Stealth Homeschooling a.k.a Fun Summer Learning

Fun Zone Barricade Construction Sign Kids Playground

Hello readers!  As you know, I’ve spent the last several blog posts sharing my version of the “Homeschooling ABC’s.”  We were at the half-way point with my last post, Homeschooling ABC’s: J, K, and L, and I thought that would be a good place to take a little break in order to share this post with you.

A couple of weeks ago on Facebook I noted that our family takes a summer break every year.  A long summer break.  As in, all of June, July and August.

I know that some families homeschool year-round, and their reasons are certainly valid for them.  On the other hand, I learned early on in my homeschooling “career” that I needed an extended break in the summer.  I don’t do it for my kids, I do it for me.  Mama needs a break.

I also use the summer months to catch up on projects that I don’t have time to get to during the school year.  And just because I put the books away, doesn’t mean that learning isn’t still taking place.  Not at all.  I participate in a practice I’m calling here, “stealth homeschooling.”

What does that mean?

Well, I have only one child still homeschooling – I have three grown children as well that I homeschooled through high school – and my 11-year old thinks it’s awesome that he’s on summer break.  What he doesn’t realize is that my end-of-the-year surprise for him, a book that is teaching him how to use Python computer programming language, is actually my version of stealth homeschooling.  (And he doesn’t read my blog, so it’s all good!)

You see, I wanted him to have a project of his own to occupy some of his time during our summer break, that would build on what he’s been learning this year.  For Christmas last year one of his gifts was the “Super Scratch Programming Adventure!: Learn to Program By Making Cool Games” and he has mastered that program.  He’s already produced dozens of computer games and videos using this programming language.

But Scratch is a computer programming language that isn’t actually used by computer programmers.  It’s just a beginner’s version, created by M.I.T., that is intended to give beginners some of the basics of computer programming without having to be “syntactically correct.”

On the other hand, Python computer programming language is used by computer programmers and, in fact, there are college courses that teach how to use this language.  Since my 11-year old so quickly and easily mastered Scratch, I wanted to introduce him to something that would challenge him, but that would be accessible.  I found Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming on Amazon and the reviews were very positive, so I bought it and put it away for the summer.

Perhaps you’ve conducted stealth homeschooling in your home too (though maybe you didn’t call it that!).  If you haven’t, or even if you have, I have a few suggestions, besides the Scratch and Python products, that you might want to use to promote learning while giving yourself a well-deserved break:

Brain Box World – Why not put away the geography curriculum this summer and play a game instead?  Brainbox games are, perhaps, the ultimate in family-friendly games.  They require little reading ability, and the playing field is absolutely level between older and younger players.  In fact, younger players may even have an advantage, since these are memory games and many kids have sharper memories than their slightly-aged parents!

Ravensburger Jigsaw Puzzles – Who doesn’t like a good jigsaw puzzle?  There is just something that draws you in when you see those pieces spread on a table.  I’ve found the Ravensburger puzzles to be of excellent quality: sturdy with bright, vivid colors.  With a wide variety of puzzle sizes, anywhere from a few dozen pieces to 3000, you can find one suitable no matter what your children’s ages.  We’ve had a 35-piece Ravensburger Curious George puzzle that I bought when my now-grown kids were little, and it’s still holding up. 

The Everything Bible Word Search Book – I don’t have any letters behind my name that would indicate that I’m some kind of cognitive learning expert, but I don’t think it takes a PhD to figure out that word search puzzles can help your children with a number of skills, including spelling, focus, and topical studies.  For Easter I bought my son The Everything Bible Word Search Book.  This book starts out with lists of words that require you to find: the books of the Bible, places in the Bible, characters of the New Testament and more.  The rest of the book presents Scripture verses with specific words highlighted to find in the puzzle.  This is a fun, challenging puzzle book.  You can also find other word search books on innumerable topics that can keep the learning going throughout the summer, or whenever you might be taking a break from homeschooling.

ScienceWiz Cool Circuits – Cool Circuits is a “cool thinking game” that requires the player to finish an uncompleted electrical circuit that matches a completed circuit card they are given.  When the circuit is complete the game lights up and plays a musical tune.  Recommended for 13 and up, but I’m guessing some younger homeschooled kids could tackle this game with success!

MindWare Q-bitz – Qbitz is another great game created by Mindware.  I recommended two other Mindware games in my Christmas post, “10 (More) Smart Gift Ideas for Kids” (which is another place you can look for some stealth homeschooling ideas) because this company just keeps coming out with winners.  Qbitz is a game that your child can play by themself, or that the whole family can play together.  Designed to teach spatial reasoning, fine motor skills and more, the challenge is for players is to recreate patterns using the game cards.  The Amazon reviews are impressive.  This is another Mindware game that will probably be going on my own wish list as well.

Do you ever conduct stealth homeschooling?  What are your favorite games, puzzles, or other tools you use to teach your kids even when you’re not teaching?