Public school teachers are required to participate in continuing professional education to keep their skills sharp and to gain new skills. They go to workshops, training classes, and conventions. Home educators have no such requirements in most cases, but it’s no less important for them to develop their own toolbox of teaching skills.
To my knowledge there aren’t any college courses specifically for home educators, so when our school year draws to a close, I’ll be planning summer school for myself and you can too.
The school year keeps me so busy with lesson plans, grading, and shuttling my son to various lessons and extra-curricular activities that I scarcely have time to read anything more substantial than a magazine or incorporate many enriching activities for myself. All work and no play make me feel dull and uninteresting.
I’ve been using the summer months to educate, refresh, and invigorate myself. Charlotte Mason called such activities “Mother Culture.” These days we can call it continuing education for the home educator.
I’ll take the time over the summer to reread classic novels or delve into some that I have never read. I may decide to join a book club over the summer to enhance my reading activities.
Another area in which I wish to further develop myself is in the area of classical music. While I enjoy it, I often can’t tell Beethoven from Bach! Many cities and towns have free music concerts on summer evenings that feature the local orchestra playing the works of various composers that you and your students can enjoy.
I’m interested in understanding the works of Shakespeare better. I’m fortunate that there are opportunities to see his plays each summer in various locations free or for a nominal admission. I’m planning to attend as many plays as possible so that “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well,” will be more than just a quote I remember from my high school days. I plan to read each play prior to attending a performance and to use study materials such as Brightest Invention of Heaven by Peter Leithart and Cliff’s Notes to assist me in furthering my understanding of Shakespeare’s plays.
Two other areas I would like to add to my summer school plan are art appreciation/art history and foreign language (French). I have a copy of Sister Wendy Beckett’s The Story of Painting, which is a very comprehensive guide to the history of Western art. I am quite fond of the Impressionists but that is pretty much where my art knowledge begins and ends. I plan to develop my knowledge of artists and artist movements by systematically working my way through this book.
I was extremely fortunate to study French from the fourth grade through college. Having lived in Texas since 1983, I haven’t had many opportunities to speak French over the years and have gotten quite rusty. I’m going to use Duolingo to help me regain my French skills. If you have experience with a foreign language you haven’t used in a while, think about regaining and sustaining fluency in during the summer.
There are many opportunities for home educators everywhere to pursue their education each summer. Museums often have teacher nights or training sessions that are open to all educators, colleges often have free or reduced price lectures, bookstores have author readings, and streaming services have documentaries available in various subject areas. And of course, the internet is also a useful tool for the home educator’s continuing education plan. Without leaving your home you can watch a Shakespeare play, listen to a world-class orchestra perform a concerto, view art masterpieces, listen to and practice speaking a foreign language, and even read books online.
Parents, I encourage you to think of making this summer a fruitful one for yourself and to invite your home schooling friends to do summer school along with you. A school break spent in worthy pursuits will equip you with fresh enthusiasm and strengthen you as a home educator. That’s a win for everyone!