Summer is coming! I don’t know about you, but when the weather gets warmer, the flowers begin to bloom, and the days get longer, I find it harder and harder to stay inside and complete our chores and schoolwork. Summer promises more freedom, fun opportunities, and lots of exploration and experimentation. However, without some careful planning, summer can become a time for frayed nerves, grumpy attitudes, and frazzled family members. So, how do we make sure that our summer break is a blessing; not a disappointing burden?
Picture your summer season like a sandbox. Sandboxes can provide hours of fun and exploration. Now, consider all of the components necessary to make a sandbox useable. Obviously, sand is an important component. As well, buckets, shovels, trucks, molds, and rakes make building, tunneling, and constructing possible. However, that’s not all of the important aspects of a sandbox. Of utmost importance are the walls that hold the sand in place. Without those walls of containment, soon our playtime would be finished as all of our sand scattered and dissipated into the surrounding grass or dirt. Those walls constructing the sandbox make sure that our fun can continue, day after day.
In the same way, the walls that we construct within our summer days can provide the security necessary to make sure that our summer break is enjoyable, day after day. What are the walls of security that we must build? Although our summer days will not look as scheduled and routine as our schoolyear days, simple routines and predictable activities will help us to keep our summer days from becoming hectic and out of control, or boring and mundane with nothing accomplished at the end of the summer.
Consider what simple routines and and activities will help you to build structure into your children’s days. For us, a mid-year move, which caused our school schedule to be sabotaged, means that a daily math lesson will be part of our structure. As well, daily household chores will still need to be completed. Without those daily chores, our home would quickly become out of control, and I can tell you from experience that our children will then begin to respond with insecurity and uncharacteristic behavioral issues. A short daily time of working together to keep our home orderly goes so far in making the rest of our day enjoyable.
Summer break is a wonderful time to work on building new habits and skills. Consider some areas that you would like your children to master, then make a plan to teach those new skills or habits to your children. This isn’t the same as classroom learning and it is easy to make learning new skills fun and exciting. Whether it’s manners, hygiene, spiritual habits, or an athletic skill, summer provides the free time necessary to teach and reinforce those new lessons. Setting attainable goals and providing rewards for goals achieved will make the lessons more desirable and will keep our children pressing onward.
As a springboard for your imagination, here are some of the “Summer Lessons” that we have incorporated over the years.
1. Reading Goals: Set a goal for number of books or pages read by the end of the summer. To help your children reach this goal, set aside some quiet time each day for reading. (This quiet time serves a double purpose of allowing alone and introspective time in the midst of busy summer play.)
2. Memorization Goals: choose a portion of scripture or perhaps, an entire book of the Bible and work together to completely memorize it by summer’s end. This activity is really fun to share with other families. Have a “Recitation” evening at the end of the summer and enjoy hearing families recite their chosen scripture together. Provide refreshments and make it a fun time of celebration.
3. Cooking Goals: Allow your children to plan one complete meal each week. Help them to find recipes, make shopping lists, cook the meal, and decorate the table. Don’t worry if the foods don’t seem to go together! Another idea is to try a new dessert, or salad, or breakfast food each week.
4. Observation Goals: Buy your children individual notebooks and help them begin to observe God’s creation as they record what they see in nature. Have them take pictures, draw sketches, and write short paragraphs about what they see. Often, throughout the summer, take time to share notebook entries with the entire family.
5. Encouragement Goals: Find a way to encourage another person or family each week. Perhaps, you will write letters of encouragement, or bring a meal to help another busy family, or perform some act of service. Regardless of what you do, take the time to plan ahead and to pray for those whom you will be encouraging.
6. Academic Goals: Go easy on this one; it is summer break after all! However, spending frequent short amounts of time reviewing spelling, reading, and math skills will make the transition to fall, and the return to school, much less painful.
7. Exploration Goals: Make use of the myriad opportunities to be found in and around your town. Visit new parks and playgrounds. Try out new hiking and biking trails. Learn a new craft…enjoy a local concert…pick strawberries and make jam…the possibilities are endless.
Yes, summer is the time for more spontanaity and freedom, but we can’t allow that freedom to sabotage our children’s attitudes and actions. We help our children succeed when we provide simple parameters for their day, make sure they get adequate rest, and encourage their growth and development. With just a little planning, our summer days can be our sweetest family times ever!