Why Summer Reading Matters

The school year is winding down, and everyone feels a sense of accomplishment as they close their books for the last time. Biology is done! History is over! No math until autumn! It’s time to swap pencils for pool noodles and online classes for family road trips.

Summer is here so it’s time to relax…with a good book.

“Wait!” you cry. “I just found the last novel under a pile of Junior’s dirty socks and squeezed it onto the bookshelf. It’s staying there until little Josephine needs it one day. We need a break from books.”

Of course, we all need a change of pace from time to time. That’s one of the great joys of summer. So take a few days to unwind, but then consider all the reasons that summer reading matters.


The beauty of summer reading is the freedom of choice. Pleasure reading means you choose the books that appeal to you and ditch them if you change your mind. Wander the stacks at your local library or browse through your Kindle and open any book that piques your interest.

Research shows that summer reading spurs student achievement. And the best part is you don’t have to wade through Tolstoy’s War and Peace to sharpen your mind or expand your social consciousness. As long as you enjoy what you’re reading, you reap the benefits.

Academic Benefits

“What kind of benefits?” you wonder. Well, you won’t be surprised to learn that reading outside of school brings rewards during the academic year, but you may not realize just how significant they are.

A report out of New Zealand found that students who enjoyed reading scored higher in math, reading, and problem solving. But the improvement goes beyond what a standardized test can measure.

Pleasure reading creates deep reservoirs of imagination and creativity that allow students to soar beyond basic educational goals. British author Neil Gaiman makes an excellent case that fiction reading in particular provides the fodder for literacy. After being lost in a fantasy world, we find ourselves better equipped to meet the challenges in our world. (Gaiman also makes a lovely case for honoring libraries as depositories of all good things.)

And if you want more ideas for developing independent readers, try these two simple steps.

Emotional/Health Benefits

You probably knew reading was good for students, but did you also know the advantages extend beyond grades? The same NZ report also showed that students who kept reading when requirements ended demonstrated above average scores for school engagement, close family ties, and strong friendships.

In addition, reading fiction has been shown to increase empathy, allowing for greater compassion and understanding between peers. Plus, researchers from the University of Sussex have learned that reading reduces stress , making it the perfect summer activity for kids and parents.

summer reading benefits everyone
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Together or Alone

If academics and extracurriculars have scattered your crew all year long, you may be ready for some memorable family time. Choosing a read aloud everyone will enjoy is easier than you think. You can ask your park day friends which tales they’ve adored, check with your local library for summer reading lists, or go online for great ideas from Simple Homeschool and Read-Aloud Revival.

Or maybe you’ve been a little too close since September and everyone needs some space. Let each family member read his or her pick by the pool and share the best parts during a weekly summer barbecue. It doesn’t matter how you go about it, as long as you do it.

When you read for pleasure, whether it’s immersive, intellectual, social, or work-related pleasure, you are building the foundation for academic and social success in school and in life.

Now, that’s not a bad way to spend the summer. 

3 Reasons Not to Homeschool

As a homeschooling mom of five who’s been at this gig since 2006, I have a lot of reasons to homeschool. I would never pretend, though, that there are no drawbacks. Here are some reasons not to homeschool.

Drawback #1: Your Time or Your Money

Raising five kids on ten paychecks a year (my husband is a public school math teacher) means we have to make every penny count.

I learned early on that paying someone else would save me time but would also cost me money. (Piano lessons! Packaged curriculum! Pre-shredded cheese!) If I couldn’t fit it into the budget, then I needed to do it myself.

Time is also a limited resource, so I had to look honestly at my calendar and determine how much I could realistically do and do well. Over the years, I honed my tightrope walking skills, but it was often exhausting, and there were definitely moments when I didn’t know if I’d make it to the other side.

Frequently I see new homeschoolers who want programs that are rigorous, independent, individualized, and free. They are bound to be disappointed. One program may meet some of those criteria, but nothing does it all.

Drawback #2: It’s All on You

Being responsible for my kids’ education means I have to be…well…responsible. When a kid wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, I still have to get them through their spelling lesson. When adolescent hormones strike, I bear the brunt of their unhappiness. And when my kids reach high school, I add the role of guidance counselor to my already-full plate.  

It also means continually monitoring progress. I remember relatives asking, “How do you know when they’re ready for the next grade?” The answer is there are many ways, such as looking at state standards, following a grade-level curriculum, or doing end-of-year testing. But whatever guideline I choose, it falls on me to implement it.

That constant evaluation sent me to specialists on more than one occasion: neuropsychologists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists. Sometimes that professional assessment led to interventions. Sometimes it led to reassurance that all was well. Either way they all provided useful information, but I had to seek out.

relationship strain may be a reason not to homeschool
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Drawback #3: Relationship Strain

When a parent takes on the role of home educator, it means there are few breaks. I have outsourced some classes, and my kids have extracurricular activities, but mostly we are together.

All. The. Time.

Homeschooling allows families to cultivate deep relationships, but it also adds friction when other issues bubble to the surface. (I found the strategies for conflict resolution in this book helpful.)

Sometimes it’s better to pass the educational baton to someone else and just be the parent, cheering from the sidelines rather than calling all the plays. I always believed it was okay to change paths if homeschooling stopped working for me or my kids.

Although we’ve offered each child the option of attending high school, none of them have taken us up on it, which means I’m in this for the long haul. But this only works because, in our case, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.  

3 Reasons To Homeschool

As a young public school teacher, I had no intention of homeschooling my future children. I’d had previously homeschooled students in my high school English classes and, honestly, they seemed a little dazed by life outside the home.

I would never do that to my kid. (Singular. I was only going to have one.)

Fast forward a couple decades, and here I am, a homeschooling mom of five kids. (Life’s funny, isn’t it?)

After fourteen years, I’m still discovering new benefits. The basic ones, however, remain the same. Here are three reasons to homeschool that keep me committed.  

Benefit #1: Customization

An individual approach that pursues strengths and shores up weaknesses is our homeschooling foundation. It meant one child took extra science courses while another went deep in the humanities. Some worked ahead in math, and others struggled with handwriting. One had multiple extracurriculars and another spent 20 hours a week on a single activity.

But no one followed a lockstep curriculum designed for someone else.

It was a homeschool catalog that stopped me in my anti-homeschool tracks. In addition to standard courses, there were subjects generally overlooked in public schools. (It wasn’t this one, but just look at all the options!) I realized then that I could sculpt an education to fit my unique child.

I was hooked.

balance is one of many reasons to homeschool
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Benefit #2: Balance

Customizing each child’s education also helped create a work-life balance. School was the primary focus of our days, but efficiency meant we were done early.

I ruthlessly weeded out time wasters. Already know your multiplication tables? Skip that drill. Already memorized those grammar definitions? Move to Lesson 25.

In addition, my kids never lost time to roll taking, mass evacuation drills, or distracting students who stuck safety pins through their lips (true story from my classroom days). There was plenty of time for unstructured play, joining a sports team, starting a rock band, performing with the local ballet, or just relaxing.

They also slept in during growth spurts. They learned to rearrange schedules to accommodate appointments. And they never stayed up all night to finish a project. It simply wasn’t necessary.

Benefit #3: Dedication

I cared deeply about my students when I taught at my alma mater. But when I saw 165 students each day, I couldn’t really know them.

Homeschooling means I don’t waste time every year figuring out how my students learn best. I never move midyear and leave them with a long-term substitute. I don’t let them get lost in the shuffle.

Many of us had a teacher who impacted our lives, encouraged us to try something new, or inspired us to be extraordinary. But no teacher is as dedicated to a child’s success as her parent, and that constant support is invaluable.

Of course, nothing is perfect and homeschooling is no exception. When it comes to a child’s education, it’s important to carefully weigh all the reasons to homeschool along with reasons not to homeschool. In our case, homeschooling allowed me to focus on my kids’ needs and help them become exactly who they want to be.