjoy the fun and freedom of summer vacation. Stop stressing out yourself and your children.

If your excuse is, “We are so behind”—I’ve got to let you in on a little secret . . . no one knows that but you! And the myth that you can catch up over the summer is just that—a myth. What you really do when you school year-round without a change is create the perfect environment for homeschool burnout. I’m not saying you have to change everything—if you want to do school year-round, that’s your decision, your hill to live or die upon. What I’m advocating is giving yourself and your children the freedom to explore something new and fun. You can learn a lot even if you never write a report about it! Being homeschoolers means we get to be weird and unplanned and still live to tell about it! Stop being the warden and start being the Mommy again! Field trip! Field trip! Field trip!

Now, if your excuse is, “Oh, we cannot afford a summer vacation.” I hear you loud and clear! We’ve never had enough money for a summer vacation. We both work to pay for the necessities of life—and yet—we’ve always, always taken a summer vacation. God will provide exactly what your family needs, even if it’s not everything you thought you wanted! There were years when we took long trips, but many more when we stayed at home. We grew flowers and vegetables, or we went to Grandma’s house and let her feed us—and send home leftovers. (Talk about a boost for the grocery budget!) There were years when all of our adventures were one-day trips, or library-sponsored events. Where there is a will to have fun—you’ll find a way!

The idea is simple: take a summer vacation this year. Make memories with your children. Let go of your expectations and just be. Let God lead you. And if you live somewhere where the summer temperatures are 100 degrees every day—either visit your northern relatives for July, or take your summer vacation in September. Fall does not officially begin until September 22nd this year—you’ve got time!

Enjoy your Summer Vacation!


Carol and her husband Kurt are in their 15th year of home education. With one graduate and one high school senior, Carol writes with a practical look at the whole journey of home education. Focusing on experienced based education and frugal ways to teach and learn well, Carol offers encouragement that anyone, even working moms, can homeschool successfully. Carol writes for her local newspaper, the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and reviews books for several Christian Publishers. You can find her love of nature, field trips, and lifelong learning on her blog: Home Sweet Life.

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).