Summer Unschoolers

Thursday, May 31, 2012

As June nears and summer approaches, many parents are anticipating bright, outdoor days of unstructured play with their children.  Many homeschooling families who follow a curriculum during the year take the summer off from their studies, and some families with children in school choose to take a break from a busy school-year schedule with wide-open summer days.  Summer is also a time that many families experiment with the idea of homeschooling for the upcoming fall, trying to decide if a life without schooling fits their family's lifestyle. 

Whether families are "official" homeschoolers or not, summer is an extraordinary time to celebrate "unschooling," savoring the opportunity to live and learn together using the world as a dynamic classroom. 

Throughout the coming weeks, I will be writing blog posts about "an unschooling summer," highlighting the ways in which we can use these long, warm days to learn alongside our children.  Unschooling, by definition, doesn't follow any set criteria or learning methodology, but it can be helpful to point out the ways in which our summer surroundings continuously teach us, revealing just how much we can learn from our everyday lives with our children.

I would also love to hear from you, the "summer unschoolers," on how you plan to spend these next few months as a family, learning together in an open, unstructured, invigorating way.  What does summer unschooling look like for your family, and what tips can you share for other families choosing a slower, simpler summer schedule? 

I look forward to sharing your insights throughout the coming weeks, and offering tips for taking full advantage of your summer unschool!


  1. Yes, we are summer unschoolers! The kids are busy in school all year but we take the summer off completely-- no camps, no lessons-- just play all day!

    1. Sounds like a lovely summer of unschooling, Jenny!

  2. You used to write more about Waldorf-inspired homeschooling and now it seems you are fully embracing Unschooling? Or perhaps it wasn't much of a transition?

    In the summer months our lives carry on in the same unhurried pace of the colder months. The only difference is that we are outdoors more often because we always say "When the sun is out, SO ARE WE!" (This is especially important for us because we live in a cold climate with long winters!)

    Because our lives are so affected by the weather (unfortunately), we also become much more active in our food choices in the warmer months. We visit farms and farmers' markets and we try to find new local sources of interesting food. Recently we found a small dairy that makes cheese and butter from sheep milk.

    We also make more of an effort in the summer months to visit the amazing places in Toronto that we love--especially the Toronto Zoo and Centre Island.

    And the final difference as summer unschoolers is that the snow-free roads allow us to travel outside of the city to visit friends and family in other parts of our province.

    Hooray for summer!

    1. Patti, I have always liked some of the Waldorf ideas, like lots of outdoor time, daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms, preparing for seasonal celebrations, baking with children, and a big focus on imaginative play and fairy tales in early childhood, but I have never been wedded to a specific homeschooling approach. When I began homeschooling, I thought that at some point when my oldest reached school age, we would follow some type of curriculum or established philosophy, but now I see that unschooling works best for us and helps us to take full advantage of our world of learning-- especially here in the city.

      Summer in Toronto sounds wonderful! And I agree that much of our time in summer focuses around farms, farmers' markets, and--very soon-- pick-your-own orchards! I can't wait for those strawberries in a couple of weeks!!

  3. Our summers tend be really busy with anything to do with the arts in June then things settle down. Next week will be all about drama and performances, then two weeks of volunteering at an art camp.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Diane! It is always nice to hear how families utilize their summer time!

  4. Hi Kerry! My kids are older, so summer is always a blur of activities! Baseball playoffs, swim team, camp, visits with relatives, visits with friends, etc. It's busy for me also, as I plan my lessons for the school year. It's fun busyness though! I love the summer and I love the warm weather! - Gwen Fredette

  5. Hi Kerry!

    I just finished watching a documentary on George Washington with Tani when he couldn't sleep and decided to come get some inspiration at your site. It's so beautiful! Thank you for putting all this up! So far, summer unschooling for us means daily trips to swim in the lake in Sharon, lots of bike rides and trampoline time, a fancy lenonade stand, and later bedtimes with more latenight quality video time with Mommy. . . Sorry we missed you last week. Hope to see you sometime this summer.

  6. As Unschoolers, our lifestyle at home doesn't change, so why would our schedule out and about or our interest in the physical world? Our group field trips actually get better, due to number of free summer events put on by cities, museums and libraries. I continue with my weekly homeschool learning with recyclable materials and play dates through out the summer at a breezy outdoor park. See for the latest documentation. This included teaching a gaggle of homeschoolers (age 4-10) Algebra FUN with seesaws (yes, Math tastes great!) and today, inspired by Independence day, I will bring in the history behind the Statue of Liberty.
    These themes stick with my family for a few weeks with applicable books, online investigations and outdoor projects. As we go about our daily lives we are constantly making connections in our everyday world from the curriculum my husband and I come up with (supplanted by the library and internet).

    For one week everything became a Mystery (Algebra) word problem to solve. This week, we've looked at everything as a freedom we have or want or should share.

    We also raise silkworms from late spring to midsummer. Right now our moths are all emerging from their cocoons, conjoining and then laying eggs.

    On hot days we either escape to an A/C museum or head to a few hours at the beach or even a friend's pool. And we do alot of audio books en route to different locals.

    Thanks for asking. Stay cool - Jessica Deltac from Los Angeles