It's here. Whether your child's school year has already ended or will end soon, summer has arrived. No other time of year brings such ambivalent feelings in parents. We love the warm weather, abundant sunshine, and recreation. At the same time the lack of structure, absence of extra help, and social demands of many activities weighs down caregivers like us.
Long ago our family came to realize that serious planning is the deciding factor in whether or not we will have a good summer. In this brief stretch of time, these months have held any combination of the following for us:
- Home learning of life skills (chores, cooking, etc)
- Summer School
- Vacation Bible School
- 3+ hour appointments with 2 or more specialists
- Graduation parties
- Part-time jobs
- Full-time jobs
- Work picnics
- Swim lessons
- Play dates
- Holidays with extended family
- Vacation with immediate family
We learned that we were effective at making the most of our summer months if we put things in writing. From instructions to schedules, it all has to be in writing or it only remains good intentions. The summer slips through our fingers and we foolishly create our own chaos if we don't get it on paper. Here are a few of the things that are detailed in our home when school is not in session:
- A summer schedule of activities & vacation - If there is a trip we want to make certain we make, we plan it as a family with all of us informed ahead of time. We also try to keep a daily routine, including regular bed times. This rhythm blesses our kids as much as it does us parents.
- A master calendar - Everyone's appointments, work schedules, and duties are on 1 master calendar in our kitchen. This gives us the chance to cross check and avoid double booking. It also affords the opportunity to know who you can exchange duties with when life gets too hectic.
- Chore charts - Responsibilities rotate weekly, varying from pet care to laundry, and cleaning to cooking. The only way one is excused from chores is if there is a hospital stay or someone is gone to camp that week.
- How-to instructions - A laminated copy of how to wash and dry whites, colors, and darks is clearly displayed above our laundry machines, so that each of the kids in various stages of learning can figure out how to get the job done. Simple measurement and cooking instructions are on a laminated card inside the pantry of our kitchen. While summer means that my husband and I are teaching everything from lawn care to cleaning skills, helpful reminders are even on display on the walls of our kids' rooms so that there is no excuse for not completing a task.
- A dry-erase white board - Life happens, so flexibility is essential. To keep that flexibility, a white board for notes on what's going on this week in our family is attached to our refrigerator. This keeps us all organized when details change at the last minute. This also prevents us from scheduling over something or missing something important for that week.