When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for summer. Summer meant sleeping in, waking up just in time for Price Is Right, horsing down some strawberry frosted Pop-Tarts, and then heading to the pool. Ahh, those were the days.
As an adult, I absolutely love the extra time for relaxation and fun in the summer with my kids, too. I’m especially looking forward to it after homeschooling them the past few months! But, I also know that these two months off school can reap some big benefits in my children’s lives if I set a few intentions ahead of time.
Ever since my oldest child went to Kindergarten many years ago, we have used the summer months to read great books, visit new places, serve others, and just be bored. Over the course of those years, we’ve gone on many “field trips”, like u-pick farms, hiking trails, the zoo, museums, and more. We’ve served at the Food Bank, taken weekly trips to the library, and learned how to do laundry, clean bathrooms, and to vacuum (score!).
Summer 2020 is shaping up to look quite a bit different than the past, of course. But, if your kids will be at home with you or a babysitter or even by themselves, don’t let that precious time go to waste. With just a little forethought, we can intentionally help our kids grow in ways that might not be possible during the school year.
In this article, I want to share 3 simple steps you can take to prepare for summer right now. In part 2 of this article, I share 3 things to try this summer to make it more meaningful and creative.
Step 1: Get the Kids on Board
If you want to use your summer for more than just fun and sun, then you’ve got to help the kids climb on board. Here are a few one-liners and some questions I use with mine:
- “I’m so excited to have you home this summer! We are going to have a lot of fun and use these two months to learn and do some new and exciting things.”
- “What is something you’d like to learn more about this summer?”
- “If you could get better at something this summer, what would it be?”
- “My job as a parent is to help you become more independent as you’re growing up. So, this summer I want to teach you a new job around the house. What is something you’d like to learn to do on your own?”
- “Thank you for all of these ideas! Dad and I are going to think about some areas we see that you could grow in this summer, too. Then, we can set a few goals together.”
Step 2: Set a Few Goals
Next, it’s time to think through just a few goals for each child with their help. Goals will help you be intentional with your limited time in the summer. They give you a lens to discern what is the highest priority for your family as opportunities come your way. And they will help you create a schedule.
Goals don’t have to be complicated. They could just be a few small achievable goals, like read a certain book(s), learn to ride a bike, learn how to fold and put away laundry, or — for older students — study X-amount of hours per week for the ACT.
It helps me to think about my children holistically — physically, spiritually, intellectually, and socially. And my goal is to have our summer activities contribute to their growth as a whole person. So, I usually break it down into some categories.
Here is an example of our goals when my oldest was in Kindergarten and my younger two were a preschooler and toddler. I posted these on the refrigerator, so I could make sure we were working on them.
Setting goals for your kids is highly individual, so do whatever is best for your family!
Step 3: Create a Flexible Schedule
After setting a few goals, it’s time to think through your weekly and daily rhythm. I can’t stress enough how important having a regular schedule is, even in the summer. Children, especially younger ones, thrive when they know what to expect and have a regular routine. When our family has a plan for the day, everything just goes more smoothly, and I have less discipline issues crop up.
When my kids were younger, I created this visual magnetic daily schedule below. I updated and went over it each morning with them, so they knew what to expect.
Nowadays, my kids (ages 9, 11, and 13) know our daily summer routine goes like this:
- Bible Time
- Reading Time
- Free Time (without a screen)
- Screen Time: We allow the kids 1-2 hours of screen time any time after 2 p.m. It has been incredibly helpful for them (and me) to know when screen time can start and how long it goes. Then they don’t ask me about it all day.
Your family is different than mine and your schedule will look different, but this example has worked well for our crew. It takes a lot of oversight when you start a new routine, but it will become like second nature if you stick to it.
The Process is Worth It
Imagine your children spending less time on screens, helping around the house more, learning a new skill or hobby, serving others, and perhaps growing spiritually this summer. With a little preparation on your part and a plan to put into action, your kids’ extra time at home can result in exciting transformation in their lives!
Be sure to read Part 2, where I’m sharing about three things to incorporate into your summer to make it count.