Don't Let Summer Happen To You!
If you are like me, you must be panicking as the 70 days of summer vacation approach. The summer is supposed to be nine weeks of blissful family togetherness but for us working parents summer is mostly a financial and logistical nightmare. The school system assumes that all households have a parent waiting for their kids at home. It doesn’t take into account the reality that many children will have countless hours of unsupervised television or video game binges. Most kids lose math skills over the summer, and according to the New York Times they don’t gain them back the first week of school as many of us assume. This puts them three years behind their higher income peers by the end of fifth grade. So our first order of business this summer is to prepare for our kid’s continuing education. I ordered my son the pre-algebra curriculum from Inspiron. This will account for 30 minutes of his day and 30 more minutes will be spent in required reading. He can read more if he wants to but he has to do a minimum of 30 minutes. I encourage you to go to the library, or if your budget allows it head straight to amazon.com. Your children will complain about how unfair it is to do school work in the summer, but trust me, they have 24 hours in the day, it is not unreasonable to expect them to spend one of those hours sharpening up their math and reading skills. Summer is a great time to teach our children how to do chores consistently. The biggest complaint the work force has about the new generation is their entitlement attitude. Let’s not forget we raised those entitled children. We can reverse entitlement in our own homes when we teach our children to be self-sufficient. I’m not suggesting here that we send them to labor camps. I’m simply stressing the importance of chores. Our children should be able to pick up their rooms, make their beds, start a load of laundry and switch clothes to the drier, take out garbage, wipe off counters and sinks, and maybe even run the hand vacuum. When they get up in the morning, leave them a list of things you want them to do. Don’t forget to teach them how to do them first! They will never be able to keep the house as clean as you keep it but at least they will know what to do when their laundry basket is overflowing or when they run out of towels. Those little bodies need to move and exercise. Camps in the YMCA are awesome but we can’t all afford the $200 a week. So be sure to have a hula hoop, jump rope, and perhaps a Bosu ball lying around the house. I even let my kids ride their rollerblades inside the house when it’s too humid outside or I am not available to go out with them (mind you I live in a one story house and have no stairs). If you have staircases have your children chart all the times they use those stairs and give them brownie points. These points can be added up for special treats during the weekend. No summer should be complete without community service. I know some of us are too busy to volunteer at the local elderly home but we can teach our summer vacationers to think of the needs of others by doing simple things like unloading the groceries for an elderly neighbor, volunteering to walk a neighbor’s dog, offer to pull weeds for the pregnant lady that lives next door, or teach a younger kid how to play ball. If you work from home like I do or leave your kids with grandma while you go to work and don’t want your kids lingering in front of the video games for hours on end, be sure to leave building toys like Legos, puzzles, and painting supplies on the table. If it’s hidden they won’t go looking for it. The card games and table fun must be visible!!! Check the VBS calendar from your local churches and enroll them in one. It’s usually a fun week of crafts, games, friends, snacks and Bible lessons that you don’t have to pay for! The community calendar can also be helpful. Julie Kashen, the policy director for the group Make it Work explains that “summer is the moment that really epitomizes the child care crisis.” It is a crisis alright but you don’t need to panic. If you can’t find a nice camp that won’t cost an arm and a leg you should make a plan and charge forth courageously! Here are some tips:
- Get together with other working parents in your same position and build a support system where you all can take turns checking up on the children, taking them to the park, exchanging puzzles and toys or sharing ideas.
- Be sure that all adults in your children’s lives during this time are trusted adults.
- Give the children a small notebook with some stickers. They can place a sticker in their book every time they complete a task. Or,
- Keep a white board visible and give each child a brownie points for everything they complete. At the then end of the week you can do something special depending on the amount of points they accumulated. The more points the better the reward. Here are some examples:
- For books read or drawings or daily reading (15 points)
- For chores completed (15 points)
- For doing extra things without being asked (5 points)
- For completing math assignments (15 points)
- For going up and down stairs (one point for every time they do it)
- For learning how to hula hoop (50 points)
- Go to the library and check out some age appropriate books. Ask the children to draw pictures of their daily reading and give them brownie points for each drawing.
- Give the children brownie points every time they go up and down the stairs (it’s good exercise)
- Keep a board with a list of chores you want them to complete for the day and have them put a sticker next to the chores they complete.
- For really big jobs like pulling weeds or cleaning the windows, pay children a modest amount of money. I have twelve windows so I pay my kids $1.00 per window. They get to play with water and soap while getting an important job done.
- Keep a summer feeling chart. Ask the kids at the end of the day how they felt that day and log it on the calendar. You can order your feeling stickers and cards from our Family Bridges website.
- Teach the children how to play monopoly or other table games. They are fun, cerebral, and a good use of summer hours.