Beautiful beams of sunlight came beating down. My entire being felt overjoyed at feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin. At last! How could we not spend most of the day outside? I stole away for 30 minutes alone in the sun to read and take it all in. Then we all went to the pool!
Yet as glorious as these summer days are, we may sometimes wonder how we going to make it through weeks on end with our kids around all the time and few fixed activities. As a mom with four kids, I wonder how I can structure our days not just to fill the time but also to align (at least loosely!) with our family’s goals. We want to rest; but we also continue to live intentionally and with purpose.
Here are a few ideas…..
- Take a true break. Despite my natural desire to constantly create a learning environment for my kids, I need to let them truly rest. Sometimes the mental break from piano scales, math facts, or phonograms can actually help them return to those things with more energy than if we had kept going. I’m also often surprised at how much they learn in various environments even when there was no intention of getting them to learn something specific. If you’re visiting a new state park or venturing into a museum, let your kids and yourself just take it in. Learning can happen best when it happens naturally and ‘immersively’.
- Create a summer schedule. This may seem contrary to the first idea, but there may be portions of the summer where you want to completely rest and other portions where you need more structure. I’ve been feeling like we need a ‘new normal’ as much of what we were doing during the regular school year has ended. If we’re home for a decent portion of the day for the next few weeks, my kids know to look at our chalkboard for the daily schedule. It’s meant to be a guide so that they know what to expect– and so I’m not going completely crazy from the lack of any structure! A few ideas for creating blocks of time are: devotions, chores, read-aloud, Bible, stations for art activities, rest time/reading, and of course free time.
- Do something that doesn’t fit into the school year. My older girls really enjoy theater but we couldn’t quite fit it into our school year routine so they’re going to a week long theater camp. Oh, and swimming lessons of course. They all need to know how to swim!
- Read. If you don’t know what to do, it’s always a good choice to read! I created summer book lists for my girls according to their reading levels and interests. They can choose what to read from the lists…And there are rewards the more they read. (Who says you can’t incentivize them for a good cause!) It’s definitely working. For someone like me who loves reading, it is a true joy to see them devouring all kinds of books as we embark on this summer break.For me, my goal is to be reading fiction along with something deep and difficult that challenges both mind and heart. For the moment, I’m finishing Confessions by St. Augustine, starting The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and about to start #4 of the Harry Potter Series. If you’re in a season where you feel like challenging books are hard to pick up, but you want to stretch yourself, take a book like Confessions and just read a short section from it each day. It may take longer than you want to get through, but the depth of content will nourish your soul.
- Get some serious sunshine. Vitamin D is good for all of us! Plus, if getting sun is our goal, we’ll also likely be going on adventures like hiking, camping, biking, soccer playing, swimming, and all things outdoors. (Or, maybe seashell hunting and surfing if you live in Florida!)
- Try something new. I would really like to learn how to sew, even just a bit. And for my girls to learn too. We’ll see if we can find a willing friend or teacher!
- Spend time in community. As a person who attempts to structure our lives in a very intentional way, I continue to feel like there is never enough time to spend with our friends. Somehow the windows in the school year seem small amidst the regular schedule. We are trying to be intentional about spending more time with friends in our community this summer.
- Take time to plan. I’ve been feeling the tension between rest and planning for the next school year. I’m committing to resting at the moment but am also taking bits of time here and there to be prayerful about the future. Along with praying, I’m also asking for input from my husband, friends, and mentors. I’m asking the Lord to gently nudge me in the direction of things and relationships to pursue and to help me sense other things to take a break from.
What about you? What are some of your favorite ideas for making the most of Summer?