The school year has its own challenges, but they are totally different from the challenges that parents face over the summer. Homeschooling parents have their children home anyway, but even they will face challenges over the summer due to a difference in routine and scheduling.
Summer is a time that most kids anticipate, with ideas of all kinds of free time, being lazy, doing whatever they want. However, most of the time that dissolves into boredom much too quickly and children end up asking parents for something to do – or worse, getting into trouble in an effort to amuse themselves.
In order to limit this sort of troublemaking and keep children involved and happy, there are some things parents can do. Naturally, not every idea will work for every family, but every family will have something that will resonate, allowing the return of order and pleasant life.
Lazy days are well and fine but knowing what to expect can be a good way to keep children from going crazy. There should be some structure to the day, even though school is probably not a part of it (although finding a fun way to keep learning is not a bad idea, either). Have a time to get up, mealtimes, activities, and bedtime. Even if you have days when you need to readjust or skip over some activities, having a base routine in place will help to keep things running smoothly.
This one is probably easier said than done but reducing stress in your own life and in the life of your family is beneficial to everyone involved. When mom or dad is stressed, the children pick that up and become stressed themselves. It will cause most kids to act out, picking on siblings and bickering. The parents generally set the mood in the house. If they are calm and relaxed, chances are high that the kids will be, too.
Try something new
Summer is a great time to check out something that has been on the back burner for a long time. If a child has shown an interest in something, summer is usually a great time to give it a try. Some possibilities include painting or other art, writing, horseback riding, swimming, even just throwing a ball or learning a new game. Kids like it even better when mom or dad are interested enough to join in and learn something new at the same time.
Screens have become a part of life earlier than ever, with even infants having screens put in front of them to keep them amused. Most games, movies, and videos become time-suckers that just take up time without providing any real value. Limiting kids’ time on technology can help to boost their creativity in other areas of life. It can also then be used as a reward for accomplishments or behavior goals.
Reading boosts the brain and feeds the imagination. Much better than mindless video game playing or video watching, reading helps children to learn to love reading, which will serve them well in every area of life. Time flies by when reading and the fuel that reading gives to the brain will keep it going for much longer than you might think. If you do not have a lot of books at home, make use of your local library. Even a small library usually has hundreds of books that will kindle a child’s imagination and take them to places they have never been before.
Making memories does not have to mean going to Disneyland (but if you can afford it, you know the children would love it)! Even if you live on a strict budget, there are things your family can do together that will make memories to bring up at family gatherings for years to come.
Planning to do one memory-making activity a week is a good start. Get (or print) a calendar for the summer months and gather the family to discuss what they would love to do. Start by naming any limiters (no overnights in hotels, for example, or total cost limit for the family must be under a certain amount) so everyone knows what the guidelines are, then brainstorm.
Some possibilities include, but are definitely not limited to:
- Sports weekends (badminton, volleyball, kickball, frisbee, bocce, or croquet), where you have a tournament, invite friends and family, and have a cookout.
- Water party – include a dunk tank, sprinkler run, water balloons, slip ‘n’ slide, and similar water games. Have a snack of watermelon.
- Do a bike hike. Find a new trail and bike together. If you do not already have bikes for everyone, it is often possible to rent bicycles.
- Camping is a great summer activity, especially if you can get a camping spot by a river or a lake. There is nothing quite so memory-making as primitive camping – a good campfire, s’mores, singing, telling stories, swimming in the nearby water, and no bathrooms! It is a whole new world.
- Almost any water activity – such as whitewater rafting, tubing, canoeing – is a great summer activity. Most rivers have somewhere upstream that will rent canoes or rafts for a reasonable amount, and many have guided tours, if desired.
- Picnics, either at a park or at the beach, can be a great way to spend family time. Be sure to have insect repellent if you are out after dark.
- Catch a sunrise, with coffee and donuts for all. It may not be easy to get up that early, but it is sure to be worth it!
Discuss all the things you and your family have done in the past, read about in books, seen on videos or television, and use the calendar to plan out what to do when. If some of the things have costs associated, you may want to spread those out so they are not too big a drain on your finances.
Archive your memories
Whatever you do during the summer, take a lot of pictures. Whether you use phone cameras or a standalone, classic type camera, be sure to document everything. Then make it into an album. This can be done after each activity, just updating one thing at a time, and watching the album grow, or it can all be saved up and put together at the end of the summer. It is a good idea to take a few minutes to write down things like what everyone liked best about each activity within a few days, while they are still fresh in each one’s mind, but otherwise, scrapbooking them later is no problem. If you are not into scrapbooking, online digital photobooks allow you to include text and are another great way to preserve the memories you make for future generations, and most can be ordered as print books, as well.