Yesterday was our last day of school work. Molly is completely done, as are the two little boys. Grace and Rusty still have a week of school left but are within an assignment or two of being done,
so yesterday we celebrated the end of another year of school and the start of summer.
The kids are now proud to call themselves:
With the end of school comes our annual family meeting about summer goals.
Many years ago we discovered the benefits of summer scheduling (more details on that in an upcoming post.) While we still enjoy the joys of lazy summer days, I have discovered that summer time is a perfect time to focus on growth areas with our children that the busy school year doesn’t allow us time for.
In the summer months we continue to do school, just on a smaller scale. Typically we do 2 hours of learning a day. We use that time to keep the basics of math and reading fresh in their minds as well as work on areas that need extra remediation. With multiple kids having an IEP because of learning disabilities or Dyslexia I have learned that taking 3 months off school completely hurts their progress too much and we pay for it come September, so we just modify our learning for the summer months.
One of the things we discuss at our annual summer planning meeting is what educational goals or what struggles they would each like to work on over the summer months and then I come up with worksheets, games, and books for them to use as “school” during the summer to meet those needs. For some kids we are going to work on cursive writing, others will be strengthening their math facts practice, and spelling and reading is a priority for others. This is also the time I will introduce some fun learning games or unit studies that I have been wanting to do with the kids that I just don’t have the time for during the school year.
After the kids all made their lists of summer learning goals we moved onto summer chores.
The kids all have daily and weekly chores they are responsible for. Some are indoor chores, some are outdoor/farm animal chores, and some are seasonal chores that only come during the summer months. My kids keep the same chores for a year and then we switch them every summer. I do this, rather than rotate them daily or weekly, for the sake of my own sanity. It is easier to know who didn’t complete their chore when it is only one person responsible rather than try to remember whose day it was to unload dishes. I also do it this way because they really learn the skills of each job if they do I for a longer period of time. Their chores are assigned based on age, skill level, and ability. The kids rotate through the chores year by year with our hope being that by the time they leave home they have learned all the home/life skills needed to live independently.
Summer is the time we switch kids from one chore to another because that is the season that I have the time to train them at their new task ,as well as the time to follow-up on each task daily to make sure they are capable and responsible and accountable for the work they did.
Summertime also allows us extra time to work on life skills that perhaps need to be taught but there is just never time to address them. From the time my kids were little I would schedule 15-30 minutes a day in their summer schedule to work on a life skill. My kids looked forward to this time because we made it fun. We were able to address issues that maybe drove me crazy (like messy clothes drawers) and turn it into a fun learning activity (like a clothes folding relay race.) During this time we taught things like:
How to properly wash our hands, telephone manners, how to address an envelope, how to call 911 in an emergency, how to clean up after yourself when you take a shower, how to cut your own nails, how to answer adults with “yes sir, yes ma’am,” how to braid hair, etc.
Many of these skills are now being retaught to our younger two who have come to us with gaps in their early years of learning these basics. I plan this time of our day by keeping a list for myself during the year of areas that I see a need more training, or skills I see my children lacking, and then use that list for “life skill time” during the summer months.
During this summer planning meeting we also ask the kids to set a few goals for themselves. We ask them to consider a physical, mental, spiritual and educational goal to work on improving over the summer months. They might pick things like “exercise for 30 minutes a day,” or “practice piano twice a day,” or “read scriptures for 20 minutes a day,”
and then we try to plan the time into their daily schedules to allow them to work on those personal goals.
And, of course, what is summer without lazy/ do nothing moments?
A portion of our day is left open for creative, independent play. Tyler calls this time “playing imagination.” During the summer months the electronics are limited and the kids are encouraged to get outside, go explore, be creative. This is their time to be kids and independently lead their own activities. They go on bike rides, pack a picnic and walk down to the pond to catch frogs, take books out to the hammocks and read, play capture the flag or run through the sprinkler. This is my time, while they are out playing, to tackle my own summer “to do” list of items that I never seem to have enough time for during the school year when I am busy home schooling 5 kids and am busy with after school activities. Summer is my time to catch up on those chores I can’t seem to find time for during the school year…
cleaning out drawers and closets, catching up on scrapbooking, filing paperwork, redecorating, refinishing furniture, etc.
Summer is the perfect time to play “catch up.”
So last night was the night we went over all our plans for summer and now I will take all my notes from our family meeting, as well as Toby’s input on things he would like to see done, and issues he would like to see addressed over the summer months, and I will make our summer schedule which we will implement beginning next Monday.
For many this may seem rigid or too structured for the freedom that comes from summer time, but for us this works well. This is our 10th year using a summer schedule and the benefits are huge. I have seen how those 12 weeks of summer can fly by in a blink of an eye. The grand plans you have in May can quickly get lost or tossed aside when August arrives and you realize that summer is almost over. By entering summer break with a plan we find that we get more from our summer months and can begin school again in September in a much better place if we follow a summer schedule.
(Plus Tyler and Ozzie need the structure and security of routine and scheduling)
It is not for everyone but it works for us. 🙂
Last night was also Family Night and part of our lesson was spent creating a “Summer Bucket List.” In addition to the goals we have set for summer, we also make a “wish list” of fun activities that would be fun to do. These are things that are out of the “norm” of everyday living. These are the extras. They are fun family activities that we don’t have time to try during the school year.
These are memory making experiences.
We gave each of the kids a piece of paper for them to list activities they would like to do over the summer months. The kids each made their list and then we went over them. Most were free, fun ideas that required little more than our time and a bit of planning. We took the favorites from everyone’s lists and added them to the bucket where we will choose a few each week to do as a family. They won’t all be chosen but the fun of the experience is the pulling a strip of paper out of the bucket and being surprised.
Some things that the kids came up with for our “Summer Bucket List” include:
Make homemade ice cream
Pick strawberries and make jam.
Sleep on the trampoline.
Go to a drive in movie.
Have a hula hoop contest.
Go swimming at Moraine Lake.
Make a chalk mural.
Take a night-time walk.
Visit the Homestead.
Fly a kite.
Read library books.
Make a homemade slip n slide.
The evening ended with ice cream sundaes…eaten out of buckets, of course!
Each of the kids got a bucket with a couple scoops of ice cream that they got to “doctor up” with a variety of toppings.
And eat with a shovel.
“Summer is messy, summer is fun.
Summer is spending all day in the sun.
Summer is campfires, s’mores, and late nights.
Summer is windy days spent flying kites.
Summer is tan lines and splashing in lakes.
Summer is mornings with chocolate pancakes.
Summer is time spent with family and friends.
Summer is hoping it never ends.”