Summer School That Isn’t School


Like many of you, I am dragging my family over that school year finish line this month.

I’m tired.

My boys are tired.

Our school has slipped into a haze of hurry up and finish just this one thing combined with science projects that I should’ve supervised a bit better, but instead turned my 11 year old’s hands glittery purple for four days. (Alien galaxy hands are not so easy to explain to three doctors and a therapist – ask me how I know.)

It’s time for summer.

And yet, my boys thrive on consistency, routine and a summer break that isn’t really a break at all.

In an effort to create a learning environment that honors their need for predictability, but allows me to not lose my mind, I have created my own “summer school” program.

The most important requirement?

It can’t feel like it is summer school.


I am 100% serious.

I cannot “do school” non-stop. I cannot spend the next eight weeks cajoling my kids to stay the course. I cannot spend the next eight weeks worrying about reading levels.

I cannot do anything that remotely resembles school with these children (did I mention I am tired?). At the same time, I recognize that a large part of the routine my boys know, love and depend on, includes daily learning activities.

In the past, we have just continued with the same programs and considered ourselves “year round homeschoolers.” This year, we are nothing of the sort.

This year, my children and I will be doing “summer school.”

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Summer School That Isn’t School

My boys are on board as well. After carefully considering my options, I asked them to choose the programs they think look like fun. I included a few that I think look like fun.

Boom. Summer school that isn’t school.

Here are the learning activities that made our summer school cut:

Pin It Maps

Oh my goodness, y’all. I could not love these more. Pin It Maps were created by a mom looking for more hands-on activities related to geography and map work. She hit it out of the park.

The maps are beautiful. The program includes everything you need to get started, including styrofoam backings for each map.

More importantly, both of my boys are way into them. There is something about being able to touch, trace, and poke a pin into a map that makes it so much more fun than the one hanging on the wall.

Our plan is to use Pin It Maps as much as possible in conjunction with our next learning activity –

Around The World Stories

Again, created by a homeschool family, this program is so, so good. As this family is traveling around the world, they are publishing audio stories from the countries and regions they visit. The site also includes additional information about the area, fun facts, and beautiful pictures. In addition to the stories themselves, we follow the family on Instagram and see them in real time, traveling the world.

This is my new go-to for the afternoons when things just get a little too out of control. Several times already, I have turned on one of the stories to help my youngest son calm down after a panic attack. He lies on the couch with his dog and listens, giggles and eventually, gets up and wants to look at all the pictures on the site.

(Right now, Around The World Stories is offering one month free for Not The Former Things readers. Try it for free and half the summer will be taken care of! Get one month free trial with the code NOTTHEFORMERTHINGSTRIAL)

Nessy Reading

Interestingly enough, the first thing my eleven-year-old said when I asked him what we should do for our summer school was, “No reading practice.” (Poor kid. Being profoundly dyslexic requires consistent practice in basic reading fundamentals.)

Then he said, “We should do the monkey games this summer. I will do it every day and then I can get all the eggs in my nest.”

Nessy Reading and Spelling will allow him the consistent practice he needs in reading, without it feeling at all like school. I couldn’t be happier!

Smartick Math

Because of my son’s favorable response to Nessy, I introduced him to a new online math program that I find super impressive. Math games, based on logic and reasoning, in a format that feels like a video game? It seemed right up both my boys’ alley. And I wasn’t wrong.

They both asked to include Smartick in our summer learning program. (I think it’s hilarious that they both started out saying no math over the summer, but then chose to include Smartick on our list.)

MIT actually formed a partnership with Smartick because the program is so innovative and dynamic. And it is just that! From MIT straight to our summer.

Real Kids Cook Real Food

I have already shared how my approach to life skills is changing the way I educate my boys. In addition to all the usual academics, I am excited to continue our online cooking classes. The boys love them, I am learning right along side them, and they are developing a confidence that transfers over to traditional academics. That, and I get to eat a cake my son cooked for me, so that works too.


This is one that my sons do not know is included in our summer learning. Instead of Bravewriter, they know it as “writing their own book.” Yep, this summer, my sons are both going to dictate a story to me. I will type it up and have it bound to look like a real book. They are super excited and so am I.

My youngest has decided his will be a three-part series about a boy named Sammy. Stay tuned.

Harry Potter as much as possible.

This is no surprise to anyone who knows my boys.

My sons asked that we listen to the audio books (again), watch the movies (again) and include Harry Potter themed science projects, food and anything else their mom can think of as much as possible this summer.

Yesterday, my youngest saw the books that “Harry used at Hog-a-warts” at the store and asked to buy all of them. He said these are his textbooks for his summer at Hogwarts.

We won’t do all of these activities every day. We will spread them out across play dates, trips to the beach and night swims. I imagine some will work better than others.  But overall, I am excited about our plan for the summer. Without trying, my boys came up with ideas for learning that address every major subject. The basic reading and math are covered online, so they can complete it independently, freeing me up to plan Harry Potter stuff (or even just sit down and drink a cup of coffee without them).

Most importantly, it doesn’t feel at all like summer school.


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  1. I love your ideas! What do you do when you are exhausted at the thought of even planning “not school” stuff?

    1. That will be the harry potter audio book and movie days! (I make up my list like this when I have the time and then just wing it from there…)

        1. Y’all sing each other’s praises for good reason. ?

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