Summertime … and the livin’ is easy.”
When George Gershwin penned those
memorable lyrics, he pictured warm, languid days, fish jumping so high they
fairly begged to be caught, and plump bolls of cotton bursting like popcorn in
rich brown fields.
He never gave a thought to the
homeschooling mother of five whose 2-year-old keeps standing in the toilet and
whose dog just plowed through the newly repaired screen door. The only thing
jumping at her house is the frog the 8-year-old let loose in his bedroom.
There’s a month of schoolwork left but only a week in which to do it, because
Mom has finally announced, “I don’t care what the teacher’s guide says—on June
14, we’re DONE.” She’s looking for a break, and summertime shimmers on the
horizon like an alluring mirage.
Even if you homeschool year-round,
everybody’s happy when Mom declares time off. Whether just for a week or till
the September leaves start turning, a well-deserved vacation gives everyone a
chance to regroup, at least for a little while.
As you cut up the first ripe watermelon of
summer and look forward to a bit of a breather, do enjoy that juicy— albeit
temporary—slice of paradise. It won’t be long before the chanting of the summer
mantra begins: “Mom, there’s nothing to do!” So when boredom rears its lazy
head and tempers rise along with the thermometer, it’s wise to have a strategy
to keep the kids happy and maintain harmony in your home.
It’s easy to plan away the summer, filling the days with activities for your
restless kids. Just remember: If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Grammar
issues aside, there’s a mountain of truth in those seven words. Refill your own
empty cup so you have plenty to pour over your family when school starts up again.
Read a book. Who has time to read for
pleasure during the year? Don’t let summer slip away without a satisfying novel
under your belt. Stretch a hammock between two shady trees some lazy afternoon
and indulge in a selection from your “I’ll read it someday” list. And just in
case it should cross your mind, curriculum does not count!
Ask your husband or a trusted friend to
occupy the children so you can go for a walk, work uninterrupted on a project,
or take a needed nap. Or get away for a little while. Don’t even think about
getting the dog groomed or dropping off the dry cleaning. I’m talking about
refreshment! Bible in tow, enjoy a quiet time at the park. Browse a nearby book
or fabric store. Window shop. Meet your sister for coffee.
For many women, a 30-minute retreat to the
tub can multiply into hours of patient parenting later on. Grab a bath pillow,
some fragrant salts, a glass of iced tea, and a favorite magazine or devotional
and get lost among the bubbles. Whatever you do, don’t forget to post a “Do Not
Disturb Under Penalty of Death” sign.
Ignore the notes the kids slip under the
And those little peanut butter- covered
fingers wiggling under the crack? Ignore them too.
Outings and Activities
Why not turn your house into a cool refuge by playing board games or listening
to books on tape as you sprawl out on the living room floor with the fan
blowing? Set aside Wednesday afternoons for renting videos and whipping up
chocolate milkshakes. Chairs, card tables, and sheets make a great fort. Build your
fortress and enjoy a picnic under the dining room table.
Exercise is another great way to fill time
productively. Kick a soccer ball around the yard, or hop on bikes or roller
blades. Sign everyone up for a sports workshop or swimming lessons. Explore a
nearby creek or hiking trail or simply traipse around the neighborhood.
Homeschool moms are pros at sniffing out
good field trips … but why limit them to the school year? Fit in some outings
to the zoo, beach, or city. Take in a children’s museum or look into special
summer programs at other venues, such as a farm, botanical garden, or space
center. Contact your fire or police department to arrange a tour. Don’t plan to
go out every day, but do budget time for occasional treks to the library,
movies, community pool, or pizza place.
How do you maintain your cool when the temperature takes an upswing? At home,
pull out the hose and beat the heat by dousing your brood with a surprise
squirt. Keep in mind that kids have long memories, so you probably shouldn’t
turn your back on them anytime soon, if you get my drift.
You can bring a bit of winter to a
sweltering summer day by visiting an indoor ice rink. For a cheaper chill-and-thrill,
buy a couple of ten-pound blocks of ice and head to a grassy slope for some
“ice blocking.” Simply set a towel atop the ice block, hop on, and whoosh! Off
you go—sledding in summer!
And when you’re melting in the shade,
there’s nothing like a frosty refresher to soothe irritable dispositions. Stir
up a chilled pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade or treat everyone to frozen
delights from the ice cream man. Even better, make smoothies, homemade ice
cream, or floats.
Summer is no excuse for chaos. Most kids thrive on routine, so try to keep a
schedule. Assign regular chores, for example. Don’t let the kids sleep till
noon. And expect them to be productive. We all want our children to be servant-
hearted, right? This summer, help them discover the joy of ministry. For
starters, make decorations for a nursing home. Volunteer at VBS. As a family,
weed an elderly neighbor’s flowerbed or serve a meal at a homeless shelter or
Summer is also the perfect time to tackle
things you can’t seem to get to during the year. Paint the bedrooms. Plant a
garden. And don’t forget some structured activities too. Could you teach your
children to crochet, bake, sew, or work with wood? How about including crafts,
merit badges, 4-H projects, and yes, even schoolwork, in your summertime plan
This doesn’t mean you have to pull out the
math books. But do look for ways to keep kids on their toes with word puzzles,
skill drills, and lots of reading. A quick Google search will yield all sorts
of online skill-sharpening activities. Supervised, kids can also explore outer
space, ancient Egypt,
or a rainforest by visiting quality educational websites.
Of course, don’t forget to throw in some writing for good measure. We’re not
necessarily talking about full-blown compositions. Journals or diaries help
youngsters record their experiences, dreams, and ideas. Letters to grandparents
and missionaries bless the recipients and give practice in penmanship and
Consider other assorted writing
activities. With a little encouragement, your children can write and produce a
play or radio drama, design colorful posters, or create travel brochures for
places real or imagined.
If your school-year writing is fairly
structured, let summer include more tall tales and stories. Search the Internet
for “writing prompts” and let the fun begin!
Gather together after dinner and write
round robins: Give each person, even Dad, a different prompt and set the timer.
Every three minutes, pass papers clockwise and continue adding to the story
that’s before you. When Mom says it’s been long enough, everyone should
conclude the tale in front of him. After reading each story aloud, celebrate
your authors with a plate of brownies.
Here’s a fun idea: Keep a “Writer’s
Treasure Box” stocked with odds and ends from around the house, such as shells
or rocks; game pieces; old eyeglasses, jewelry, or accessories; magnifying
glass; newspaper; CD; scraps of luxurious and everyday fabrics; and magazine
photos of scenery and people. Let each child choose three items from the box
and begin developing a story, either written or oral, featuring those items.
When they run out of steam, they pick something new from the box and continue
spinning their tales.
Entertaining your family doesn’t have to
be elaborate or expensive. When summertime rolls around, the livin’ can be easy
if you have a plan in place. Include a bit of R and R, something wet and wild,
and a few fun family times. You’ll approach the new school year renewed,
refreshed, and ready to roll.
But while it’s here, do enjoy the season—
even if you can’t find the frog.
Kim Kautzer loves to help parents feel more confident
about teaching writing. She is the co-author of WriteShop: An Incremental
Writing Program, recently honored as one of Cathy Duffy’s 100 Top Picks for
Homeschool Curriculum. Kim and her husband, Jim, enjoy their empty nest in Alta
Loma, California, where they began homeschooling in 1989. All three of their
children are homeschool graduates. Two are married now, and the Kautzers have
been blessed with five amazing grandchildren. Email Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally appeared in Summer 2006. Used with
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.