When my kids were younger, I always intended to maintain some of our homeschool routine throughout the summer. Maybe we’d do math lessons three days a week, or finally listen to those “Learn to Speak Spanish” discs I bought at Costco. At the very least, we’d participate in the summer reading program at the library and earn free ice cream cones. But inevitably, the math books stayed close, the Spanish discs remained unplayed, and the books we read were never logged. Summer seeped in and took over, and we were all grateful for the break.
When a friend recently shared a post about the homework assignment an Italian teacher gave his students, I was inspired to create a different sort of summer curriculum, free of traditional school subjects. The action items assigned by the Italian teacher encouraged his students to learn outside of the classroom, to take oneself as a subject to be studied, to become more fully present in one’s skin and in one’s environment. It’s an assignment for students - and teachers - of all ages.
I have yet to enjoy an Italian summer (though I could imagine doing so), but here’s how I plan to enrich our NorCal summer:
1. First thing in the morning while your dreams are fresh in your mind, write them down in a journal. Better yet, tell somebody about them. This is how you become a better dreamer and storyteller.
2. Learn new words. Try to use them in writing or in conversation; or just chant them to yourself like a mantra, especially the words that make you feel something. Sophisticated, silly, smart, clever, wise. Words have power. Feel them out.
3. Read what you want to read, but do yourself a favor and try a new genre. Graphic novels, sci-fi, short stories, travelogues, poetry, books turned into movies. Read outside your comfort zone.
4. Spend more time with people who make you feel good—about yourself, about them, about the world—and less time with people who make you feel bad, sad, mad, or nothing at all. This goes for the people you spend time with online too.
5. Remember: the days are long and hot, but the season is short. Create some bright memories and tuck them away for the cooler, shorter days to come. Also, wear sunscreen.
6. Learn how to stand on your head. Start with a pillow for cushion and a wall for support. Then progress to standing on your hands. Try to take a few steps upside down, walking with your hands. If nothing else, you will learn how to fall.
7. Fall in love. With a person, a place, a song, a movie, a food, a book, an idea. Love it passionately.
8. Spend time outside alone, under the stars, facing the rising or setting sun, or just sitting in the shade. Practice not thinking during your alone time. A quiet mind is a gift you give to yourself.
9. Practice gratitude and generosity. Name three things that bring you joy; it’s an instant mood changer. Give compliments; extra points if you compliment a stranger. Be kind. Assume the best about people (but don’t forget #4).
10. Don’t wait for invitations. Be the one who invites. It can be simple - a walk, a swim, an iced coffee. Or it can be big - a party, a day at the beach, a trip to an amusement park. Don’t wait for things to happen. Make things happen.
From one homeschooling mom to another, have a happy summer, wherever you are!
MOLLY DUNHAM lives on the edge of a wild river canyon in the foothills of Northern California with her family. She enjoys hiking with friends, lifting heavy weights, and paddle boarding in the dark. But mostly she's a home-loving word nerd, happiest among works of creative non-fiction, spiral bound notebooks, and sharpened yellow pencils.