Thursday, May 30, 2013

Planning for Summer: Details #2

Ready for more thoughts about summer?  :)

So, we talked about the academic piece but what about developing needed skills and talents?  I love these open months for doing just that!

Before we go any further, just think for a minute about what your child really loves.  Consider what skills they will need in the next year?  What talents are emerging for each of your kids?  What things do they need to do or learn that YOU believe will be helpful for them?  Summer is the perfect time to work at some of these!

Here are some things we are going to do or have done in the past:

1.  Sports and Christian Camps:  Generally, each summer I like for my kids to have one structured event to help them grow athletically and one to help them grow spiritually.  We look for places that offer reasonably priced opportunities that can move our children along developmentally in these areas.  We love the sports camps offered by Trinity Christian College because they are low stress, open to all levels, very local and affordable.  Sometimes other moms ask me what they should do if their child just doesn't want to do it... really just wants to sit around for the summer... We tell our kids that sitting around for the summer is not what we want for them.  We work with them to choose things that they will enjoy but yes, some of those things WILL be active and some will be athletic.  Are all of our kids athletic?  Nope.  But running around in the sun is good for any kid and because we are the parents, we get to direct them in ways that will benefit them.  The same is true for Christian camps.  We believe strongly in the value of such experiences.  All of our kids were not ready for sleep away camps at the same age but all of our kids have experienced some sort of Christian camp.  Some of our kids eat that up!  Some do not love it.  We have offered some flexibility here but also talk with our kids about how to meet those spiritual needs if going off to a Christian camp is not a perfect fit.  As someone who came to faith in the camp environment and worked all my college summers at a Christian camp, these experiences hold a deep and firm place in my heart.  My life was transformed in ways I could not have imagined while sitting with friends at camp.  If you have not considered this for your child, I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.

Leaving for sleep-away camp for the very first time!

Soccer camp is so much fun! 

2.  Lessons:  While our summer schedule is MUCH more laid back than our school-year days, I have found that getting my kids lessons for the things that they love (or want to love) during the summer months can be really helpful.  With one of our kids, we began piano lessons during the summer months with hopes that he would so love playing piano that he would want to continue.  That plan totally worked!  On the flip side, another of my boys took guitar lessons during the summer and while he enjoyed it, he found that there was little time during the school year to continue this skill.  Both of these responses were fine with my husband and I and we did not regret encouraging the learning of a brand new skill in the midst of those summer months.  The long lazy days that are coming allow for plenty of time to try new things and practice a bit each day.  We have also done this with art, bike maintenance, drama, etc...

Cello lessons are on the docket for this summer! 

3.  Devotions:  While it may seem that this category doesn't fit well with skills and talents, this is something we want our kids to know how to do.  So, in the summer, we make a new effort to get the kids doing daily devotions and we do this together, as well.  I make a pile of devotional books available to my kids and also make a plan for what I would like to do with them.  This summer, we will structure our family devotions using this image I came across on Facebook:

My thought for this image is to focus on one of these truths each week throughout the summer.  We can even  memorize the verses together.  As parents, it is easy to overlook telling our kids how important they are, how forgiven they are, how VICTORIOUS they are, when we are racing through our busy days.  I love the thought of us focusing on this for the 10 weeks that lie before us and intentionally passing these important truths on to my children (while also reminding myself)!

4.  Volunteering/Service Work.  Each summer my kids use their skills and talents to volunteer.  One easy place to do this is through local Vacation Bible School programs.  Ever since my kids were too old to attend, they have volunteered at our home church's VBS program.  They have led groups, run the activity or craft station or served as a one-on-one helper to a child who needs a little extra help.  I love that these experiences make our kids take their eyes off of themselves and think about someone else.  This matters.  It matters that we teach our kids to do this while they are young so that when they are teens, it has already become a way of life.  Someone once told me that all teens are naturally selfish.  I have not found this to be true.  My teens are taller, more mature versions of the children they once were.  And I like them.  :)  Do they have selfish moments?  Of course they do!  (Don't we all??)  But because our family and our school have both placed a strong emphasis on the value of serving others, this has become a part of their very fabric.  They KNOW it is important.  Summer offers us the perfect time to find opportunities for our kids to do just that.  Need ideas?  What is your child good at?  Can they teach that skill to a younger child?  My older boys help out with a local soccer camp where they teach younger kids to play soccer.  My younger kids help in the nursery at church.  These experiences are valuable and help to direct our kids toward a life that does not place them in the middle... but instead teaches them to live side-by-side, in community, with those all around them.  It gives them a greater purpose in this life... and it turns out, its pretty fun.  :)

Last year, my older boys volunteered at VBS while my younger kids attended. 

Getting some ideas?  Think about the months ahead as a time when you can direct or redirect your kids in enjoyable experiences that we might otherwise not be able to add to our already busy days.  Dream a little bit... and talk to your kids!

The other night, rather out of the blue, my 10 year old Josiah asked if he could please create himself a web page.  As it turns out, he had been reading about how to do that, had already compared several ways to create a website and had formed an opinion about which programs and methods he would like to try.  I was pretty surprised.  :)  Faced with this question, I have two choices in this place... I could tell him no because I am too busy and too stressed to supervise.  I could tell him no because he is 10 and 10 year olds do not need web pages.  Or, I could dream a little.  I could wonder about why this is so interesting to him.  I could tell myself that gifts and talents present themselves in curious ways and that 10 year olds need some yeses in their days to encourage their growth and God-given interests.  I think this summer my boy will get a web page.  And maybe by next summer he will make one for you!  Who knows?  But the months ahead give room for my yes and that, I love.

So, talk to your kids and make some plans... not to FILL their days but to pour into their lives.  In the name of fun and growth, what do your kids need to learn this summer?

Blessings on your day!

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