Summer lends itself to lazy days and a carefree spirit, but I’ve discovered too much laziness sends everyone spiraling into a meltdown by about 3:00 p.m. I’m convinced there’s just something about being “off schedule” and “aimless” that leaves us all a little edgy! And while summertime means more free time and fun, it also means an opportunity to do things we can’t fit in during the busyness of the school year.
My friend Lori at Everyday Truth says this about making the most of summertime:
“Summer should have plenty of time for making memories and having fun, but it should also be a time when our kids learn the value of work and learn some new things.”
I couldn’t agree more. Yes, I want to relish in the lazy days of summer, but I only have one summer with them at this age, and I want to make the most of it! So how do we find the balance between a stressful schedule and a lazy free-for-all? Here are some ideas to get you started…
1. Start with a plan.
We start each summer by creating a “Summer Bucket List.” This is simply a list of things we want to do while school is out. It includes things like vacations, local outings, at-home projects, and new skills to learn. Everyone’s ideas are included (as long as they are within the realm of possibility!), and yes, we always end up with too much. That’s OK! At least we have a collection of all our ideas.
Then we ask each family member the most important item on the list…the thing he would choose to do above all the others. That sets our priority…we strive to accomplish at least everyone’s favorite over the course of the summer.
2. Set a routine.
Ours will be much more relaxed and move at a slower pace, but we will have a routine. We won’t wake up at the same time everyday, or be forced to rush out the door (except for scheduled events like camp or VBS). And there will be days we stay in our PJs until dinnertime (mom included!). But those days will be the exception, not the rule. We’ll enjoy plenty of movies (especially during those pop-up summer thunderstorms), but screen time will have its limits.
Our days will have a rhythm, but it will be more like a “smooth jazz” groove with a lot of improvisation, not the marching band beat that drives us through the school year.
3. Share responsibilities.
Yes, summer is a great time to kick back and relax, but unfortunately, the laundry, cleaning, shopping, and cooking don’t take a summer break! Now that everyone is home all day, every day, there are more hands to pitch in and help. That way, Mom can enjoy some summertime fun, too! So in addition to regular responsibilities (caring for themselves and their spaces) each child will be expected to pitch in to keep our home running.
If they balk at it (which they will because they’re kids), I’ll simply remind them that it’s good for them and that science backs me up! (You’re welcome. ;)) And if you need some help keeping them motivated, check out this system for summertime chores (with free printables!).
4. Stave off boredom.
The phrase, “I’m bored” is not allowed in our house, because we believe that a creative person should never be bored. And since kids have endless imaginations, they are some of the most creative people in the world! Still, even they need a little inspiration from time to time.
5. Sneak in learning. 😉
When we decided to homeschool, I discovered that learning doesn’t stop when the math books are put away. Summer is the perfect time for fun, educational activities. Here are some ways to do sneak in a some “schooling” this summer:
- Library reading program (or check out how my friend Lora at My Blessed Life created a custom plan for her family.)
- Arts & crafts projects
- Trips to museums, zoos, and nature parks
- Keep a “science” journal about your garden (what they observe, how it grows, etc.)
- Read books as a family.
- Take swim lessons (education and exercise!)
- Spend time in the kitchen (reading recipes, life skills, and math!)
- Music lessons
- Summer sports like baseball, swimming activities through the summer
- Equip your kids to face challenges in their faith through Focus on the Family’s “Agents of Truth” summertime adventure kit.
- Build character with The Button Project, a summer-long activity for elementary-age kids to discover how they can make a difference.
Summer is a time to relax and refresh, and we’ll do that with lazy mornings and long afternoons at the pool. But we’ll also take some time every day to intentionally “power down” and recharge. Now that my kids have outgrown nap time, the days can get long and the house can grow small when everyone is home all day. So I’ve borrowed an idea from our church camp and instituted a “feet off the floor” time every afternoon. Everyone spends an hour (or so, depending on the day’s plans) in his or her room doing something calm and quiet (reading a book, playing Legos, doing puzzles, sketching, listening to an audio book, etc.). No screens allowed. This gives all kids and mom a break!
It might take a little strategy to strike a balance between fun and slothfulness this summer, to find time to feed our minds and still allow plenty of lazy mornings, play dates with friends, ice cream, and swimming! But when August rolls around, I want to look back at these weeks with a sense of satisfaction, knowing we made the most of every opportunity.