Tuesday, June 12, 2012

School's Out Forever! Or At Least it Feels That Way

Did you see that old Staple's commercial where Alice Cooper is back-to-school-shopping with his kids and they're singing the wrong lyrics to the song? Awesome. And awesome that he was wearing his stage make-up at Staples. Nice. So, day one of 'school's out' my no-longer-a-spazzy-sevie was wandering the house with a catatonic expression having no clue what to do with himself. All of his friends were MIA and he knew (in his mind) that there was absolutely nothing else in this world to do but hang with the bro's. Preston on the other hand was actually out and about (and already I have no clue where he is - I'm telling you there is money to be made in child honing devices!) which rarely happens because it puts him in such a foul mood when it is time to return to home base. I figure without any homework or major pressures ("Yes Preston you are absolutely welcome to go play once your bed is made and your chores are done") a time-out for attitude will be enough to get him back on track. And actually, there is something to be said for the no-pressures part because he has been amazingly more relaxed and compliant in the last week (and I remember the first three weeks of last summer being like that as well - it only changed when his step-sister came out and something out of the ordinary always upsets the apple cart).

The question still remains - how to have a pleasant summer and keep your sanity (mom). I remember my mom being SO excited for school to start after the summer and I never understood it - like having me around 24 hours a day was the best thing that could happen in her drab life. Ahhh, now I get it as do most mother's across the globe. Here's the key: well-planned and predictable days. I've read several articles discussing the importance of keepin kid's minds active through the summer; our brain is just like our muscles in that if it isn't being exercised it does indeed atrophy. I also learned about 'entropy' the other day which summed up is essentially that everything left unchecked goes to chaos. You don't weed your garden, it goes to chaos. Atrophy and entropy are huge summer and back-to-school spoilers. Here are a few thoughts and what I have done for the last couple of summers that have actually made those three months almost enjoyable.

1. Sit down with the kids and devise a general daily schedule of chores, meal times, 'mind time' (reading or a couple pages in a workbook) free time and planned activities. Post this on the fridge for quick and easy reference. Predictability is immensely stabilizing for kids and will help alleviate the 'schock factor' of jumping back into a daily grind when school starts up again.
2. One bigger activity a week (hike, library, zoo, aviary, scavenger hunts, movie night, amusement park, water park, etc.)
3. Mind-time - I like to do this right after lunch while their food digests a minute and things can be quiet for a spell. I break it up into 20 minutes of working in a workbook and 20 minutes of personal reading. I love the summer reading programs that the local libraries do. My mom used to have me make a list of X amount of books that I was going to read that summer. She had a reward in place for when I reached my goal.
4. Planned meal times when everyone comes home to check-in and have some family time.
5. Set bed-times. Summer can be a little more easy going but I still need some time at night for myself and with my hubby. So we set a specific time and tell the kids they are welcome to be awake in their rooms but don't want to hear or see them after X as that is mine and husbandito's private time.
6. Summer groups/activities. The sevie has football and scout camps and I sign Preston up for a couple different summer programs through our local rec center. We are also working on weekly neighborhood play groups where the mom's get to chat and the kids can run and play and be crazy. Oi. And they are definitely so crazy.
7. Kids night out (they get to hang with their friends later in the evening).
8. Date night (for the parents - I've decided that this has to be mandatory every Friday night. I've let it slide in the past but no more!) Get a pizza and movie for the kids while you go out.
9. Game night. Play some active games on the Wii, play some board games and have a tasty dessert, take a walk, play in the yard, whatever. This is generally good bonding time with the family unless someone is really set on winning a game and they don't.
10. If possible, one family trip. This year we are going somewhere VERY close by but doing multiple activities and actually researching the history of the area and seeing some older sites. It can be fun to pretend you have never been there before and really learn about it and pretend to be a tourist. We'll actually be doing that in the area we live in right now too.

I'd love to hear what you other parents have done to keep summer fun, healthy, affordable and very doable!

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