Thanks to a wicked series of snow days, the last few weeks of school have dragged on forever. But now, summer vacation is here, which brings an important question: What will the kids do all summer when Mom or Dad works?
Having an “unscheduled summer” has become trendy on parenting blogs. The idea is to give kids the opportunity to be bored for 10 weeks and let magic happen. I can see how this might make sense for stay-at-home parents, but even for work-at-home moms like me it would be difficult.
Besides, I’m not convinced that an unscheduled summer is a good idea in the first place. Maybe it would be OK for a week or two, but all of July and August?
I know for a fact that my kids will have a better experience if they stick to some semblance of a schedule. That means waking up around the same time each morning, eating three square meals a day, and feeling the sense of accomplishment that comes from doing chores.
The former teacher in me thinks learning should be a part of summer, too. Every year I taught elementary school, I was horrified at how much students had forgotten over the summer. That’s why trips to the library, audiobooks on family road trips and online math programs like DreamboxLearning.com are so important.
As far as I’m concerned, you can take your unscheduled summer and shove it.
When my kids were really little, we followed a schedule that incorporated outside time, art projects, reading, cooking and cleaning up. I’d lay out a collection of books on the coffee table each week that incorporated a new theme, such as space or insects. Every day at 4 p.m. I’d turn on “Curious George,” and take a nap while I snuggled up next to them. They might not have been tired, but I was exhausted.
As my kids grew older, we created a rule in our house that in order to earn screen time they needed to do four things: 1.Go outside and play, 2. Read for 30 minutes, 3. Do math for 30 minutes, 4. Do a chore for Mom. This strategy put my son and daughter in charge of planning their own schedule. They needed to accomplish things in order to get something they wanted.
Now that my kids are 9 and 14, they don’t need for me to lay out books on the coffee table anymore, but they do need me to drive them to activities like gymnastics or Girl Scout camp. They’ve decided what’s important to them, and we’ve built our family schedule around their interests.
Will they be bored this summer? Yes, definitely, and that’s a good thing. But those “boring moments” will be bookended by lots of structure and activity.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.