Happy Wednesday! This week, I’m tackling the reasons many moms dread summertime, and what we can do about it. I’ve already talked about accepting that adjusting to a new routine can be bumpy and the need to get to the root of bratty behavior. But I also think a lot of us just feel pressure to achieve a checklist of activities in order to win the “good mom” prize at the end of the summer.
My friends, we have to tune out the world’s ideas about summer break. If we are home with our children, they simply don’t need to have a fully-scheduled summer. I was really convinced of the value of not overscheduling my kids’ summer break when we read Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child a few years back. Kids thrive when we leave them to their own devices to use their imagination. Yesterday, my thirdborn breezed into my room, where I was sitting and desperately speed-prereading one of the four new books my big kids had picked up at the library that I hadn’t read before, and she told me that she and her sisters and the neighbor boys had just played “the best game ever!” Apparently they had set up a palace in someone’s garage, and each had described in minute detail the kind of room that they had in said palace. Then they had adventures in the palace for the whole afternoon. This is the kind of idyllic childhood summer vacation that we read about in Betsy-Tacy or Swallows and Amazons or The Moffats.
Unfortunately, there often aren’t neighbor kids to play with. Since most moms around me work year-round, summer camp is the norm. I spent the most miserable summer of my life in college working at a Camp Adventure in my hometown, and it was not really a camp (not a tent in sight) nor an adventure but rather big kid daycare. Sure, we made lanyards and fished in an empty pond with hot dogs stuck on fishhooks and swam in the community pool twice a week, but there were no useful skills taught, no quality mentoring (because it was 11 campers to one college student leader), nothing that kids couldn’t do by themselves at home. I’m sure most of the kids there never knew anything different, and I do realize that it was necessary for working parents to have their kids somewhere safe for the summer, but I came out of that summer determined never to send my own children to such a place.
Another huge summer commitment (more popular among the sahms around here because it’s often only for a half day) is the summer sports camp. I used to sign my son up for one or two weeks of baseball or soccer camp every summer, buying into the idea that this would jump start his skills for the fall season. He enjoyed them fine, but this summer, he didn’t want to do either, my daughter chose to pass on ballet camp, and my little girls don’t even want to do swimming lessons. I spent several weeks this spring trying to convince them all to do something until I realized that I could just save myself a lot of money (four kids in sports gets pricey fast!) and stress if I let them just stay home, swim in our neighborhood pool, and run around on the mountainside with the neighbor kids. My husband has plans to take them hiking, we’ll spend hundreds of hours at the pool, and since none of them are star athlete material, anyway, I don’t think they’re missing too much by eschewing formal sports for a few months.
Oh, and don’t forget all the catch-up or get-ahead schooling that the Tiger Moms among us have planned for our kids this summer. Kumon classes, extra workbooks (common core aligned, of course), and among homeschoolers, all the stuff we didn’t finish during the school year. I do have some schooly-type stuff that I want my kids to do each day, and I do want us to keep up with piano practice. And we went to the library this weekend and loaded up on books about/set in Africa for our family summer reading program (we’re doing the Read the World one at Simple Homeschool). So I’m not saying that we can’t do anything educational all summer, but it’s totally possible to keep our kids’ minds active through fun activities rather than dull ones. One of my friends asked me a couple weeks back whether the language arts workbooks she’d gotten for her kids for the summer looked good, and I wrote back to tell her that honestly, I thought they’d get more out of just reading aloud/listening to audiobooks as a family while coloring (which is a more fun way to develop fine motor skills than writing in a workbook). (More on that later!)
Phew! After telling you all that, I want to assure you that if you WANT to send your kids off to VBS or soccer camp or even the cheesy parks and rec “adventure camp,” you’re not a bad mom. Some kids absolutely thrive on going out and doing, doing, doing, and if that is your kid, go for it! This post is mostly intended to reassure the moms who don’t particularly want to that they don’t NEED to do anything formal this summer. I needed to have my homeschool mentor from our charter school tell me just that, so I’m passing along the message to you. If running your kids to five different camps in a three week period is causing you stress, your kids don’t have to do all those activities. Have a loose routine, read lots of books, get lots of sunshine, and enjoy your kids! As a mom to a tween who is acting more moody and tweeny every week, I am so aware that my kids are growing up so fast, and I don’t want to waste our time together on stupid activities that the world tells me I need to have them do. Those summer bucket lists on pinterest totally stress me out, and this summer, I’ve made the conscious choice to ignore them and just do interest-led activities with my crew.
What are you doing with your kids this summer?