Summer has arrived and with the end of school comes our annual family meeting about summer goals and schedules.
Yes, I know what you are thinking.
And, yes, I can see the eye rolls through the computer screen.
But give me a moment to make an argument for summer schedules.
While our days are more regimented than most people are comfortable with…especially in the summer months…I find my family thrives and gets the most out of our summer months because of a summer schedule. For our two children that have come into our lives after a life of trauma and chaos, I find the practice of scheduling and predictability essential. Even for kids that haven’t experienced childhood trauma a schedule can be a stabilizing force. The wonderful feeling of freedom that comes from a summer free of routine and responsibility can leave some children spinning out of control.
The use of a schedule also benefits the Momma. There are less behaviors to correct and less bickering when children aren’t free falling through their day. Which is not to say we don’t enjoy the lazy, unplanned moments of summer. Part of the fun of summer comes from the opportunity to be able to be impulsive and unrestrained by the extra commitments and demands of the school year, so we work to find a balance.
Let me explain.
Many years ago we discovered the benefits of summer scheduling. While we still enjoy the fun 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. The lifting of external demands allows us to redirect our time and energy on those areas of our home that could use extra attention. This could be in the physical upkeep of our home, the spiritual upkeep of our testimonies, the emotional care of our children and our spouses, or even self care that has been pushed to the very bottom of the priority list in the midst of more pressing demands.
As we pray about how to best be a faithful steward of the extra time we are blessed with during those days of summer break, we look at a few main areas…the educational needs of the children, the care of our home, growing and developing as individuals, and the strengthening of our family.
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 stalls 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 each child would 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 will 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 homeschooling 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.
It is not for everyone but it works for us.
Last night was also Family Night so in addition to our annual summer scheduling meeting we had some fun. While surfing SugarDoodle I found a link for “human piñata.” After reading the description I knew it was a perfect kick-off for a summer of fun. I made a run to the Dollar Tree to get the supplies needed. I spent $6.00 and bought a t-shirt I could ruin and $5.00 worth of candy.
When I got home I hot glued all the treats to the shirt and hid it away until it was time to play.
The game was simple. It’s basically tag with extra motivation. 😉
You have a runner and chasers. The runner’s goal is to keep possession of the loot that is glued to their shirt and the chasers goal is to pull off candy when they get within reach of the runner, thus adding to their personal candy stash. The great thing about this family night activity is that the treat is included 🙂
It was a hit!
And a perfect kick-off for the summer ahead.
(The kids took turns being the runner. Tyler was first.)