SummaryAll moms know how stressful summer vacations can be without a routine. Debbie Gaudino shares five tips for formulating a fun and restful summer schedule.
It happens every year.
I spend all of June counting down the days till our homeschool closes its doors for summer vacation, only to find myself a sunburned, exhausted, sobbing mess sometime around the second week of July.
Summer fun can be a draining proposition, with schedules and routines thrown out the window in favor of late nights, long days, and a diet of hot dogs and ice cream.
Here are five ways to enjoy the summer fun without sacrificing your sanity in the process.
Enjoy the Moment
It can be challenging for us homeschooling moms to shift gears from the structured school days to the more relaxed days of summer.
For me, the feeling I get during the first week of summer is something akin to the earth shifting on its axis.
I can’t shake the thought that I should be grading something, going somewhere, or nagging someone.
I once received this helpful reminder from a friend: we get to enjoy only eighteen summers with our children before they head off to college.
This number drops down to less than ten if you factor in the kids’ summer jobs in high school.
Her reminder shook me out of the rigidity that I had fallen into and gave me the resolve to let down my homeschool mom guard and enjoy the present, precious moments with my children.
Change to a Summer Routine
Perhaps the greatest temptation I face at the beginning of each summer is to abandon our regular routine entirely. I learned very early on that this was not a good idea.
My first, rude awakening to the consequences of a routine-less day came the summer my son was turning five. We had just successfully completed our first year homeschooling, and with PreK solidly under my belt, I was feeling pretty confident about the whole homeschooling thing.
Within days of our first official summer vacation, my generally calm, obedient son began acting out. After a week of temper tantrums, crying jags, and willful disobedience, my husband and I sat down for an emergency pow-wow.
We finally deduced that our little guy was reacting to the lack of one-on-one time with Mom that he had grown accustomed to during the school year. As much as I tried to sell him on the idea of summer vacation, he still needed the time together with Mom.
We saw the need to create a summer routine, one which allowed for lots of flexibility to enjoy the fun of the season, but with enough structure that everyone’s needs for stability and security were met.
Our routine changes each year, and now that my children are older, they help plan what the daily schedule will look like before we begin our summer break.
For our family, summer vacation provides two months off from regular schoolwork, but an unlimited amount of opportunities for continued learning.
We have used summer vacation to take local field trips.
Two of our all-time favorite destinations are the NYC Subway Museum and the site of Washington’s Crossing the Delaware in Trenton, NJ. Such trips enable the children to connect their book-knowledge with real people and places, and with some research, you will be amazed at the opportunities for learning right in your own backyard.
The twenty minute car ride to and from our pool-club has given us the time to read books aloud as a family. We have typically chosen books which may be too difficult for the children to get through on their own, but when read aloud help expand their vocabulary and comprehension skills (shhh, don’t tell the kids that!)
Finally, we use the summer days to spend time with grandparents and other elderly friends.
The relaxed atmosphere of the summer allows the children to soak in the wisdom of our older friends and relatives.
By sharing their life experiences with our curious children, these casual conversations teach the children more about life, love, faith, and struggles than any curriculum could ever hope to accomplish.
Don’t Neglect Prayer
While a looser schedule in the summer can often lead to laxity when it comes to regular prayer times, the summer also provides a host of times and opportunities to explore new ways to pray.
Last summer, the children and I were able to take a pilgrimage with a group of homeschool families to a local shrine, where we attended Mass and prayed a rosary together during a picnic lunch.
A great way to incorporate prayer time into your summer plans is to visit new churches during your travels, or even churches in your own area that you have never been to.
Take the time during these visits to escape the summer heat and spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament or praying the Stations of the Cross.
If you are not already in the habit of attending daily Mass, take advantage of the freedom of the summer to begin your day with Mass.
Some of the greatest memories my family has are of attending daily Mass at the parish in the beach town where we rented a house for a week each summer.
It was not often that we could attend daily Mass as a family due to work and school schedules, so we were very grateful to go to Mass together for seven days straight.
We felt so welcomed by the local community, that we still consider that parish our spiritual “home away from home”.
As I mentioned earlier, in spite of all the steps above to prevent summer insanity, I have yet to experience a summer where I am not counting the days till school starts on July 15.
In examining why this is the case, my conclusion is that something about the calendar reading July 1 causes me to entirely abandon all prudence, and frankly, most common sense.
I am worse than my children in over indulging in unhealthy summer foods (believe me, no one needs to eat corn dogs at the pool-club every day for lunch), skimping on sleep, and foregoing exercise.
By the time August rolls around, after some gentle reminders from my hubby and a good confession, I usually get back on track. This year, I hope to avoid all the July exhaustion by prudently planning our days and nights.
Some of my resolutions include packing a healthy lunch, prepping dinner in the morning before heading out for the day’s activities, wearing a pedometer to ensure that I am staying active, and keeping at least two days per week free of any adventures to ensure enough time at home to rest, relax, and catch up on work around the house.
How about you? What are the things you find most challenging in the summer months?
What are some of your tips for enjoying the summer months with your family while managing to keep order and peace in your household?