I have this thing about goals. There are two sides to this coin and both are very real to me. I love the feeling that comes with having a purpose, an end in view that spurs you onward-learning and growing along the way. On the other hand, there is something to be said about guilt-free relaxing that does not carry with it the stress of an opportunity missed. I have moments where these sides balance perfectly and I feel a calm sense of forward movement. In summer, I seek that balance for my children and myself.
With three months spread out before us, the thinking through possible goals seems like a natural fit. A month or two before school gets out, I start thinking through things I would like my kids to learn. I dream about experiences I would like to share with them, places to go, things to do. I process through whatever is upcoming for them in the next school year and think of ways they might accomplish some of that over the summer. I add to that list enticing books to read and activities that will help my children connect to one another. On top of all this, I wonder about what they need to learn... what life skills might they need as they grow from children to adults. It is three long months and I like to look at that time as a gift... a chance to give them, teach them, things I know will matter for a long, long time to come.
Some of you read this blog because somewhere over the years you have heard me speak to your group or to a conference you have attended. If you have heard me speak or know my family in any way, you have heard me mention "Sticks". This is a program originally created for use in our house to increase organization, help my children internalize (age-appropriate) daily tasks, minimize parental nagging, reduce materialism, develop independence and generally help our home run in a way that is far less stressful. I had NO idea when I developed the program that it would take on a life of its own! I am now writing a book on it all that I hope to complete by next fall. I am asked to speak on "Sticks" all the time and there are now many, many people who are using the system in their own homes. "Sticks" is a big part of our summer planning and while I cannot post the whole "Sticks" system here on my blog (Who would buy the book?), I can tell you some of the things that we do everyday to help my kids find structure in the slow, relaxing days of summer.
Here are some things that we are doing-
Everyday all the kids: read for 30 minutes, play outside (at least twice), practice a sport (usually soccer or baseball), have a healthy snack, play with a sibling, do a workbook page (That commercial where the child at the pool is losing all his knowledge from the previous year haunts me!), clean after meals, assist with our big garden, feed and brush and walk our dogs, and help with simple housework.
The older boys: learn to do laundry (gotta love that!), practice an instrument and develop leadership skills by teaching a younger sibling a sport outside.
The younger kids: help haul laundry, do flashcards in reading or math, help with setting and clearing the table and learn a sport.
In a given week: all the kids memorize a memory verse from the Bible.
Over the summer: Elizabeth (5) will learn some pre-reading and reading skills, Josiah (6)will work on math skills in addition and subtraction, Benjamin (10) will fight his urge to play all instruments by ear and work on reading music and Noah (12) is working on some school lessons that will be important for him next year. All the kids will read books from the library that our school recommends. These books are found on the Caudill List and the Monarch Book List.
In addition to all this, the kids will either participate in or help run our church's VBS program and take swimming lessons for two weeks. Sometimes we can add a camp or two but VBS and swimming are things not to be missed.
It may seem like an awful lot but the truth is that our daily routine is really quite laid back. Because the kids know what they are working on and Sticks eliminates nagging, they move from activity to activity, from task to task, with little pushing from me. There is TONS of time for free play, though most of that will happen outdoors. When they come inside, Legos are a draw and the younger kids still love our old Imaginext set. They make up games, play with lots of water and interestingly all the boys have chosen to "write a book" on the computer. We watch very little tv and have not yet started video games, and so time is not spent there. We encourage "screen-free" time and for the most part, the days are full and relaxing enough that screens get pushed out without notice.
Mark and I dream of things we would love to do with our kids... most of which will not find a place in the next three months. Spending over two years with two houses and two mortgages makes many things impossible but we dream nonetheless.
We dream about:
-Camping vacations to places that we long to show our children before they are grown and gone. We would love to go to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, Yosemite. We have long since outgrown our tent and wish we could afford a pop-up that we could pull from place to place and sleep up off the ground.
-Being able to afford overnight camps and bigger summer experiences for our four kids. With camp a part of both of our backgrounds, we know how important that time can be but our goals and wishes and budget must match.
-Taking all the kids on mission trips out of the country to teach them more about their part in the Kingdom and to help them see our blessed life in fuller perspective. With friends who live in various countries, the locations would be easy to choose, the plane fare much harder to come by.
For now, we dream --but someday we will do! While we wait, the summer is full of simple pleasures and quiet moments that intertwine with the chipping away at goals and tasks and new lessons learned. The goals offer us a structure from which we hang our lazy days and for us, the fit is good.
What about you? What would you like to see your children learn over the next three months? What experiences can you offer, what lessons are important for your little ones at home? What do you want your days to look like and how might you facilitate that happening for them? It has taken many years for our family to learn and build the system that we use but this level of detail is not necessary to maximize your many summer days. Finding a few minutes to be intentional about what they will learn and do can save your sanity when the walls begin to feel like they are closing in.
It is cloudy and cold in Chicago today. After chipping away at some daily tasks, we made a big bowl of popcorn and cuddled up with blankets to watch a silly movie. Even with goals, even with structure, there is always a place for a child on my lap and the smell of popcorn on the air.
Blessings on your day!
Carvel Ice Cream: Free Junior Cone on April 27, 2017! - Stop by Carvel Ice Cream on Thursday, April 27, 2017 from 3-8pm to get a free junior soft serve cone. Limit 1 per person. Thanks, Freebies 4 Mom!
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