Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Scheduling: What To Do With Summer?

  • Routine...with sunshine?
  • Rain, rain, go away...
  • Fill the children's time - or take a break and wing it?
  • How long should summer be?
  • Hot-hot needs water play!

Summer begins in June here in Washington and most parents are probably thinking ahead to it with eager anticipation. *smile* It's tempting and common for parents to approach this glorious season with these thoughts, "It's summer!  *woo-hoo!*  Let's throw all structure to the wind and wing-it for 3 months!"  But I personally have found - over and over again - that ultimately the wing-it plan was not very much fun at all. Especially if one has a large family and the chaos is multiplied by 9.  *chuckle*  Those "wing it" summers were stressful, chaotic, and extremely frustrating because my expectations were that I would have all kinds of time to do what I would like and the child would "Just go play" (and also with mom, "Let's go play!").  This plan does not work well during the school year - and I discovered that it doesn't work well for summer either.  Even though I thought it would for many summers before finally understanding that I needed to develop some sort of plan even for summer. I sought the Lord and He helped me to find answers to these questions for our family.

Since about 2002 when I was first introduced to Steve & Teri Maxwell's book, Managers Of Their Homes, I have delighted in applying the principles of scheduling spread over our life.  Whether scheduling and proactive planning has pertained to our home routine, homeschooling, summer, vacations, potty training children, finances, chores, rotating seasonal clothing, meal planning and grocery shopping, handling simultaneously sick kids, Christmas shopping, preparing to leave the house, anything you can think of! Anything can have a plan - and the fruit of being proactive has only been the sweetest of sweet once we settled on the best plan for our family. *beam!* 

I've learned how to be the manager of our home, not the primary "do-er". A supervisor, guide, and teacher, and since I'm not the sole do-er I have time to do my role effectively. And I have been able to orchestrate our home to flow smoothly for the most part.  Of course we have our times of stress, too, but it's not a life style.  Those times are short lived, and I can see what needs to happen in order to get back in to order and enjoyment together.  When life events throw us off, or if we choose to step out of our routine for a while, we can step right back in as soon as we are able or choose to do so.  Being in a weekly routine or schedule is a sweet place to be ~ even in the summer time.


Routine...with sunshine?

Having a routine does not mean being so structured that there is no free time!  No, no, no!  It means budgeting your time like you would budget your finances; making sure you have time for all of the necessary, the important, and the fun things!  *smile*  Sound nice?  It is so nice!  *beam!*  Being proactive with your time, not just reactive; controlling your time, instead of letting your life control you.   

In our schedule I make sure I have planned a good amount of time for the children to play outside.  But the children shouldn't just play all day long for the whole summer. This is too long for them to successfully manage their relationships independently, and boredom sets in long before summer is over. They still need to participate with the functioning of the family and home - and this feels good to them. They live here and eat the food and dirty the clothes; they need to help with the responsibilities.  And really, expecting them to play outside for hours upon hours successfully (i.e. without breaking or destroying things, or hurting one another, but with obedience and good relationships - yes, this is possible *smile*) is not realistic for 3 months straight.  In my opinion and from my experience children should have a few-to-several hours each day to be running and playing freely outside - so I make sure they have that with a good plan in place to enable it.



 (...or just time to relax by yourself...*smile*)

Rain, rain, go away...

When I was first putting together our weekly schedules for the summer time I had large blocks of time marked off for playing outside.  But then when it was raining and the children did not want to play outside, I found myself inside the house with all of the children and without a plan for what to do with their time, and I thought to myself, "Oh no...now what??"  Again, the "Just go play" plan for hours was not fun for me or ultimately for them, either.  When they were all young especially, the children had not yet learned to make choices that were appropriate, and they could not manage their relationships independently for that long by themselves.  They needed some guidance in order to be successful, safe, and happy.

So I developed a strategy that has worked great for us for many years now in planning our family's weekly time for summer!  I'm pleased to share it with you.  What I do is put together a weekly routine for summer, just like I do for the rest of the year, except I combine two schedules in one - a sunny day schedule, and a rainy day schedule.  What I detail on paper is what our days will look like on rainy days inside, but I lightly shade the places of the schedule where the children will be outside if possible.  So the lightly shaded plans on our schedule would not be done if the children are outside playing, which is just fine because the activities I planned for that time are ones that we can easily skip. 

Fill the children's time - or take a break and wing it?

Children need to learn to be productive members of a family and of society, and this is the time when those habits and expectations are established with them and when they build up their skills to do so.  For our family it is also good for people to have a break from the usual regiment of life for a couple of months between school years when the sun is out and we're able to enjoy it, especially here in Washington where it is rainy and wet much of the year outside of summer.  But that does not mean the children should not be productive and learning new things and improving their life skills as well.  So we plan elective-types of things for them to do, or skills to improve or learn.  Things like Spanish, cooking and baking, a more in depth Bible study, knitting, crocheting, jewelry making, erector set constructions, map reading skills, character development curriculum, card making, baking, learning sign language, drawing, creative writing, and sewing.  

We also have our children do math through the summer which maintains their skills and knowledge.  Math is so easy to lose a lot of ground in with too long of breaks, it takes a lot of time to catch up on, and yet is easily done a little bit each morning, while it's still chilly outside, to avoid these problems.  

I have heard of more and more families, however, who are choosing to homeschool year-round with their children, and then take more frequent and longer breaks through out the school year instead.  Same amount of school days per year, but breaks through out.  We're not there personally at this point.  *smile*  Aah the blessings and freedom of homeschooling.

During the school year I make sure we are in our schedule at least 4 days of the 7-day week, so that it is the majority of our time.  We can reap the fruit, then, of that being our norm.  I found that if the kids are in a schedule only 3 days per week or less, they do not get in to a good, natural, easy habit.  I think of it as being stuck in a Monday - always starting at the beginning and never getting in to a flow.  *smile*  But in the summer we don't worry about that so much.  In the summer our time is productively occupied, but with things that can easily fluctuate to fit the summer play opportunities.  We go out in Grandpa's boat when ever there is the opportunity with him, we go for walks or to the beach, we have friends over to play in the yard, and we make strawberry lemonade and eat popsicles.  It's wonderful family time - and with a weekly schedule we're able to still maintaining a clean and orderly home. 

Also, with a summer schedule the children maintain an attitude of responsibility, productivity, and participation in the family's home and life, rather than getting in to a new habit of doing nothing.  You've probably heard it said that it takes 30 days to make or break a habit?  Well from my experience 3 months is plenty of time to get in to the habit of playing all day long instead of being responsible.  Which makes the fall season, then, really difficult not only with starting the academics of a new grade level, getting used to being inside a lot more, but also trying to get out of the play-all-day mentality and in to productivity and contribution.  If we maintain some structure through out summer, the only thing we change in the fall is switching one set of activities for another.  It's really surprisingly smooth.  

In fact, the children so enjoy being in a consistent, predictable routine during the year that they actually look forward to the fall time and getting back in to the things we enjoy during that next season.  They recognize that it feels good to be productive.  I love it.

 Beach play in Washington, on Puget Sound with Grandpa's boat...

How long should summer be?

When the children were little and we weren't in to high school grades, we chose to have the same school year as the public school kids.  So we ended school the first week of June or so, and started again the beginning of September.  But for the last few years the oldest kids have been in upper grades and therefore need to be all the more on task about completing our curriculum for the year.  Also, we had been taking necessary time off during the year for my pregnancies or for having a newborn baby (or babies!) at home.  So we were having a bit of a longer school year at that time, through June and then taking only July and August off for summer.

Having that longer school year, though, really served us well anyway because the kids can't play outside in our yard very much in June due to the amount of rain and the swampy back yard which hasn't dried out yet for the summer.  And really, two months of playing is plenty of time.  So far every year by the end of summer kids have always started saying that they're bored, and can they start doing school again?  *smile*  Although I will say that I usually get a huge Spring fever bug myself in June, craving time to get extra things done and to have a break from the academics.  *chuckle*  So, school in June isn't quite as productive as it is the rest of the year.  *wink*

Hot-hot needs water play!

Great!  *laugh!*  I'm all for water play - how fun!  And because it's not something the kids get to do all the time, water play usually occupies their time beautifully and for unusually long periods of time.  It does take much more of my own time to manage and facilitate it, though.  Everyone needs suits, and the pool set up, and pool toys, and beach towels, including one inside the sliding glass door on the hard floor to prevent wet feet from slipping and slamming kids to the floor.  I used to need to help kids dry off a tiny bit before they traipse through the carpeted family room to the bathroom (now we have hard wood floors).  I needed to remind kids that inside toys stay inside and outside toys stay outside.  Pushing someone on the swing to get them going.  Comforting kids owies when they slip, or bonk heads with someone, or get clobbered by the person swinging on the swings.  *chuckle*  I'm always surprised how much of my time it takes just to help the kids play outside!  *laugh*  But it's a good, fun day.  And we get back in to our regular plan when we're done.  But simply playing all day is the exception, not the norm; and we can afford to skip household jobs sometimes when they're done regularly the rest of the time.

Drying off and warming up in the sun - cocoon kids *smile*

Or playing with the sprinkler in the cul-de-sac...

So - we carry our scheduling blessings in to the summer months with us as well as during the school year!  There is a time for everything we've prioritized - the work gets done, we have time with the Lord, there's time for exercise and play, story times with the children, a clean home, and enough sleep - and I don't go to bed nightly feeling like I did only the urgent things, but not the important things.  We love doing life ON PURPOSE.  *smile*  I hope you've found encouragement somewhere through this glimpse in to our summer life.

I'd really love to hear about how you structure your own summer time!  What strategies or routines have you implemented that you think could really bless other large (or small) families to know about?

If you would like to have any of my charts, lists, or schedules that I've shared you can download those free from DropBox.

Blessings on your efforts this summer!

Recommended Resource:
Managers Of Their Homes, by Steve & Teri Maxwell

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