Motivation for academics in the summer?


Hi All,
A new thread to carry on our discussion of educating our young at home.
I homeschool year round. During the summer months,I
do more out door science activities. We take the time to make volcanoes,tornadoes in bottles,grow gardens, etc…
My question has to do with motivation for the “boring stuff” according to my kids.
I would like to find some ways to make current events more approachable for my children to discuss. Such as,adding prayer for those in need.
Still, being able to remember dates in history is a tough one for me. I always find the need to spend time rereading “history facts” before introducing them to my children.
Do you have a way to assist in getting all those dates properly placed?
What kind of motivation do you use to assist in further developing a desire to learn and memorize when your family is "on break/vacation?"
I would really like to offer my kids more than fruit smoothies or “things” of expense that look like a bribe to learn.
I’ll look forward to your discussion on this:)


I used to school all year round, because I feel it is a BIG waste of the summer. But like you, I looked for different activities that had that “summer” feel.

This is what we did (and will do when the girls are off their rgular school this summer):

  • Go to the historical sites and educational places that are full-up during the school year. We live near Fermi Lab, and trying to get into Fermi Lab during the scool year is very hard. Ditto the Chicago museums on free days. We will be going to Springfield this year (Lincoln sites), and are going to try to head to MIssouri to do the Laura Ingalls sites. Being prepared for the trip means knowing something about the sites, not jut packing jammies and toothbrush.
  • We also look for businesses that are slow, and have interests that are common to ours. I then ask if we can “visit” on a slow day. This is very motivational, as if don’t have what we need ot have done, golly, we can’t go.
  • Set up bug jars and habitats. Once we have studied the bugs and small animals, we let them go. Our present back yard is HUGE. The girls call it the Forest.
  • If it is messy, we do it in the summer. This extends not only to science stuff and historical stuff, but anything messy. That is quite a motivation unto itself.
    *And of course we must participate in the annual library reading program, because the free stuff we get in prizes is too good to pass up! I tailor the reading program to the child, and I am NOT afraid to tell them no when they are getting a library book I think is too easy or doesn’t fit that week’s theme.

I was big on following my own curricula, and in Illinois home schools are considered private schools, so I broke history into little pieces when I taught the older two. They had portfolios in addition to a credit system, so their portfolios frequently contained self-made charts where they could go back if they needed and review dates.


You could make a garden and study plant biology. Then you can eat the vegetables and study nutrition and cooking. :slight_smile:


Regarding motivation … We recently wrote a family Mission Statement (idea from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People from Steven Covey). One of the sentences in our mission statement is:

We work hard to bring honor to God, honor to our family, and to improve ourselves.

This has helped motivate my son enormously. Before I was always negative “Finish your homework!” “Why are you so lazy?” “Try your best” “You disappoint me” ,etc, etc…

But his honest question “why do I have to?” went largely unanswered, other than “because I say so” “because everyone else does” etc…

The real answer is because it brings honor to God to try your best with a positive attitude. It brings honor to your family to do your work and to meet commitments. And it improves yourself.

My 10 year old son has changed overnight, with this new elevated sense of worth and purpose. It is aspirational vs critical. :thumbsup:


May I quote you for my kids? and myself?
I think that phrase may work well in our home too!


MeadowLark… I am not a homeschooler but I use the summer to do fun things that they learn with. When kids were little we went to a park every Sunday for a picnic. We made sure the kids got exercise by having races and play time, but we also did nature walks (and even detangled a bird from fishing line once) but my favorite was the mental Olympics we played… While we were eating I would ask questions like Who can name the luminous mysteries… or what is the 4th amendment… or what did Thomas Edison invent? It was almost like a game show. The kids loved this and to my surprise, we were eating pizza on a picnic table this weekend (at the drive in theater) and the kids did it all on their own and included their friends (there were 5 teenagers doing this) and all but one (the youngest) got into a debate about Latin pronunciations from their prayers… the funny part is my ds and step dd go to a public school and my dd and 2 of her friends go to Catholic school… ds could keep right up with them and even knew some more colorful expressions in Latin. Then they went on to the Constitution and amendment questions… DH and I just sat back and laughed!!!


Nice post!

My children and I need/want a bit of a break from our formal school work, but that doesn’t mean the learning stops. Even before we began homeschooling, summer vacation seemed a time when learning came natural. We garden, explore nature and parks, visit historical sites and museums, play sports, swim, and read for pleasure.

During our breaks, we do what some homeschoolers call “un-school”. Ice cream at the park and lemonaid stands provide an opportunity to count money. Nickels, dimes and quarters give practical meaning to skip-counting and mulitiplication. Science is based on observation. The growing season teaches them about plants and animals without much effort from me; we observe, discuss what we observed, and may consulting previously recorded observations by others. American history seems a natural fit for around the Fourth of July, so we select stories to read related to that. Any trips we take give additional opportunity for history and geography.

We just began our break. We plan to rest from the “acedemic” work for a little while. When the other schools start vacation, my children will also play more with the neighbor children and other friends. We’ll probably resume academics on a much lighter schedule before summer is over. I may only work with one child on academics in areas that child needs to improve, or we may all cover together only one topic in a day. I don’t feel the same pressure (or guilt) that I put on myself and my children during the school year. I need this break to re-motivate myself for the traditional school year.


BlestOne-- during summer breaks, most good parents become homeschoolers, whether you admit to being one or not. :wink:


Aah, this goes right into my idea that “homeshooling is an attitude” :D.

Even when my children were in school we were always learning. Life is all about learning - I may be 50 but I am still learning!

Give the summer over to the less academic aspects of learning - you know, no memorization except for perhaps taking turns going through the multiplication and addition tables, being able to do this as second nature is a good skill to have.

Use this time to go to the Zoo more or swimming. Swimming lessons are good activities as is practicing those skills at the pool. Learn about the nature of water, what floats and what doesn’t, why water on the slip and slide is important, how the water makes the sprinklers pop up or turn or move.

Sit down and talk to your children as to what they are curious about and pick one from each child to explore as a family. Use the internet and your local library and/or local College if you have one as your resources. Of course, make sure that there is no memory work, just learning for general knowledge. There are a number of things this will teach your children. One is to learn about something that they are curious about, the other is how to find the information.

Of course if there are important skills (like the memory work of math facts) that your children are struggling with, this is a time to focus on that skill but for no more than 1/2 hr. a day.

Brenda V.


I totally agree but didn’t want to presume anything…


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit