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5 Summer Ideas to Keep Kids Busy

5 Summer Ideas to Keep Kids Busy

Week 36 of my Seton Lesson Plans have been printed, swim team practices have begun, and it’s officially summer in my homeschool!

When the children were very young, the school day routine of reading aloud, math games and family prayer could continue year round without much of a formal break, but now that my children have many friends in traditional school I have learned to use “summer” as an incentive to get the fourth quarter work squared away in a timely manner.

Nonetheless, while my children gleefully drop their completed workbooks into a bin headed to the basement and telephone their friends, I have been scheming about how to fill the three months stretching before us, use our time well and have lots of fun while also maintaining the skills learned during the school year.

The Summer Rule of 5 Things

Several years ago, my friend Becca told me about the rule of “5 Things” that she puts in place for her children during the summer. My children each have 5 things which they know they must do every day in the summer before they are free to call on friends, play in the sprinkler or start a long game of Monopoly. This list is posted on the fridge and it is the child’s responsibility to get his things done. Here is an example list:

  1. Get dressed, make your bed, offer your day to God
  2. Practice piano (or draw)
  3. Do a math facts worksheet
  4. Read a good book for 30 minutes (or, for a younger child, listen to a story from our book basket)
  5. Do some work on your special project

This list makes it easy for me to keep track of whether my children are getting really lazy over the summer. I don’t want their responsibilities to become my burdens, so anytime I see someone lounging around the family room, I ask one simple question “Are you free?”

That ‘Special Project’

I always find that it helps with obedience if children have a sense of choice within some of their work, and this is where that “special project” becomes the key to the 5 Things. First, do a little bit of brainstorming yourself about what each child might need to work on, and what projects would be realistic based on your time and resources. Next, meet with each child to plan their special project, or list of special projects. Here are just a few examples:

  • Write letters to grandparents, cousins and friends who have moved away. Each letter is a multi-day project because it includes a draft, a carefully handwritten final copy, and addressing the envelope. As the parent, privately beg the relatives to write letters in response, because mail is so exciting to children. Make sure that you have stationary and stamps on hand to make this project easy.
  • Plant a small container garden. This summer we have marigolds, basil, tomatoes and eggplants in small containers on our deck, and one child must care for and water the plants each day. As an added benefit, the initial set up for this garden was a grandpa/grandson project
  • Do genealogy research and create a family tree. For an older child, make a list of questions and interview grandparents, then create a “family history” booklet to accompany your family tree.
  • Our parish requires an essay from children preparing for Confirmation. Summer seems like the perfect time for our 7th grader to accomplish this project
  • A child who struggles with order will spend a little bit of time each day cleaning out his closet, bedside table and bedroom shelves, where lots of clutter has accumulated during the school year. These daunting projects are much easier if the child is required to work just 15 minutes per day.
  • Write your own family cookbook; let your child pick favorite recipes and learn to make them himself, then type or copy them to create a cookbook.
  • Learn a skill. Have you always wanted to draw, sew or knit? Check a book out of the library, purchase a simple kit, find a neighbor who has some basic skills or watch videos on YouTube. Your child might also want to learn to Rainbow Loom or make friendship bracelets, French braid her hair or throw a perfect spiral with a football. Wholesome leisure skills will come with us into adulthood as healthy ways to relax and have fun. One of my youngest children is determined to get past those training wheels and learn to ride his bike this summer.
  • Learn about something. There may be an area of study that your child would like to pursue more deeply. Want to know everything about lions, volcanoes or World War 2? Begin with your local library and create a book basket about a special topic.
  • Offer to pet sit. Lots of neighbors will be taking vacations over the summer, and caring for a friend’s rabbit, dog or goldfish can be a good dose of temporary pet for an animal loving child.
  • Get super fit! Your child might set a summer fitness goal of running a mile, planking for 1 minute or doing 15 (or 50) pushups.
  • Do some of your Seton work. This may seem like a cop-out, but for a child who has busy times during the school year, such as a committed athlete, the summer may be a great time to knock out a little bit of next year’s school work. You could read for and write one of your book reports, do your Maps, Charts and Graphs workbook, or even do several weeks of your science curriculum in blocks over the summer. If a child understands that this may gain them some more free time from September to May, it may be easy to get them on board with this summer work.

I have been pleasantly surprised by how industrious my children can be with a simple list and the incentive of free time to come. Often they have all of the items completed before ten in the morning. This leaves me free to have a restful, leisurely morning with the baby and preschoolers.

Later in the summer, when we have activities out of the house in the morning, they will be able to do these items indoors, in the air conditioning, between 1 and 3pm while the baby naps.

With this simple list of five things, I can be sure that my children have accomplished a little bit each day, and then we can all be free to really enjoy our summer and take up our formal studies refreshed and renewed in September.

About Mary Alice Teti

Mary Alice Teti

Mary Alice Teti is the mother of seven children ages 2-12. She has been homeschooling for seven years and believes that structure leads to freedom and a calm homeschool environment. She has been using Seton materials to provide that basic structure and she loves the online, printable lesson plans. Her writing has appeared on Busted Halo, Mater et Magistra and the New York Times Motherlode blog. Mary Alice blogs about family life with seven other Catholic Princeton University alumnae at www.buildingcathedrals.com

Header Image CC Teo’s photo

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