Ahh, summer time. It’s here at last. No more teachers, no more books, no more schedules, etc. . . . Except that this laissez faire attitude usually leads to chaos, confusion, and contention among my children and stress for my husband and I. So, when summer comes, I am ready — the hyper-preparedness is really a fete of personal preservation more than anything. And to aid in the preservation of others, I offer these five tips for sanely surviving the summer break.
Tip #1: Go outside every day, at least once.
Children need recess, even during the summer. Go outside and have a water fight, or ride bikes, play kick ball, play catch — just anything outside together. The fresh air and sunshine will help improve everyone’s stress level. The open space will help kids burn off some of their fantastic energy. And, going outside will help everyone appreciate the air conditioning better. When the noise level starts getting too high, that’s when it’s time to go outside. It’s one thing to send the children outside to play, but going out with them will build so many fun memories — without the cost of going somewhere with lots of rollercoasters and characters. Even in hot climates (we’ve lived for four years in Vegas) it’s possible to escape outside at some point during the day. A sunset barbeque, or an early morning trip to the park — these will work wonders for everyone in the family and won’t cause heat exhaustion.
Tip #2: Routine, routine, routine
Families need a routine to direct the ebb and flow of life during the day. Children need a routine so that they can understand what happens next. This lowers their anxiety levels a lot. Parents need a routine because it will help with the brain dead moments every parent experiences at some point during the day. When I talk about routine, I don’t mean a time schedule. That won’t work in the summer. Everyone’s reckoning of time gets a little wonky during the summer because of the longer days and fewer scheduled events. But, a routine can still be in place and give order to the day.
Our routine looks like this: First: get up, get dressed, make the bed, put away 10 things from bedroom floors. Second: eat breakfast and take care of the morning chores. Third: school time for everyone. Fourth: family together time (this is when we go outside). Fifth: lunch time, and free quiet play time. Sixth: afternoon chore time. Sixth: school — the second session. Seventh: screen time/play, dinner, outside time again. Then finally eighth: baths, read aloud, family prayer and bed time. No actual time of day is listed with this routine because it is basically the flow of the day that matters not the time of day things happen. And the routine needs to be allowed to change depending on the needs of the family. But if the routine is changing, I preview those changes with my children a couple of times before the change happens.
Tip #3: Have a quiet time of day
Every home needs a time to rest during the day. Naps would be great, but my family no longer does much napping. So, we settle for quiet play time. Approved activities include: building puzzles, reading books, coloring pictures, painting with watercolors, building with Legos, working on needlepoint (or other hand sewing projects), building wooden models, etc. The point of the quiet time is that everyone is doing something independent of everyone else in the family, and the noise level is almost zero. The quiet rests ears and minds, and the independent activities create a break from other family members — even if we are all in the same room together.
Tip #4: Keep it simple!
Just because summer is here doesn’t mean that Mom must now be an event planner and have organized activities for everyday of the break or else pandemonium will break loose. Instead, pick three or four low-key activities — like bike riding, playing in the sprinklers, playing games as a family, or a family movie night — to do. Once the family has completed those activities, pick another group. Some days may not lend themselves to an activity. Sometimes other things might come up instead. Don’t try to have everything so scheduled that the schedule of events takes over the summer — it’s just not worth it.
Tip #5: Expect the children to keep learning during the summer
The summer is when children usually forget 1/3 (or so) of what they learned in school the previous year. It’s very important that their minds are engaged in some type of learning activity every day. My husband’s a math teacher, so we’re a little hyper about our “summer school”. This year, the focus is on the Language Arts. Our fifth grader is learning how to write a chapter book. Our third grader is learning how to write paragraphs and is working on improving his spelling. Our first grader is working on writing two sentences on the same topic and is also working on improving his spelling. Our preschooler is working on letter recognition and formation and other preschool skills. But even with our homeschool preschool, and our “summer school”, we only spend 2 1/2 hours working on “school” daily. We have it broken down into a Language Arts block in the morning (lasting 1 1/2 hours) and then a STEAM exploration for everyone in the afternoon.
By including an educational component, keeping things simple, having daily quiet time, sticking to a routine, and going outside summer becomes a fun and less-stressful time for everyone in the family. What are some ways you try and control the chaos the summer break can bring? I’d love to hear about them.