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For a person who craves structure, the lazy, free days of summer scare me.
I know myself, and I know that the less structured my day is, the less I get done and the worse I feel. That is why this summer I developed a summer schedule for kids to better organize our days.
This is not to say that every day has to be productive, but I feel much better if, at the end of most days, I can feel like I accomplished something. Last summer was my first summer off with my children, so I am new to this whole 2+ month off thing.
I am not complaining that I have these months off, not at all. In fact, getting this time off was one of the main catalysts for switching jobs, even though it meant a pay cut.
If you are like me and need some structure to your summer, you have come to the right place.
I will share how I am handling summer planning to better structure our summer. This is a new plan, so we do not know how it will work out in the end. I’ll be sure to recap in August whether creating a simple, summer schedule was successful or not.
My oldest, Cassidy, is similar to me and craves structure. In fact, for the second summer in a row, she has asked that we have summer school. If I left it up to her, we would have a set schedule that we follow every single day down to the minute. We agree to compromise because I think some flexibility and laziness is important as well.
In the spring I started a folder titled “Summer” in our HOPE file. Anytime I saw something relevant to summer planning such as camps, classes, fun activities, summer learning or a place we might like to visit, I put the information in that folder.
In the middle of May, I had Cassidy look through the folder and pick out which places and things she would like to do this summer.
This was the start of our summer bucket list.
Next summer Amelia, who is only three now, will be old enough to give feedback as well, but we know this year she would say the pool and the park which are both automatically on the list.
Then, I pulled out all of our education materials ( i.e., activity books, math workbooks, science experiment books, cursive writing practice, flashcards, etc.) so I could review what we had and what we might need or want. There were two topics that I knew Cassidy needed more practice with this summer: telling time and money.
Luckily, with a childlike Cassidy who is eager to continue learning, it is easy to avoid the summer slide.
Every year we buy the Summer Bridge Activities book, which I highly recommend. They have them for every grade from pre-K to 8th grade and are right around the $10 price point. Whether you are home with your kids in the summer or not, you can make this book work for you and your children.
I love that the child gets to set goals at the beginning of each of the three sections and earns sticker achievements for accomplishing their goals.
Now, onto creating the summer schedule for kids:
The next thing I did was print off a blank calendar page for the three months of our summer break. You can tailor this to your needs. Our school ends May 31 so June-August is perfect for us, but if your children get out earlier in May you may want to include a calendar for May.
Once I had the dates written in, I put the non-negotiable things on our calendar. For us, this was a family reunion long weekend and our week-long vacation. We will not have a daily schedule for those days.
As a family, we talked about what activities each child could/would participate in over the summer.
We wanted to have the flexibility to do things as a family and try new things, so we limited the items they could choose. Plus, money is an important factor. We are still paying down our debt snowball and therefore expensive camps every week would not be a good use of our money right now.
This summer, Cassidy will be taking a break from Karate class so that she can participate in softball. She has also chosen to do a weeklong theater camp and an art camp. Once softball is over, she will do swimming lessons.
Amelia will be taking swimming lessons and will go to daycare two days a week. This will allow Amelia to stay in the routine of going to daycare, which she desperately needs to make the transition back in the fall easier.
It will also give me time to get work done on Minutes with Meg without being constantly interrupted.
I then put these activities on the monthly calendar so we could have a big picture view of how our summer structure would look.
The next step in our summer planning was to set up a weekly family schedule.
The weekly schedule is a generic excel document with days of the week and times. You could use a day planner as well, but I didn’t want to spend more money, and I wanted to make sure it met my exact needs. I used a pencil for everything because I want to be able to erase and change things as needed.
Cassidy and I sat down to figure out times for learning, reading, etc.
Next I set-up the weekly calendar that everyone could see.
We did something similar last summer, but it was a little too flexible for my tastes. This year it will be a little more planned out at the beginning of each week. I chose to get a poster board laminated (cost was $10 at OfficeMax), so we could use dry erase markers on it and change it weekly.
Then just like our wall calendar, everyone had their designated colors, and we wrote out the schedule for the week. This calendar then went on display in our kitchen where everyone could see it.
Wondering what type of things will go on your summer schedule?
Well, anything you need/want to get done in a day or week. If you schedule it into your week, you are more likely to accomplish it.
Summer is an excellent time for kids to learn real-world skills. They have more time and you, if you stay at home, have more time to teach them. For instance, this summer Cassidy is going to be learning meal planning, cooking and how to do her laundry.
It is an investment of our time to teach her, but an investment that will pay off in the years to come.
Both Cassidy and Amelia will have new chores they are responsible for, and we will take the time to teach them how to do them well. I’m looking forward to this summer of learning important life skills.
Items that will be on our weekly summer schedule include:
Laundry (especially since Cassidy will be learning this)
Menu planning and grocery list making
Food prep (washing and cutting fruit)
My work time for Minutes with Meg
Cassidy time to work on summer bridge activity book (link)
Rest time (this can be quietly playing in their rooms, reading or napping-same for parents)
Other learning activities
Family Fun day
Creating the summer schedule for kids did take several hours to complete, but it was done over several weeks with the help of my family. The actual inputting of information on the calendars took about an hour.
However, if you crave structure, it is time well spent.
This way everyone in the family will know what is going on each day. And the schedule still allows for flexibility. I will have scheduled the time to get my work and projects done. Plus the girls will know that we have time for fun activities every day and week.
Two things we will do each week: visit a park or two and go to the community pool. We are appreciative of my parents who gave us a family pool pass for Christmas (yeah for experience gifts). Our park district has some great parks and A LOT of them, actually 39 in total.
We are making it our goal to visit each park, take pictures and decide which features we like about each park. I’m sure it will become a mini-scrapbook by summer’s end. This project may have to go into fall. That’s a lot of parks to visit and explore in 10 weeks.
For our family fun, field trip days, we will consult our bucket list of destinations and decide where we want to go. This will allow us to choose based on the weather, our moods, and energy levels. Due to Brian’s shift schedule, our family fun days some weeks will be on the weekend and some weeks will be in the middle of the week.
Summer planning and creating a summer structure are not for everyone and every family, but it is for us.
It allows me to have that satisfied feeling of accomplishment every day (or most days). Additionally, it lets the girls know what to expect every day, which, at least for Cassidy, is essential. As Amelia gets older, if she requires more flexibility and less scheduling we will accommodate that the best I can.