Sunday, May 26, 2013

It's Summertime!!!

It is completely unbelievable to me that the school year has ended.  I fully expect to wake up tomorrow and begin our regular morning routine, sending Chad out the door to the bus. Truthfully, I welcome summer, as I really feel like I get my children back.  Yes, it comes with a price-all the fighting and the "I'm bored, what can I do" and of course, but it also comes with the fun, relaxing days, the snow cone sales, the picnics and hikes, and most of all . . . the memories. 
 Tyler finished up preschool with a field trip to Pizza Pie Cafe' and a program/graduation.  He had a good year but he is so excited to "never have to go back to preschool again. ever." because he is heading off to kindergarten next year.  (Wow!  That's hard to believe too!)
We upped the anti on our 'Welcome to Summer' sign this year.  Usually, it is just a small sign on the front door, but my kids have come to expect a sign when they come home on the last day of school, and this year, I thought I'd welcome summer to the whole neighborhood. 

The real question that always comes as summer approaches is what are we going to do to create memories?  I have great memories of my childhood summers, playing on the slip n' slide (which was really just big, black plastic with a hose set on one end), making wet body prints on the hot cement after running through the sprinklers, playing endlessly with friends and of course, camping.  But it seems that my kids could simply fill their entire summer with screen time if I let them.  And so . . .we create a summer plan.  It has evolved each year, and we take what works and improve upon what does not, but I'm excited to share a little of what we have in store this year.  Mostly just the plan for now, but I'll be sure to post as we are creating memories all throughout the summer.  So . . . here is what I have set up to create a little structure for our summer.

First, in years past, we have given a theme to each day of the week.  For example, Monday was called "My Craft Monday" where we did a craft each week.  We made summer shirts, painted rocks, etc.  We had "Wet Wednesday" and "Field Trip Friday" and one year is was "Friend Friday".  Last year, I tried to create more flexibility with our schedule and it seemed that what happened instead was we never got around to doing anything.  Probably, the "Summer Plan" is as much for me to keep on top of things as much as it is for my kids to know what to look forward to.  This year, I gave up the creative names for each day.  Instead, I chose 5 themes I'd like to do each week, and I printed them out and laminated them.  Now, instead of each day each week being the same theme, we'll (me and the kids) sit down together before the start of each week or even two weeks and we'll place the themes on our calendar that hangs on the fridge. 
 This is our family calendar.  We try to put everything that is happening up on here.  The tags, stuck on the side of the frame, can be placed inside each square to tell us what theme is coming up next.  We'll do this a week or two at a time.  Then of course, we'll have to plan our field trips and what we want to do to get wet on "Make a Splash!" day, but we've started a "Summer Bucket List" for these so that every time we come up with a fun place to go or a great movie we want to see for "Movie Day", we just add it to the list so we have ideas to pull from when we are planning. 
Here's a closer look.  The boys helped me by suggesting what they'd like to do, and we collaborated to come up with these five.  I also created a list of "Boredom Busting Ideas" that the boys can go to whenever they don't know what to do.  It has things like: play a game (Clue, Candyland, Dominion), build with Legos (use the Lego app for new ideas), set up a Kool-aid stand, fly a kite, blow bubbles, etc.  I tried to think outside the box and I got nearly a whole page that we can add to when we think of things.  I am going to try to still limit our screen time to 1 hour per kid each day, so having other ideas of what to do when we're not busy is a must. 

I think summer is a great time to strengthen or create routines as well, so we are planning to strengthen ours.  My boys will have to be up each day before Dave leaves for work to be at family scripture study.  Then, before they can play with friends or have any screen time, they need to make their bed and do a quick clean of their room, get ready for the day, and choose one job that mom says needs to be done.  My kids are getting pretty good at household jobs like cleaning the bathroom and dusting and unloading the dishes, so I imagine the one job daily will keep things in pretty good order. 

In the past, I've set up a "Summer Store" where my boys can earn tickets by helping out and buy treasures from the store throughout the summer.  We're still going to have a store this year, but the way we earn tickets will be different.  I'll offer one ticket daily for each of 5 areas: Order ticket-clean up bedroom, make bed and do one job that mom says needs to be done, Physical ticket-move your body for at least 20 minutes (ride bike or scooter, run, play tag, dance, hike, etc.), Reading ticket-read or look at books for 30 minutes, Writing/Homework ticket-do one homework page (I got a few really fun summer homework books at a local teacher store) or write a story or write in your summer journal (I got each boy a small notebook to record what we're doing this summer), Extra ticket-keep a good attitude all day, no whining, helping others, not being bored.  The goal here was to help my kids be motivated to spend time doing lots of different kinds of things all summer, and hopefully, to lessen the whining in the process. 

Really, there are so many ways to "do summer" and there is no one right or wrong way.  I find that this summer plan helps us to have some structure, which I think kids crave after being in a structured environment at school each day.  I also find it helps us to not over spend during the summer months (there are so many fun and free things to do-check your local library, go hiking, we even have a local bowling alley that offers each child a free game of bowling each day), and it helps us to discover and try new things.  I also find that when I have a concrete plan for our family, it allows me to say "no" to other ideas that might not be a good fit for us and to not feel bad about it.  So, here goes.  We embark on our summer adventure, and I can't wait to start making memories and sharing them here. 

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