Do you need help creating a Summer Schedule?
by Kristen Burden
I strolled into summer last June all dreamy eyed and blissful. I could hardly wait for lazy days spent curled up in a hammock, feeling the lake breeze blow across my tan skin — kids snuggled at my feet, their noses in a Newberry Award Winning classic. The cabinets were stocked with sunscreen and fresh Crayolas, and we were committed to absolutely nothing. I had visions of lemonade stands, Lego towers, and lightening bugs. Summer was going to be divine.
Then reality set in.
By day four, I’d heard “when is lunch” about 22 times. Those new crayons hit the floor and most of them snapped in half (triggering tears from the 4-year old who knocked the box off the table). Between the constant “can I watch a cartoon?” and “do I have to make my bed?”, I was ready to sign them up for every camp in town by the end of week one. Frustrated and frazzled, I had taken on the kind of attitude that I didn’t want to rub off on anyone — much less my kids — and I was desperate for a solution that would help me make the most of these summer months with my four kids (then age 8 and under).
Something had to change.
Thankfully I have a handful of very wise friends — women with older kids (so they’ve weathered these years) and patience galore (which they swear is an acquired skill, not an innate trait — which gives me hope). I picked up the phone and dialed the number of a trusted friend, hopeful that she’d offer to Email me her tried & true list of 200 things to do with kids during the summer months. I sat at my kitchen table, phone to my ear and a sharpened pencil in hand, eager to hear what she had to say about how to manage these monkeys with joy from now until the end August.
As I had hoped, she had a solution, but it wasn’t one that I expected to hear.”Make a daily schedule.”
WAS SHE KIDDING? I had just sworn off alarm clocks and bought a few new pairs of cozy PJ’s. Summer is made for lounging, right? Besides, I wanted my kids to be free — free to explore their world, learning to manage boredom and find their own fun from sunup to sundown without adult direction. To climb trees and shoot baskets and blow bubbles all day. Schedules were for the school year, right?
But then I felt that pang of desperation in my stomach, reminding me that my vision for summertime bliss hadn’t exactly come to fruition so far. I decided to give the schedule thing a fair shot. She elaborated on the things she could remember doing with her kids when they were younger. Their days seemed fun and balanced, but I was still skeptical; every hour was accounted for and it looked more like a busy businessman’s calendar than summer vacation to me. Nevertheless, I was willing. Within 15 minutes we had created a working draft of my family’s summer schedule.
Now before you draft a letter to the editor telling her I’m a drill sergeant who is creating little Type-A monsters, here are the things you need to know!
- I write the schedule with the kids’ help. We start by brainstorming all the things we need and want to do each day, then agree on a time slot for each item. Last time we had a large storm, our seamless guttering was all over the yard. We had to locate our warranty to get it replaced, but it was as good as new after.
- The times are 100% fluid. They’re just a rough guideline.
- The schedule is null & void if we go on vacation.
- The schedule is posted on the fridge so they can all look at it whenever they need to.
- I see summer as a hugely wonderful time of year to teach my kids the skills and habits that are too tedious to teach them during the school year, so the schedule incorporates time for this. Think home maintenance, basic housework, exploring the arts, and honing in on academic skills that need fine-tuning based on year-end report cards.
- We keep a summer journal to keep writing skills sharp (we write and illustrate between 2 sentences and 2 paragraphs per day, depending on the child’s age and ability, using a composition book).
- We do workbooks and journals right after breakfast, when everyone is well-rested and cheerful. Try the Lollipop Logic series if you’re looking for a workbook beyond the typical grade-level skill books.
- Daily jobs change every week. I picked 10 basic household chores (dusting, vacuuming, laundry, etc.) because there are 10 weeks in the summer. At the beginning of each week the kids draw a chore from a jar and that’s their assignment for the week. This sort of rotation exposes them to several basic skills, something that will help them tremendously as adults. Moreover, it enables them to be active helpers in our home, which I believe fosters a sense of belonging and value.
The kids have never complained about this schedule, and I am 400 times less stressed than I was without it!