It is summer in Colorado and school is just around the corner. It’s not too late to consider summer homeschooling as a way to actively support your child’s learning before the school year begins.
The importance of keeping your child intellectually active over the summer should not be underestimated. According to a 2011 RAND Corporation study, “by the end of the summer, students perform, on average, one month behind where they left off in the spring.” But there’s good news: Even limited intellectual engagement has proven effective in staving off this learning loss. Summer homeschooling provides such an opportunity.
Homeschooling for the remainder of the summer simply means being intentional and involved with your child’s learning. For example, parents can enroll their children in a local library’s summer reading program, take field trips, go on a road trip or enjoy Colorado’s many outdoors activities. These activities can be tailored to suit your child’s particular interests — science, history or the outdoors, for example.
The key is to be structured yet flexible. Many students will not study without structure, so parents should set a daily schedule and homework deadlines. This schedule does not necessarily have to mirror a student’s schedule during the school year. Feel free to improvise and enjoy spontaneous weekend camping trips, family vacations or social events with friends.
If you enjoy summer homeschooling, you may want to consider homeschooling for the other nine months of the year. Many people are unaware of exactly what homeschooling is or the advantages it provides. Homeschooling represents an important component of education in Colorado. According to an estimate from the Colorado Department of Education, there were 8,606 students homeschooling in 2015, up from 6,501 in 2009. The actual number likely is much higher, as not all homeschool families report to the state.
Homeschooling is simply the practice of teaching children in the home instead of in a traditional school setting. Instruction is usually provided by a relative and is free from school district supervision. This educational approach offers the advantages of an individualized curriculum, a chance to explore personal interests and the ability to move at a pace best suited to the student.
I was homeschooled from first grade through high school. During that time, I fielded numerous questions. What do you do all day? Do you really learn? Many were surprised that I appeared able to interact with people other than my siblings. These questions and concerns stemmed from an inaccurate understanding of what homeschooling is.
Homeschooling does not mean students do little homework, play all day or live secluded at home. Colorado has specific legal requirements homeschool parents must meet, including a set list of subjects that must be studied, a requirement that students receive 172 days of instruction, record keeping requirements and periodic assessments to track academic progress.
There are numerous ways for homeschoolers to be socially active and involved. Many homeschoolers are actively engaged in homeschool co-ops, athletics or other activities. Others make use of options programs at their local schools. Options programs allow students to take classes once or twice per week at local public schools.
The schools receive partial funding for the homeschoolers’ participation. It is an excellent way for students to take classes — chemistry, for instance — that might be difficult to teach in the home. While participating in an options program, homeschoolers remain under Colorado homeschool law and are not required to take state assessments.
Homeschooling is a choice that requires serious thought and commitment from parents. There are several organizations that can assist parents interested in homeschooling their children: Christian Home Educators of Colorado, Homeschool World, School Dads or SecularHomeschool.com. They all offer extensive resources to assist parents in this endeavor. Parents know and understand their children best, so they are best positioned to choose the learning environments that will be most effective.
Summer homeschooling can keep your child engaged, ease the transition back to the strenuous pace of the school year and limit harmful learning loss. Why not give it a try?
— Zachary Rogers is an education policy intern at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver, Colorado. He is a graduate student at Hillsdale College in Michigan.
This article originally appeared in the Greeley Tribune on August 3, 2016.