We are deep in the arms of summer. We’ve been on vacation (or will be). We’ve eaten ice cream before and after meals. We’ve lazed around almost all day in pajamas. We wake up late (dare I say, at 10 am, I’m pleading for my growing mass of a twelve year old boy to “get out of bed already!”). We make chalk drawings on the driveway. We pick raspberries and cherry tomatoes straight from the vines, popping them in our mouths as we eagerly search for more (seriously, who can wait to walk all the way back to the kitchen). We bike leisurely around the lake. Basically, we are enjoying the freedom of no schedules, no school events, no sports practices, and not making lunches the night before (ok, that one is for the moms). BUT, are our children’s minds turning to MUSH?
Deep deep down, I have this fear that my children will return to school like Neanderthals, having forgotten how to read and write or even speak intelligently (except for a few short grunts and snorts). Yes, this is an outrageous fear but come on, you know what I’m talking about. So, in order to ensure that these wild children of summer will maintain some bits of working gray matter, I’ve come up with a plan to keep their little brains alert and functioning in between the lazy days of summer. Some of this plan is credited to my dear husband who put in his two cents because he has come home at the end of a long work day to see us sometimes still unshowered and in pjs.
MY GENIUS SUMMER PLAN (at least, it is to me). Utilize all or parts of said plan, as it would pertain to your schedule and lives. Keep in mind, even the greatest of plans are made to be broken.
Go to the library every week or two (depending on reading rate) and pick up fun reads as well as some from the “suggested summer reading list” provided by next year’s teacher. Luckily, there is no need to beg my kids on this point, as they are good readers and I’m usually the one dragging my feet to take them to the library after they’ve finished their stacks of books. Ideally, I would like them to read for at least an hour daily. Most of the time, they read longer and so, guiltily I say, “Uh, kids, STOP reading so much and do something else!” Whatever the case may be in your family, you should be happy if your children read thirty minutes in the morning and then thirty minutes before bedtime.
Write in a journal everyday (excluding weekends). I give them a daily subject or writing prompt and they spend up to fifteen minutes writing. By keeping the writing time short, the kids will not hem and haw at this daily task. Of course, my hope of all hopes is that they will actually enjoy this writing exercise and see it as a way to learn more about who they are, what they like and dislike, their interests as well their thoughts and feelings. Below are examples of my writing prompts:
- Five years from now, I will be…
- Invent and describe a new food.
- Write about a day you’d like to forget.
- What would you do if you were locked inside a department store overnight?
- What would you do if you woke up one morning to find yourself invisible?
- What would you do if you could travel into the future?
- What would you do if you could travel into the past?
- What would you do if all the electricity in the world just stopped?
- Three goals I have set for myself are…
Be active everyday. Walk. Run. Bike. Swim. Do cartwheels. Jumprope. Golf camp. Volleyball camp. Walk the dog. In other words, go outside. And, stay outside, please…until the street lamps come on (ha! at least this what our parents used to say to us back in the dark ages of the 1970s and 1980s).
Do something creative (could be daily or at least once a week). Journal writing does not count. Practice music or teach yourself something musical. Draw. Paint. Sew. Origami. Pottery class. Write a script and film a short movie. Make something out of the sticks you find outside (keyword: OUTSIDE). The other day my kids were OUTSIDE and they decided to make “perfume” out of rose petals and other ingredients like smashed raspberries, honey, grass, etc. It occupied them for a good hour OUTSIDE. As for the disgusting, mushy, brownish liquids in my mason jars that I found the next day…well, that’s the price we pay for “creativity,” right?
Accomplish something spiritual this summer. We’ve asked the kids to do something selfless for someone by the end of summer. The boy has decided to volunteer at SF Food Bank by packing boxes of food to be sent to those in need. The girl has chosen Furry Friends Rescue as her charity for the summer.
Chores! Chores! Chores! If you haven’t given your kids chores yet, all I can say is, “What have you been waiting for? Isn’t this why we have children in the first place, so we can one day sit on the sofa eating bon bons while they vacuum and fold laundry?” But seriously, kids can do chores. Start them out young. Mine have graduated to emptying trashes and the dishwasher daily. The girl takes care of what goes in the dog and the boy cleans up what comes out. They put away their laundry. They clean their rooms. They vacuum. They wash windows. They make their own breakfast (the girl is an expert pancake maker and the boy makes some killer eggs). This summer, my goal is to introduce dishwashing and doing their own laundry. Oh yes…my leisurely life is almost complete! Bwah-ha-ha (cue in evil laugh)! Whatever little jobs you give them around the house, they will benefit tenfold by being responsible and contributing family members.
Find a way to give your children independence (from you). At the beginning of summer, we asked the kiddos what they would like to accomplish on their own by the end of summer. On their list is to bike to the neighborhood IHOP, eat and pay for breakfast on their own without parents. A couple weeks ago, they were able to check this one off their list. When they came home from breakfast, I asked them, “How much did you tip the server?” They quickly gave each other an “OMG” look and said quietly, “We forgot!” I sensed a “teaching moment” and asked them, “Well, what do you think is the right thing to do?” Immediately, they uttered in unison, “We’ll bike back and give her the tip!” And so they did. Gosh, this just made me inexplicably and crushingly proud. Henceforth, I give them tasks a few times per week so they can ride their bikes to the store and pick up and ingredient or two.
Of course, summer should be full of fun, freedom, silliness, and flip flops. It can also be an opportunity for “out of the classroom” learning. And yes, it is a day to day tune-up process so these wildlings will not return to school in the autumn sounding and acting like Neanderthals. Happy summer everyone!