Reflections from Podcast Episode 4 

For most parents, any talk of summer holiday conjures up images of planning that much needed holiday in the sun, organising summer camp activities or catching up on much overdue socials with friends and families. The thought of having any educational structure or plans, even if it is to help our children stay on top of their academic game, is either outsourced or quickly wished away.  The latter was certainly the case for me until we broke out of the mainstream school matrix a few years ago. 

Whilst many home-schooling families still follow the rhythms of the academic school year, an increasing number of families prefer to home educate all year round.

Here are a few reasons why. 

Home educating all year round: 

  1. reflects real life.Unless you work in schools, most people have to work through the summer. As home educators tend to educate for life not exams, they often opt for rhythms that reflect real life. 
  2. provides flexibility and freedom to home school at a slower pace all year round.
  3. creates opportunities for outdoor and deep diving into creative learning projects
  4. helps familieskeep some form of structure in place during the holidays. Every parent knows the amount of work it takes to cajole children back into good habits and routines after a long break. 
  5. helps tokeep the children on top of their academic work. 


In this week’s episode of the Homegrown Sonshine Podcast, we will be continuing our series on Home Education Rituals and Practices with a focus on seasonal rituals and practices of summer schooling.  

Personally, our summer rhythm has a completely different vibe to our regular Home Education flow. Firstly, it is a lot more relaxed. Secondly, I offer my son more space to chart what we do in this period. In this time, he gets to choose the books he reads, selects the skills he wants to enhance or develops. He also helps me plan our holiday and decide on our major creative projects.  My only rule is that we continue with Morning Time and leave an hour or two for maths and writing practice. Majority of our time is given to creative projects and catching up on trips and social activities with friends and family. Outside of this, I usually have no specific goal or intention for our summer learning. 


What is your summer holiday rhythm like? Do you home school all-year round? Do you shift your learning style or philosophical approach to make room for a new rhythm in the summer? Do you outsource the entire time to holiday camps and activities? Lastly, have you already planned your summer projects for this year? If not, you are not alone. Hopefully, listening to our latest podcast episode might spark some creativity in that area. 

This week in Episode 4, I had the honour of interviewing the remarkable home-ed mum, Amber O’Neal Johnston from @Heritagemomblog about her summer rituals and practices. Amber like many home schoolers, opts for an all-year-round home school approach. “One of the reasons I do this”, she explains “is so that we can take holidays whenever we like and study at a much slower pace.” 

 The shape of Amber’s summer schooling practices began to form when her eldest daughter started showing some discomfort towards her self-image. “This led to some profound self-discovery of my own”, revealed Amber. Despite being born to two black parents and raised within a black community, Amber explains that the limitations of her education about her own heritage always left her feeling ‘like an outsider looking in’. Her daughter, however, was not comfortable with following suit.  

Affected by the dissonance in the lack of brown skin heroic characters and stories in their home learning program, Amber’s daughter raised the alarm – calling for a change.  This unsettling realisation became the catalyst to Amber creating a fourth term curriculum during their summer holidays, which she fondly referred to as ‘Black Term’. Her family had so much “rocking fun” learning about black history, literature and culture that her non-black home school mum friends wanted in on the fun. This was the inspiration behind her now much sought-after heritage learning packs. 

With a great deal of vulnerability mixed with humour and charm, Amber goes on to reflect on her transition from limiting her children’s study of black history and literature to one term a year, to an all-year schooling approach that now includes a rich infusion of life-giving books as mirrors that reflect her own identity alongside a plethora of books as windows into other cultures.   

With ‘black term’ fully mainstreamed in the Johnston household, Summer Schooling took a different turn. “Now summer term is the time for pursuing leisurely activities,” she explains. It’s a time for pressing into handicraft projects, finishing off termly curricular, outdoor schooling, prioritising their social calendars and diving deeper into special studies. 

Summer special studies, Amber explains, is an interest-led study where Morning Time and other Charlotte Mason inspired subjects like art and music study, geography and history are all geared towards a particular theme. This year, instigated by her children’s interest, the Johnston’s family summer (special studies) learning will be about exploring the American Deep South. This enchanted special summer learning project will be an extension of her newly launched multicultural family learning guide; Sweet Tea & Cookies: A Family Celebration of the American South”.  

Armed with her new multicultural resource, Amber and her entire family plan to journey to the Deep South this summer, in the hope of reclaiming stories of redemption and beauty from America’s dark multicultural southern heritage.  

Talking to Amber Johnston about her idyllic special summer schooling rituals and pending road trip to the Deep South was both invigorating and thought-provoking. Not only did she reinforce my thoughts on the value of all year schooling – I was also left wondering why it had never occurred to me to use some of our holiday time for more meaningful educational exploits. 

After all, Charlotte Mason had pointed this out in saying: 

 Our aim in education is to give a full life…We owe it to them [our children] to initiate an immense number of interests…Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking – the strain would be too great – but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest… The question is not, — how much does the youth know when he has finished his education — but how much does he care?”  

Charlotte Mason;
School education,
Vol 3 C15
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