Summer promises freedom. And, oh, do we crave that freedom—freedom from the obligation of daily assignments, the to and fro of weekly practices, and the hectic pace of co-op schedules.
But then, sometime around the five-week mark of an extended school break, things begin to shift the slightest bit. That lack of structure begins to feel like a lack of purpose.
You’re working harder to get kids motivated to do much more than scroll a screen, stream another episode of their favorite show, or follow you around the house reminding you that they’re bored. Those grand plans for outdoor fun have played out, you’ve lost all interest in making yet another Pinterest craft, and you can’t spend every day at the pool without it, too, losing its luster.
What’s a mom to do?
1. When in Doubt, Read
The easiest way to inject structure into a summer that’s starting to fizzle is to create a loose, low-pressure reading list. Any Readers or Read-Alouds that didn’t get covered during the school year can be tackled in the hotter months, as can extra books that don’t fit elsewhere but you don’t want to miss.
Sonlight’s Summer Readers are also a fabulous, no-stress way to gain some balance in your days. From early readers to high school, adding some daily reading time anchors the day and gives it some shape—and offers some creative conversation points, too. My family maintains a daily reading time after lunch year-round. That little bit of predictability is often enough to ward off the summer crazies.
2. Field Trips That Won’t Leave You All Wet
Visiting your neighborhood pool is great. Trekking to the beach is fabulous. Dipping in the lake is wonderful. Even outings to local splash pads and fountains are fun. But eventually, the crowds and the heat will get to you… and you’ll crave something of the beaten path.
Summer is the perfect time for off-season field trips. Gather with a group of friends, or just journey as a family to find indoor and outdoor educational pursuits that will get you out of the there’s-nothing-to-do rut:
- picking produce at a local farm
- attending free workshops at big chain hobby stores
- taking advantage of discount movie days
- touring the printing press of your local newspaper
- holding an ice cream crawl
- roller skating
3. Did You Say School?
But what if what you really want is a little taste of, well… normalcy? Maybe the kind of structure you need to help your days is school. Before you panic or picture your kids mid-mutiny, consider: a super light schedule of just three math lessons per week might get your children's brains engaged, and help them enjoy (and appreciate!) that leisurely afternoon building a tent village in their own backyard.
School might feel like a dirty word between June and August, but it might very well be the answer to helping ward off boredom, cut down on bickering, and ultimately extending the joy of those long weeks of summer.
An interest-led unit study, or lessons in something you don’t get to during the normal school year (baking? sewing?) are educational, fun, and often just enough to help you and your children feel like their summer was an oasis of respite instead of a waste.