School Daze: The Slow Immersion Method, Or How to Cook Your Frogs

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Though my kids could spend their school day in their jammies, one of the freedoms of learning at home, they don’t. And while I would like to say that they embrace each day as an opportunity to fill their minds with all that is good and wholesome in the world of art, literature, science, and math, that would be a big fat lie exaggeration. My kids may not school “traditionally,” but they’re just like any other children. That includes the fact that they balk at the idea of hitting the books again.

Different homeschooling families handle this challenge in different ways. I knew one family who never took a vacation. Umm, yeah, I’d be in the funny farm by now. Others just grin and bear it. For us, the slow immersion method has worked rather well over the last few years.

I can’t remember why I started doing it this way. I think it was because I wasn’t “ready” for the first day of school, but I had already told them we were starting. No backing out, no false starts. So, we just jumped in on a few areas of study while I got my act together. My lack of preparation proved to be a serendipitous experience. In other words, it was what I like to call “a happy accident.”

Going from lackadaisical summer days of Pokemon and endless book reading to seven hours of wall-to-wall school work would send my children into shock, much like when you jump in a cold pool on a hot day. Just the idea of it would send them into Major Balking Mode. (That is a real term, I’m sure.)

Instead, we get our feet wet little by little. We start with a few subjects the first week, add a few more the next week, add in the rest during the third week. And by this time, they’ve gotten re-accustomed to the waters of schoolwork and it doesn’t seem like such a shock to their systems — or mine. In a sense, it’s like cooking frogs.

This week we’re testing the waters with Bible, Spelling, History, and Literature. Next week we’ll add in Writing, Math, Grammar, and Latin. After that, we’ll work in Science, Logic, and Art.

And maybe by week three, I’ll have my act together. And they won’t want to get out of the pool!

Whether your children’s school is public or private, what do you do to make the reentry as easy as possible? I’m sure we could all benefit from a few new tips.

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  1. We've been home schooling for 10+ years now and have always schooled year-round. We take many, many, many breaks throughout the year–usually around performance dates (both boys have been very involved in a theatre conservatory school for years) and/or holidays. We also take a week-long vacay a couple times per year — we do try to make them school related (Washington, D.C., Harper's Ferry, etc.) but don't consider it a crisis if that objective isn't exactly met.

    When the boys were younger, we continued math and grammar during the summer and threw in some creative writing and perhaps a special project or unit study (such as videography).

    My oldest (16yo junior) takes all his classes through Indiana University and sets his own schedule so I guess I'm really only homeschooling the 7th grader (my reluctant student). This summer we (13yo and I) did the math/grammar routine and he worked on writing a play. We also worked on life-skills (laundry, baking, personal finance) and did an impromptu human body unit study (oh boy for 13yo puberty). We are at full-strength beginning the Tuesday after Labor Day.

  2. We are part of a co-op that begins in September. But I noticed last year during Christmas and Easter breaks, when we stopped schooling for vacation, there were serious grumpy bumps getting back to the routine. So this summer we've schooled throughout the summer 2 days a week with almost weekly library trips for fun reinforcement. I'm doing mostly review stuff of what we did in the fall and spring and will jump into new learning in September. I'm really looking forward to it. And most importantly–so is she!

  3. I love your immersion idea for homeschooling. When I was a teacher I would always try to make the first week back an "easy" week. We would play get-to-know-you games, make labels for tote trays and covers for books, I would teach them my routines. It wasn't until the second week at least that I would begin testing them and starting real work. Lisa

  4. I have noticed when the girls were in primary school the teachers that had the most success were the ones that slowly got the kids back into it after a holiday break. The ones that jumped straight in boots and all always seemed to struggle for twice as long as everyone else to get the kids back on an ideal work level.

  5. My two kids go to public school but I like to supplement that with some home learning, especially during the summer. We spend a little time several days a week keeping our math skills sharp. We read daily and work on comprehension and writing skills. Throw in some science experiments and they end up ready to learn in the classroom come September. My hope is that it makes life easier for them and the teachers.

  6. Am I just weird? My children were practically begging to start school this year! This will be our third week "back to homeschool" and I guess unintentionally, we have used your slow immersion method. With not having quite all the school books until this week and prenatal appointments thrown in, we have yet to do a full week of school or all of our subjects. It's okay, though, as I'm 3 weeks away from the new baby and starting to slow down physically. We just might be in the slow immersion mode for another month or so! We're like you though, I love having the option, but we get dressed every morning!

  7. It's never easy, but we just jump in head first. If I don't start out that way then I'll be worried about the other subjects. So for my peace of mind it's best to get it all in starting with day one. My husband is all for year round schooling and we may give it a try next year. After 15 years of this stuff a little change is good.

  8. In the summer, we continue to have our son read daily. We visit the library weekly. We also do art projects, science experiments, and daily writing and math. The writing is not out of a workbook, but more for fun, like writing a note to someone or writing silly sentences. He is very excited for school to start and we hope that all of this will give him a good transition back to school in another 1.5 weeks.

  9. I have continued homeschooling a few subjects throughout the summer. We have remained constant with reading/writing and bible study. On ocassion, we would jump into a math or science project- but otherwise, I let my son take a break from those areas over the summer.
    Now that we're about to start back up for the fall, he's not moaning and groaning…since in his eyes, he never took much of a break anyway!

  10. Our plan is to get back into the swing of home school (our 5th year, with a 9th grader and 7th grader) next Tuesday. It's been a very carefree summer, and I have felt that it has been one of very little accomplishment (mostly on my kids' parts).

    The other day, I had them do a free writing exercise with jotting down every activity, place, and person they experienced this summer. When they started to run dry, I added in reminders like: our vacation; ways you earned and spent money; youth group; and several other mind ticklers.

    After they each had a couple of full pages, we reviewed what they had written down and found that the summer, while not producing a lot of tangible fruits, did accomplish many pleasures, experiences, and learning situations.

    We concluded with the kids deciding whether there was anything they hadn't done that belonged on that list. New goals as well as confidence that summer is complete was achieved.

  11. From the returning to public school corner: I got my oldest ready for first grade by 1. Reminding her it was coming. We also talked about what her schedule would be like and what would be expected of her. I chose ONE thing I wanted her to focus (finishing her work during the assigned time) for the first part of the year and repeated that to her basically every chance I got (and had her say it back to me. I’d ask, “What’s the one most important thing you’re going to work on this year?” and she’d tell me.) 2. Without going overboard or making it an anxious time for her, we broke out flashcards with English sight words, Spanish words (those are for fun, she doesn’t study Spanish in school yet), addition and subtraction and also made sure she got some reading practice time each day plus writing, coloring and cutting when she felt like it. (I love that she asks me for the flashcards at bedtime — that tells me she’s enjoying it and not getting burnt out.)

    I have to say…either we did something right or we hit the jackpot this year! My first grader is “mature and capable” in the words of her teacher. She finishes her work, gets “terrific tickets” for doing what she’s told, is making new friends, and has embraced both the morning routine of getting ready and the afternoon routine of snack, homework, play. This is a far cry from my distracted, tired, antsy kindergartner! I guess we’ve all come a long way.

  12. I home-school all year round right now. I worried about all of those things (like re-immersing them in school every fall). Plus, I had a baby in the middle of the year one time – so we took off 2.5 mos and jumped back on the wagon after spring break was locally over. In my concern for her education, I made us go through the whole summer all the way up to the following January. It was right at the new year when I realized we hadn’t had more than a random day off here or there, and I decided that we would take a week off! What a remarkable change and much needed break it was for both of us! The following week, she and I were both raring to go back to school – her having the whole free week to enjoy as she pleased and me feeling less stressed. That’s when we started 6 weeks on, 1 week off – and I’ve loved it ever since! 9 mos going strong. We did skip our 1 week off two weeks ago, but that’s because next week we are going on vacation in the middle of the week – so I’ve decided to do two full weeks off (1.5 on vaca, .5 extra for the week we skipped!) I know right now she and I are both feeling the strain of going so long – but are looking forward to it.

    The last time that she had her full week off, she reveled so much – that on the last day of the “school week” she actually told me that she was excited to be able to start school again! I was happy! I don’t want this to be a constant strain for her!

  13. We have been homeschooling for 4 years. We are ecclectic schoolers, schooling all year round and ebb and flow according to how energetic we feel. Since living in the US we have started going on road trips around the National and State Parks. Doing the Ranger Badges/Booklets has reinforced curriculum, inspired enthusiasm which may not have appeared when covering the topic at home. After each break we always are slow to warm, intermingling our learning with play dates and field trips which disguise our true activities 🙂

  14. My kids go to a 4 day/week school. Extended day. So to make the transition easier we continue with “fun” school projects over the summer. My kids all went to engineering camp, my middle child went off to Residential Arts and Science Camp, while the oldest traveled to historical locations with her grandmother. Learning is low key but fun in the summer. Even though my kids go to public school, I am their primary teacher and we continue learning our entire lives, so why should learning take a vacation.

  15. I told my kids that instead of starting school like we planned the day after Labor Day, that we should skip it for a week and hit the empty Cape Cod beaches!! They told me I was sooo bad!–and insisted we start on time. lol