Some of the best learning kids do takes place outside the classroom, and summer is a great time to focus on broadening horizons and acquiring new skills.
Here are ten of our favorite ways to do that.
As homeschoolers, we’ve let many of these things count as elective hours on our students’ high school transcripts (and some of these activities have even earned them college credit, as well).
Even if you don’t homeschool, devoting time to activities such as these will help round out your children’s education and make their college applications more competitive.
- Work Experience
My kids have had lots of jobs over the years: walking dogs, waiting tables, house sitting, working in retail. Most of those jobs were great for earning extra spending money, but weren’t really anything I could use on their transcript. However, a couple of my boys worked as lifeguards for a few summers, which required them to get certified in water safety, CPR, etc. It was pretty intense training, followed by several months of lifeguarding, so I gave each son a semester’s PE credit for that training.
- Volunteer Work
One year one of my daughters volunteered at the library all summer. She planned and led a weekly story time for the children, helped coordinate a summer reading program complete with logs and prizes, and learned all about the Dewey decimal system. The experience was certainly worth a semester’s credit in library sciences.
Another son spent three summers volunteering at the hospital. He helped with the housekeeping staff, ran messages from one wing to the other, shadowed the ER docs, observed surgeries, comforted anxious patients, and pitched in everywhere else he was needed, so I gave him a semester’s credit in Health Science.
- Hobbies and Interests
One of my daughters is wanting to learn to sew this summer. I have about forty years experience and several sewing projects that need finishing, so I’ll teach her the basics, have her sew a skirt, some potholders, and some new bed linens, then give her a semester’s credit in Home Economics once she completes those tasks.
My other daughter is very interested in photography. Unfortunately, she already knows more than Mom does on that topic, so to help her develop her skills further, I invested in a photography class through Craftsy. She and a friend are going through it together this summer.
- Home Improvement Projects
Depending on the size of the project and the time it takes to complete, home and garden chores can earn your kids extra credit, too. Several summers ago, we tackled a huge landscaping project which entailed renting a front-end loader and a tiller, prepping over an acre of ground, putting in a dozen new flowerbeds, and laying 42 pallets of grass. All the kids pitched in to help, but one of our boys ended up doing the lion’s share of the work, including putting in three stone patios and a raised vegetable garden, almost single-handedly. We paid him for his labors, but I also gave him a semester’s credit in “Landscape Construction and Design.”
We know other homeschooling families who’ve built their own homes and taught their kids all sorts of practical things about plumbing, wiring, and framing in the process. That would certainly deserve school credit, as well.
- CLEP Tests
Sometimes my kids will independently tackle a subject we’ve not covered in school — like Psychology or MacroEconomics — and learn it thoroughly enough to pass a CLEP exam on the material. Doing so earns them college credit for that course, so I grant them high school credit, as well. For more information on earning credit by examination, check out this post: Getting a Head Start on College
- Music Lessons
Lots of kids take music lessons of some sort or another: piano, guitar, voice, violin. These lessons often take place outside of school and are not factored into the student’s transcript, no matter how many years they’ve devoted to study. If you homeschool, don’t let all that work go to waste. Count it on your child’s transcript!
Club sports fall into the same category. Lots of kids spend hours and hours every week practicing and competing in soccer, baseball, gymnastics, basketball, or some other sport not associated with their school. Homeschoolers have the unique opportunity to let those hours count, too, by awarding PE credit for each sport played.
- Life Skills
One of my girls set a goal this year of cooking through Ree Drummond’s entire Year of Holidays Cookbook. She’s already spent hours and hours in the kitchen learning to make some really amazing new dishes — and the year’s only half over. My daughter doesn’t know it, but once she accomplishes the goal, I’m planning to give her a semester’s credit in home economics. She already knows her way around the kitchen a lot better than I did when I married!
Another life skill most teens will acquire some time during high school is learning how to drive. Whether you teach your child yourself or pay somebody else to do it, it should certainly go on her transcript. We’re in the process of teaching our 7th child to drive right now. We’ve used different programs throughout. Four of them used Driver’s Ed in a Box, but the CD set we bought many years ago has now been updated and is only available online, meaning you must pay individually for each successive student. So we opted to go with the I Drive Safely course this time around, as it was substantially less expensive. We’ve liked it, but it requires quite a bit of writing — not a problem for our girls, but I don’t think their younger brothers are going to be thrilled about that when it’s there turn, so I may be looking for something else in a few more years.
I probably wouldn’t count a family trip to Disney World as particularly “educational,” but there are plenty of ways to turn travel into learning opportunities. Several years ago, our family spent a month backpacking Europe, but we spent three months before the trip learning German, Italian, and French, so we’d be able to communicate once we got there. Those children who were in high school at the time got credit for those language studies, a semester’s introduction for each.
We’ve also taken extended historical tours of the East Coast to cap off Early American History Studies, and have sent children abroad for mission trips, language school, and/or educational enrichment programs. Whenever appropriate, I’ve granted high school credit for those experiences, too.
- Extra Curricular Activities
Of course, there are other kinds of extra curricular activities that might also qualify for high school credit. Our kids have taken woodworking classes, sword fighting lessons, and ballroom dance classes, to name just a few. Whenever the hours spent on such endeavors justify doing so, I’ve granted elective credit for these things, as well.
I hope that gets the wheels in your brain turning. You won’t be able to pack all ten of these suggestions into a single summer, but you can pick the two or three that appeal most to your kids and get a jump start on them in July. Where will you begin?