Our home school journey ended for this year last Thursday and Miss E. wrapped up preschool yesterday.
In fact, here is the standard first day/last day of school comparison picture.
See what happens when you feed children? They grow. It kindof makes my mommy heart hurt just a bit to see how old she looks on the right.
As school is finished we now enter that glorious time known as summer.
Also known to suburban moms everywhere as “Project: Keep-my-children-entertained-so-they-do-not-drive-me-bananas“.
This year I have a new summer schedule. As the children have grown older, our summers are a bit more full. I like such “fullness” because it allows us to have things to look forward to and keeps the word “Bored” from our vocabulary. I have cooked up a whole new summer schedule that I will be blogging about soon. In the meantime I wanted to share some tips for moms for keeping their sanity during the summer months.
Make a Schedule
Remember summer as a teenager? Alarms clocks really only have to be used for Sunday morning church services. Breakfast can be eaten at 11am. Major decisions involved choosing between lying out at the pool or at the lake that day.
Yeah, those days are done.
Summers for moms can be three months of one test of patience after another. Although moms desire for the summer months to be relaxed, approaching this time without a schedule can lead to a disaster.
I really encourage moms to make a basic schedule for the summer day. This prevents kids sitting in front of the television all day in their PJs. It is a way to provide order and structure to the day. You may not use this every day, but it is a good place for families to start when organizing their summer.
7:30am: Get up, make bed, and get dressed for the day
8 am: Breakfast
8:30-9:00: Morning chores
9:00 -9:30: Family Reading Time
9:30 – 11:30: Summer Activity
1:00 – 2:00: Quiet time in rooms
2:00 – 3:00: Organized craft/learning activity
3:00-4:30: Outside free play
4:30- 6:00: Dinner prep, independent play, eat, clean-up
6:30-7:30: Family Down Time
7:30:Bath, books, bed
8:30: Lights Out (earlier for the littles)
Weekly Activity Schedule:
Wednesday: Service Project
Friday: Field Trip
Be careful not to over schedule…
We are fortunate in that we live in a large metropolitan area. If one desired, their child could attend various camps, lessons, and events every day of the week during the summer.
And start off school in August completely exhausted and worn-out.
Be cautious when signing kids up for summer activities. Carefully pick and choose one major thing (sleep-away camp, if age-appropriate) and perhaps two smaller things (an organized sport and a lesson of some sort). Resist the urge to sign kids up for everything. It might feel beneficial to let kids experience a whole lot in their two months of summer, but in actuality it is harmful.
Set Goals and Objectives
Have a family meeting a few weeks before summer begins and brainstorm ideas of what each member would like to do that summer. Some possible areas include:
Something they want to learn,
Something they want to eat,
Something they want to Do,
Something they want to make.
Really have fun with this brainstorming session and make a master chart. After the session is over, narrow the chart down into realistic, attainable goals/activities that the family can attempt to accomplish over the summer.
This is a great way to bond as a family during the summer. It also forces mom and dad to PLAN AHEAD when getting summer organized.
Join a Reading Program
Summer is an excellent time to get kiddos reading. I am a big proponent of families joining in reading together. When kids see parents reading or have parents read to them, they develop a love for books. Kids should read or be read to at least 30 minutes a day. Many local libraries, restaurants, and businesses have summer reading programs.
If joining a structured reading program sounds like too much to keep up with, create a family reading program. Set a goal for each family member of the number of books they hope to read during the summer months and then set a family reward for when everyone reaches their goal.
Reading chapter books together as a family is a great way to bring everyone together and share time immersed in a story. Some great chapter books that kids of all ages enjoy are: Little House on the Prairie series, Magic Tree House series, Chronicles of Narnia, My Father’s Dragon series, Hugo Cabret. Also, check out the dollar spot at Target. They carry a wide range of classic novels written in a style perfect for kids.
Take a Weekly Field Trip
Nothing can make kids (and moms) feel cranky and stir-crazy like sitting around the house. Plan a weekly field trip for each week in the summer. Personally, I like to schedule ours for Fridays. The great thing about the internet is that someone in your area has likely already comprised a list of activities that are free/cheap for families to enjoy. Just use your favorite search engine and get ready to paint the town red!
If you live in my area, here are some activities that we enjoy:
McKinney Avenue Trolley (free)
Fort Worth Botanical Gardens (free)
Farmers Market (Grapevine, Coppell,Dallas…all free)
U Pick Farms (Fall Creek Farms)
Museums (look for ½ price days, discounted rates after 5pm)
Pioneer Plaza Cattle Drive inDallas
Summer Theater (Oh Look! In Grapevine, Casa Manana)
Summer Concert Series in the park
Carve out time weekly (daily) to work on educational pursuits with your kiddos. Do not feel like you have to do something extravagant with your kiddos in order to do something educational with them during the summer. You can make it as simple as picking up some workbooks for the summer or really dive into something elaborate. The important thing is to carve out time daily to focus on academics, despite the age of the child.
Math Drills (works for all ages)
Do-it-yourself Games (color matching, sight word bean bag toss)
Published curriculum: Five in a Row
Investigate a subject and make a lap book
Have a family summer research project
Host a Kid Swap
Despite having a routine in place and a focus for the summer, we can still get a bit weary of our kids and they can get weary of us. Enter: The Kid Swap. Team up with a fellow mom and decide on a few dates during the summer when you each host a kid swap. Perhaps you take turns where one mom has all the kids while the other mom gets some free time to herself or maybe you just trade one of your kids for one of hers. When doing this be sure to establish some basic ground rules between the two families. When hosting, plan one structured activity for the kids and then allow for some free time. Keep the kid swap to less than three hours long.
Spend Time outside Every Day (and not just in the pool)
Summers are brutal here inTexasand once we continuously hit the 100 degree mark, going outside can be tough with little ones. However, growing bodies need time outdoors to run and play. They need time to explore nature. Do not let the heat deter you from taking little ones out to play. Some guidelines for getting outside everyday include:
- Get out early. Consider taking a breakfast picnic to a local park.
- Stock up on cheap outside fune: sidewalk chalk, water balloons, little race cars and army men, jump ropes
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt.
- Keep a nature journal.
- Create an obstacle course in the backyard.
- Organize a neighborhood bike club.
Keep Meals Simple
Our generation is starting to step back into the kitchen. There has been a resurgence of women wanting to cook healthy, decent meals for their families. With this resurgence brings elaborate dinner plans and long hours logged in the kitchen…not the best way to spend every late afternoon in the summer. This summer be committed to providing simple, easy meals for your family. Avoid resorting to fast food but also avoid the 10 step recipes that call for 20 different ingredients.
- Take advantage of the Farmers Market, providing simple fruits and veggies for the family to eat.
- Have a stash of snacks ready to go that are healthy and easy for little hands to grab on their own by creating a snack station.
- Teach kids how to make their own breakfast and lunch.
- Bring the family into the kitchen with you.
- Make a simple summer menu consisting of about ten recipes and simply rotate them during the summer months
Serve Someone Else
Summer break can be very kid-centric. It is based on the idea that kids are getting a “break” from the hard job of school. This is correct, but kids need to also understand that there are others living outside of their immediate circle of friends and family. I desperately want my children to understand that not everyone is living the suburban lifestyle they are so accustomed to…that the world does not begin and end with them. Take time this summer to serve others as a family.
- Random Acts of Kindness (blessing strangers with gift cards, acts of service, quarters taped to a machine)
- Find out who in your neighborhood/church/community needs help with a yard. Even young kids can help pull weeds or tote trash bags.
- Bake treats for a fire station or nursing home
- Collect school supplies during the summer for all the back-to-school drives in August
Plan this summer, take time to create some good memories with your kiddos, but also just relax. Keep it simple. Take time to enjoy the family rather than the constant hassle of creating a three month long party for your little ones.