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Lessons learned year-round

July 07, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

For many public school students, summer is a time to kick back, relax, perhaps go away to summer camp or on a vacation.

But for many home-schoolers, the lessons continue year-round, fostering an attitude of lifelong learning and giving home-school families flexibility with their schedules all year long.

Shelly Merrill of Frederick, Md., teaches her two middle-school-age children part time throughout the summer. That means two or three days a week, or half days, depending on what she has planned.

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For Merrill, year-round classes became a necessity.

She used to take a month-and-a-half off, but found her children did not adjust well.

"I really found, even in those six weeks, boredom would set in, arguing would set in. We needed some sort of routine just to keep peace in the household," she said.

Since Merrill's school year begins June 1, summer schooling gives her a head start when it comes time to detail their progress to county reviewers each fall.

Keeping their education fresh during the summer allows the family to go on vacation in the fall, when all the crowds have died down.

"We do enjoy the beach when everyone's back in school," she said.

Jeanette Hand plans to school full time through the summer because of the time crunch called for in the Calvert Advisory Teaching Service program she uses.

"Even if we didn't have to do school, I would still do a subject a day to keep the children's brains going," she said.

Lois Lacey of Frederick said her son was home-schooled year-round until last year, when he began attending a one-month science camp.

Many home-school families interviewed for this story said they have a more relaxed schedule during the summer.

Suzanne Thackston of Sharpsburg said she doesn't stop teaching but the pace slows down.

"Summer is too much fun not to take some advantage," she said.

Brian, 16, and Dylan, 12, will continue a lot of reading and science experiments that take them outside.

For example, the family recently began mothering two barn swallows who fell out of their nest.

Many home-school parents cite field trips as a way to combine summer fun with education.

Elisa Tauraso of Frederick already has taken her three children to the Baltimore Aquarium and the Land of Little Horses in Gettysburg, Pa.

Now that the weather is nice, Tauraso said she wants to get outside as much as possible with Aria, 6, Siena, 4, and Cosimo, 3.

Merrill is taking Nick and Stephanie to Mount Vernon and the Smithsonian this summer.

Deborah Rochefort said her husband, Paul Rochefort, is going to build a birdhouse with their two daughters, Annika, 7, and Genevieve, 3.

The family also is going to take advantage of the summer to work on a dollhouse project they didn't have time for during the school year, Deborah Rochefort said.

Rochefort, who is new to the home-schooling scene, said she needs to take a summer break to get herself organized for the fall.

She also wants her girls to have more play dates now that friends and neighbors are out of school.

Lots of reading, along with gymnastics and piano lessons, also are planned.

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