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Beating the Summer Time Blues

By Kim Kautzer

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.

Mom Time
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 door.

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.

Keeping Cool
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.

Productive Projects
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 park.

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 of action?

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.

Creative Writing
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 prose.

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 kim@writeshop.com.

Copyright 2006.
Originally appeared in Summer 2006. Used with permission.
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.
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ww.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com


 

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