It seems there are 2 main schools of thought on summer:
1. Let them be bored.
2. Fill the days up with good things.
At the extreme, the #1 crowd may be seen letting their kids sleep in as long as they want, playing video games until their eyes gloss over, and plan nothing for them to do. Nostalgically, these parents say, "I was allowed to be bored in the summers and those were some of my best days! They'll have plenty of time to be busy when they grow up."
At the other extreme, the #2 crowd literally rely on their calendars to keep up with all the activities they have signed their kids up for. Camps (multiple camps!), classes, lessons, vacations, day trips, summer school....all the things. "Keep 'em busy and out of trouble," they say.
Where does your family fall on summer activity? Allow me to share a little of my philosophy on summer boredom and activity and how it can all affect your school year and your family.
It may be an overused thought, but there truly are different seasons to life. When I had only preschoolers and babies, our summer looked very different than they do today. I've parented long enough to know that what works now might not work later. Things change, kids grow... and we have to adapt our plans to change along with them.
If you have younger children, I firmly believe that a little scheduling is a good thing. Kids need a framework for their days. Even if they say they don't, most children are happier knowing what's going to happen and when. I mean, maybe they don't LIKE what's going to happen, but knowing is a security. If your family operates in a way where kids can complain enough to get the parents to change the plans, then that is a whole other blog post. But if your kids understand that Mom and Dad's plans are what is going to happen, then a light schedule can be a real help.
When I had very small children, our schedule revolved around nap times. I ran errands around nap times, we did fun things around nap times and most of our fun was honestly had at home. Kiddie pools and popsicles and playing with Mommy was all that was needed. When my girls were a little bit older, say preschool to elementary age, we had a summer schedule that looked something like this:
Thursday--field trip day
I knew everyone would be tired and grumpy from the weekend on Mondays, so we did some art projects. The field trip could be anything from the zoo, to the park, or maybe a museum. Of course in the case of bad weather, we switched our days around as needed. This was displayed on the fridge and the girls knew to look ahead before bed to know what we would be doing the next day. It gave every day a purpose. Now, did they have plenty of time to get bored and use their imaginations? Yes! The scheduled activity only used up an hour or two of the day. There was still plenty of time for sleeping in (not very late at our house, but later than the school year), three meals, playtime, chores, and lots of summer relaxed fun. It worked perfectly.
This summer I have a 9 year old, a 17 year old, and a full-time working 21 year old under my roof. We don't use that same summer schedule anymore. Things change.
Finances might be a considering factor, as well. Of course it's very easy to do a quick internet search and find tons of free summer fun activities for kids. These lists are normally geared more toward the younger crowd, but there are lots of ideas out there. Our kids didn't usually attend tons of camps, lessons, and classes because that would have been really expensive. Our city had affordable kid classes at the community center and my girls enjoyed art, cooking, and other experiences through those. Often they were a one-time class or just met a few times. It wasn't a huge time commitment. If your family can afford a vacation every year that's wonderful! But that certainly won't fill up the entire summer. Budgeting for summer fun is another consideration, for sure.
TO SCHOOL OR NOT TO SCHOOL
For homeschool moms, summer can feel like the perfect time to get in some more learning and to catch up on those subject areas the kids are behind in. My husband is the one who usually has to remind me that the kids need a break. I need a break. Please don't make your whole summer about "summer school". If it's absolutely necessary, designate a small amount of time per day or perhaps few days per week to tackle that. And for sure make sure there is an ending point. Either get it all out of the way at the start of summer, or choose a few weeks in the middle. But be sure you get a break before the next year begins. You will need it to plan the next year. Everyone will need it to recharge. Beginning the new year burnt out is never a good plan. And sometimes we limp along dragging the old school year out trying to finish up those last few things. It can feel like summer never really started. I believe in starting and ending dates. Celebrate the end of the year. DECLARE it to be summer break. Then later, celebrate the start of the new year. Take a break in between.
Lastly, the reason I'm not a fan of "sleep as long as you want and watch TV all day" plan is that healthy habits seem to go out the window. What we worked so hard for during the school year can be undone quickly. No one wants the fight to get the kids up again. The fight to get back to good bedtimes. For my kids, when they get off of regular patterns of eating and sleeping, when they eat junk, when they don't get dressed at a decent hour....basically when their schedule is completely willy-nilly...attitudes fly. There is more arguing, more tears, more conflict than when everyone is on a good schedule.
For that reason, I prefer a summer schedule that is similar to normal, while being a bit more relaxed. Later bedtimes, later wake-up times, meals eaten in front of the TV sometimes...but not to the extreme. Each family will have to decide that for themselves. I know families that turn nearly nocturnal during the summer and it baffles me. It's not for our family but maybe it works for you. You could always designate at day for staying up as late as you like/sleep in once a week. Moderation!
The main goal for summer scheduling in my mind is making it more relaxed than normal (so that it truly feels like a break) while not losing all discipline that has been worked for in the school year. There is very little drama when we start back to school because we usually begin transitioning back to a school schedule gradually a few weeks before we start back.
At our house, we've been running errands all week and it's finally not going to rain so today we are going swimming. Enjoy your summer with your family however you decide to schedule it!