Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oh What Do You Do in the Summertime?

Just after the school let out my I participated in a get-together with my neighborhood lady-friends to discuss the art of summers.

As in,  how do you do bedtime, naps, wake-up, sports, activities, reading, meals, learning, snacks, play-dates, etc. in the summer?

We all want the summer to be a magical time for our kids, There's something beautiful about the structure-less time in which can be spent exploring, discovering, and spending both quality and quantity time together as a family with limited distractions.

At the same time, I think we've all reached the point (say, oh, about a week or 2 after school lets out) in which we need some structure or we all go batty. Balance is necessary.

For instance:
We want our children to enjoy not having to be at school all day. But we want them to continue learning.

We want our children to enjoy spending their free time playing with friends and cultivating those relationships. But we also need to draw the line when too much friend-time is too much friend-time and spend some quality family time. Or just plain quiet time!

We want our children to enjoy the freedom of some responsibilities that come with summer. But we also want them to develop a good work ethic and continue doing chores while also developing talents and learning new skills.

We want our children to enjoy the long days of summer and the cooler evenings. But we want them to get enough sleep, too, without forming the habit of sleeping in. ( Excuse me a minute here, but who can I pay to teach my kids the fine art of sleeping in?! I'm only sort of kidding there.)

We want to enjoy the impromptu stops at the snow cone shack, but we also want our children nourished by nutritious meals and snacks.

I was really impressed with all the ideas these women had. I soaked it all in, read some great articles concerning the matter, let summer "happen" for another week to see what needed attention and then I tailored a plan that fit us. {I highly recommend the Power of Mom's Web site and these articles here, here, here, here and here for  sound ideas on how to make the most of your summer.}

The kids and I got together and made a list of all the different things we wanted to learn about this summer on butcher paper and hung it in the playroom. When there is a free day (usually Fridays) we delve into one of the topics. I heart Google. I heart YouTube and I heart the library. There are so many resources at our fingertips!  

I also printed my older 2 children out a chart with a list of their daily Must-Do's (a power-of-mom's idea I loved):

*Morning Routine (Am I the only one who has to remind my children to eat breakfast and get dressed in the morning? They would seriously play until noon in their jammies and then begin to whine and complain due to starvation. Sometimes playing in jammies until noon is what summer is all about. Sometimes. Having their morning routine listed on their personalized chart helps them to remember all the little things like flossing and making their bed without me having to turn into the morning nag. I appreciate that.)
*Chores (each child has a few chores they do daily in addition to 2 chores I give them depending on the state of the house and yard)
* Reading (30 minutes minimum)
*Writing (Son has to write a page in his journal or a letter or a story. Daughter writes in her composition book each day. I write on one side and she copies what I've writtne and draws pictures at the top of each page.  This has been a lot of fun.
*Physical Activity (this is easy for them, but it's cute when they recognize they are working toward something good by going out at riding their bikes and scooters for 30 minutes or swimming in the pool. They always do plenty more than just 30 minutes of physical activity, but it is nice for them to have some of their wiggles out first thing in the morning)
*Extra  (Any sort of structured activity-- like painting, building a marble run, helping with a recipe in the kitchen or playing outside with Baby. )

I explained in order for them to have a play date, or other privilege each of these things has to be done. I was pleasantly surprised how well the kids took to this. I also gave them a reading incentive. Son just earned his incentive by reading 1,000 minutes and is well on his way to his second 1,000.

There are times when we get a little lax with the chart and sometimes often times, yes, we do fun things before all this other stuff is done. But this provides a routine and guideline, while being flexible to our days when we have other things planned.  I've appreciated having a reference point so Son and Daughter know exactly what to expect each day rather than waking up and wondering what they are going to do. There's always room for improvement and tweaking though and I could stand to be a little more consistent on some things, but over all, I've been really happy with this plan.

What thoughts do you have for making the most of summer?

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