Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Gently Structured Summertime

We do well with structure.  Even in the summer.  There, I said it.  If we have too many days in a row with no routine or plan or advanced expectations, things can go south pretty quickly.  I lose my patience quicker than usual, and the kids are less likely to keep themselves occupied and play well together if they've been left to their own devices for days and days in a row without order or routine.  

So... summertime.  I've been gently structuring it for the past several summers with much success.  And the measure of success here is sanity saved.  Sanity is important, especially during the months of squirt guns, mud pies, and sunscreen in the eyes.  Another of the benefits of coming up with a plan for the summer is that I'm less likely to let all the days slip by without accomplishing some of the things that are best accomplished while the calendar is free and clear.  

I say that I "gently"  structure the summer and that I have a "flexible" plan of what I'd like to accomplish, because after all, it's still summer vacation.  And childhood is, to a great deal, lived out in the freedom and possibility and adventure afforded by summer days.  We definitely try to balance things here, because structure is good for our family, and freedom to explore and play are good for the souls and characters and bodies of my kids.  (In fact, I do pretty well with a little exploration and play, too!)  

I've spent some recent evenings jotting down my thoughts for the summer.  Here's what we're going to do...


Read aloud time - hopefully every day, but more realistically, every other day.  The boys and I will read The Last Battle to finish The Chronicles of Narnia this summer!  The girls and I will read Little House on the Prairie.
We're going to listen to a few things we have on Audible too... The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright,  The Moffats, by Eleanor Estes , and a few other books that all the kids can enjoy together.  (Need some budget listening ideas for the summer?? Here's my list of classics under $6 on Audible.)
Summertime Author Binging. (picture books from the library) - During the year, we often book binge by topic, but during breaks I love to to author binge.  If we've enjoyed a picture book by a particular author or illustrator, we'll request everything we can by that author from the library and read through all the books.  We've found a lot of treasures and family favorites this way, so I'm looking forward to sharing with you some of what we uncover this summer!


There are plenty of rainy days and hot evenings in summer that are perfect for family movie viewing.  Last summer we weren't very intentional about what we watched and it felt like a missed opportunity to do some special memory-making.  

Last summer we read about the American Revolution and had watched a few episodes of Liberty's Kids .  We're in the process of finishing that series now.   If you don't have Liberty's Kids, stop reading this right now, click here, and go buy it.  Right now.  It's great and it's only $5 for the complete series.  I'm serious.  

We're not huge Disney animation fans here, but I'm thinking about letting the kids watch Tangled after hearing some good reviews from friends.  We're also planning on our first family viewing of The Princess Bride which I'm very excited about!  (Incidentally, it too, is also only $5 on DVD :) )  

When the boys and I finish reading The Last Battle, I think we'll get the audio version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for a refresher, and then let them watch the movie for the first time.  Until now we've felt it was too intense and scary for them, but I think with some advanced prep, they might be ready for it this summer.  I have similar thoughts about the original Star Wars Trilogy, too.  We may watch them with the boys, with lots of pausing to explain and discuss.  Haven't totally decided on these yet, though.  Still mulling...


A few summers ago I picked out five or six projects from Pinterest, bought all the supplies at the beginning of the summer and we did one project every other week or so.  I might try this again - the best part about it was having all the stuff already on hand.  When a day arrived and it "felt" like a crafty day, I didn't have to sit at the computer trying to find some project to do and I didn't have to run around like a crazy person trying to find materials because I had all supplies for the projects I had pre-selected. 


No part of this is my creation.  My dear friend introduced me to summertime BINGO a few years ago and today I typed out our third summer of BINGO boards.  A lot of what I have on our boards comes straight from her - even the rewards are her idea!  If she ever gets a blog (*hint, hint*) you can be sure I'll give you links to the source of all this genius.

The awesome thing about summertime BINGO is you get to decide what your kids will focus on over the summer -- Math drills?  Practice tying shoes?  Helping with younger siblings?  Physical fitness?  Piano practice?  BINGO cards can be customized for each child.  And if a child completes a board early in the summer, a second board can be customized to focus on different things during the rest of vacation.  

Our boards don't include too much school work since the kids will be doing lessons over the summer anyway.  I tend to focus on helping a little extra around the house, playing with siblings, and independent activities.  

Here's what we're working with this summer... (sorry for the ghe-tOH photos and lack of printables, etc...  I just wanted to get this post done with so I could start on my crocheting for the evening ;) It would be awesome if you're reading this on a big screen and you can actually decipher some of the ideas...)


June - we do strawberry picking and jam making

July - we do blueberry picking and jam making (and make blueberry muffins for the garbage men)

August - we go to the County Fair on the first day when it's cheap cheap cheap.  It's our thing :)

all summer - explore and splash in creeks, keep our tiny herb and vegetable gardens, take nature walks 

this summer we're going to use some of our CSA bounty and learn how to make our own pickles!  

and finally, SCHOOL LESSONS -- 

We've always done lessons through the summer and I suspect we always will.  We usually take a few weeks off here and there, and when we are doing school, and daily lessons are short, so don't worry - they're actually getting plenty of free time outside despite the list you see here :)

Everyone will:

* Re-listen to Story of the World, Volume 1  The boys covered this in history over the past year, so we'll listen to it again to hopefully "cement" some of it, and also because it's good and the kids love it.  We typically listen to this when we're in the car. (Maybe start Vol. 2??) 

* Review and master the songs and maps for the Middle East/Southwest Asia and Southern Europe.  Begin to learn the song and map for the British Isles and Western Europe.  

* learn some Latin Prayers (this was on my plan for last summer but we never got to it.)

* Memorize two new poems for Popcorn and Poetry Night (PPN 2014).  This year, I'm using these poetry CD's as well as the books I mentioned in this post (PPN 2013).
      Classic Poems for Boys 
      Classic Poems for Girls  
      Favourite Poems for Children 

Individual plans:

- Math (finish Math -U- See Gamma book)
- Handwriting (including letters to his pen pal)
- Start All About Spelling, Level 2

- Math (finish Math-U-See Alpha book, drill facts, and please God, please, start Beta.)
- Handwriting (with this insane pencil gripper he got from an O.T.)
- Reading (still using and loving the Books to Remember series from Flyleaf Publishing)
- begin to memorize the grammar chants from Shurley English, Level 4

- Math (continue in Math-U-See Primer)
- Handwriting 
- Continue working through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
- begin to memorize the grammar chants from Grammar Songs  or First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Audio CD (haven't decided yet)  

I've also selected some new Apps for the kids to use this summer - you know, for all that learning-disguised-as-fun that parents are into these days.  Summer is the perfect time to try out new Apps and learn new games.  Buuuuuut, you'll have to wait for another post for those juicy tidbits!  I promise to share all my favorite educational apps and games soon :)  

Do you provide any structure to your summer?  What do you have planned for your kiddos this year?  

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  1. Ah, you are so organized! It's so great. I really need to get some sort of routine in place and soon because we do so much better with routine, too.

  2. I need a Teach Your Child to Read Intro lesson - the book seems so confusing to me, yet my friends swear by it! Your summer sounds lovely. I think I need to get a rough plan cobbled together myself!

    1. I have some scattered thoughts on the book......

      I found the book easy to use because it's scripted. Once you get used to their method, you obviously don't have to read it word for word, but for me, it wasn't confusing b/c I didn't really have to understand *what* they were trying to do, I just had to follow the directions and suddenly, my son was reading!

      The things I love about their method are "sliding" from sound to sound to sound out words, and the fact that they emphasize "pure" sounds (like r says "rrrrr" NOT "urrrr" or "ruh" I also love that kids are reading before they know every phonetic sound; they learn a couple and then start right into reading stories.

      When people usually complain about the book it's because it's dry. And it is :(

      I used it with my oldest and when he finished it he could read well but didn't understand some basic phonics "rules" so I just went over those on my own with him. I didn't use it with my second son and he's still a struggling reader --- there's more to his delay than just not using 100 Easy Lessons, but in retrospect, I wish I would have used it. I'm using it with my third now...

      I do recommend it b/c it's easy - it's one inexpensive book, it's not a complicated program with lots of books and worksheets and flashcards etc.... I think it's worth a try :)

  3. I love this! Thank you for the inspiration. We need some real direction here this summer, and this gets me off to a great start. :)

  4. I love the bingo card idea! We sat down and made a big (but manageable) list of things the girls wanted to do. I wrote them on cards and they are hanging in the kitchen. Where I see them. And we work on doing one or two a week, we are having friends over tomorrow for a treasure hunt! And, yes, please share apps!

    1. Thanks for the reminder about including the kids in the planning! I keep putting it off, but I want to task them what they'd like to do this summer also :) Love the treasure hunt idea!

  5. I love these ideas! I really want to do the berry picking/jam making with my kids, but I'm thinking I may have to wait until next summer when the twins are 2. My 3-year-old would love it so much, though, especially since we've been reading Blueberries for Sal. :)

    I also love the idea of researching specific crafts and buying the materials to have on hand for later ... that sounds like a way I might actually be able to "do" crafts with my oldest without my brain exploding. Haha!

    1. Seriously - having the stash of supplies makes all the difference!!

      The first time I ever made jam was when my older boys were at Vacation Bible School and I was home alone with my 2 1/6 year old toddler and baby. I'm a big promoter of freezer jam because it's easy for kids to help with. I think a three year old could help and it might be a fun and special "big kid" activity for her to do with you :) (This is easy for me to say because I don't have 2 year old twins. I truly can't imagine what that does to the dynamics of a household!!! Do they nap???)


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