“The summer is coming and I am dreading it! I feel like I am just trying to keep my kids from killing each other! What do you do with your kids during the summer?”
I’ll be honest- I am so over school. I am ready for summer. However, ask me this again in three weeks, and I may have a different answer. My kids love each other, and they get along for the most part, but after multiple days of being together they can get a little snippy, a little impatient, and tempers start flaring. I don’t know about you, but in the beginning of summer, it seems like it will last for so long, and then all of a sudden it is August and it’s time to buy backpacks and go school supply shopping, which if you’ve read my blog for a while, you know school supply shopping is my most favorite thing EVER.
I feel like many moms struggle with going to the extremes of either scheduling every minute of the days to prevent boredom and create memories (more on that later), or we get overwhelmed and discouraged and so we don’t plan anything. I want to try to avoid both ends of that spectrum this summer. I want to remember that I only get 18 summers with them. I know that there will be days that I think I can’t wait for school to start again, but remembering that I only get a small window of time with them when they actually want to spend the day with me will help.
I think you have to plan- and believe me, I know that’s hard for some. I am not as much a planner, but two of my kids really need structure, plus it helps plan the finances of the summer as well. We sit down with the kids (usually during dinner) and make three main goals- a reading goal, a learning goal, and a fun goal. The reading goal is usually either a certain book or a certain number of pages. Josiah has set a goal for 2,000 pages this summer, and his reward for reaching the goal is a special date with Wes and me to Six Flags. Selah has set a goal of 500 pages with the same reward. Malachi’s reading goal is the same as his learning goal. The kids pick one skill or subject they would like to learn about or to do for the summer. Josiah has chosen to learn to play the piano. Selah has chosen to learn to play the guitar, and Malachi wants to learn to read. Later, we will set smaller weekly goals and steps to work towards those goals. (side note- you might be thinking about the cost of teachers for these- but truthfully, you can learn many skills through youtube videos or bartering with another friend. Don’t automatically say no because you don’t feel like you can pay for lessons!) The third goal is this- we ask the kids, “What is the one thing you really want to do by the time summer is over?” Yes, you may have to reign in this goal, or you may have to encourage them to look outside the box. You want something in between “go swimming” and “go to Disneyworld”. Help them choose unique but realistic goals. If your child says they will read 10,000 pages and learn to sew a whole wardrobe, you may find a disappointed and discouraged child at the end of the summer. By the way, Wes and I set these same goals as well.
Along with this, I try to break the summer down into several categories-
Physical- no doubt about it, our kids need to be outside and moving their bodies. However, I live in Texas, and soon it will be 158 degrees by 8:00am. So, one of the things I am going to try to do is go for a walk with the kids early in the morning. Just grab some shoes and a zip lock bag of cheerios and take a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood. Doing this in the cool of the morning will wake their brain and their body up, and it helps keep us from starting the day with television, which is a big temptation for us. If we miss it and want to play in the day, I think those misting fans that you can wear around your neck are great for kids. I also plan on letting my bigger kids have some scrap wood and hammer and nails and letting them decide what they would like to build. Yep, we are going to have some bruised fingers. Let it go, Mama. They won’t die and it’s good for them to feel like they can actually build something. Another thing that we will do to help with physical exertion is letting them serve others with lawn care and gardening. This will hopefully help with the financial piece as well.
Mental- along with reading, I buy a few workbooks both in the current grade and next grade up and pull them out at random times, to keep skills up and hopefully prepare for the next year. I allow my oldest to help his sister with these, because he likes to teach and
I hate math she likes to learn. I will also choose a few books that are a little challenging for them, and ask them to answer some comprehension questions after each chapter(right now Josiah and Selah are both reading Harry Potter, and Selah is about to start on The Secret Garden, and Josiah has Oliver Twist waiting). I will likely pull out a few fun science experiments (especially for those REALLY hot days), and choose a few books or videos on historic events (with similar comprehension questions). Look, for me, the summer is made for fun and relaxing- not homeschooling, so I keep this light and easy. My goal isn’t that they are learning a lot, it’s that they are continuing to learn HOW to learn.
Emotional- I have a goal (that I don’t share with the kids) on a certain character trait or sin pattern that I want to spend some intentional time on this summer. So I will purposefully set up scenarios where they can practice that issue. I will purposefully ask them to playact with me those scenarios so they can practice good and bad choices. For example, I have one child who struggles with complaining, so I will be giving this child lots of opportunities to serve others to practice doing it without complaining. There will be consequences for complaining and lots of rewards for serving with a thankful and generous heart. Also, another aspect of the emotional category is that I want to take a very honest look at my relationship with each of my kids and make a note of patterns of communication, interaction, etc that I want to work on. I have one child that I find myself saying no to more often that I need to, and this has caused some hurt between the two of us. This doesn’t mean that I am calling this the summer of yes, but it does mean that I have work to do to improve our relationship. (Mamas of older kids- include your child in this process. Ask your child about your relationship with them and for their ideas on how to improve it- you might be really surprised at their answers).
Spiritual– Mamas, please. Please do not set yourself up to be frustrated by deciding that every day before breakfast you are going to sit down with your children and have a 30 minute devotional. I’m not saying we don’t have formal times of reading the Word and praying together, but I promise you will enjoy this much more if you are teaching and instructing as the day unfolds. Look for opportunities to teach along with the things your child is doing. Look for times to stop and pray for your child and with your child. When the inevitable summer fighting happens, take the opportunity to let your child practice praying for your enemy. When you go to the zoo, talk about Genesis in the car. When you go swimming, talk about the provision of water (and talk about places in the world without clean water- pray for those people). When you barbecue out, ask your children to pray while you cook for those who are hungry. Ask them for ideas of ways they can serve this summer. Choose to bake cookies with your kids and deliver them to your neighbors. Don’t just talk about Jesus, let your kids be His hands and feet with you. Let your child choose a friend each week to intentionally pray for. Have them write down things about God they are confused about, and then research the answer together. Choose some scripture and have a contest with prizes for memorizing it AND being able to explain what it means and how it applies to us today.
There are going to be days when these things fall into place and you have wonderful days with your kids and then there will be days when you allow television and video games because you just need a break. Both of those days are okay. The goal isn’t perfectionism, it’s to grow followers of Christ, so take a deep breath and give yourself grace.
What are your plans for the summer? What tips do you have to survive with the kids?
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