Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Forum: Making a Memorable Summer

Wow. Amanda has put together an amazing schedule that is going to make her family's summer awesome. (Take notes!) But she still needs some ideas. That's where you come in.
Okay, Ladies. I’m in need of a little help here. Last summer was a complete disaster, which I attribute to the fact that I had a baby in June--too pregnant to want to do anything at first, then the rest of the summer I was with a newborn. Needless to say, my other kiddos were not too impressed with their summer break lived out in the confines of our backyard.

Now that I’m back to “normal” (Is there such thing--seriously??) I’m determined to make it a GREAT summer for all six of us. It will require some major organization, and some great ideas…which is where YOU come in! Here’s my plan so far:

Summer Planners. The girls are used to keeping a planner at school, and they work so well I decided not to fix it if it ain't broken. They each get a folder with a printout of their daily chores for the week, and have to keep track of completing them. (Did you know there was a study done—forgive me for not having a reference—that shows endorphins are released when you mark something off a list??!! See, I’m not crazy after all.) Points are assigned to each chore and are awarded for completion, then they can be used to buy rewards (books, computer time, etc.). We've had GREAT success doing, but having them printed out and in their folders will keep them from wanting to get on the computer 15 times a day. I'm also adding a Math worksheet and some kind of Language Arts worksheet ( is a great reference) each day, just so they retain what they've learned over the school year. (Lest you think I'm a mean mom, making my kids do homework all summer, please know that these worksheets will take less than 30 min. to complete both, so it's not like I'm some Nazi Mom....mostly. Besides, they’re still young enough that they think doing homework’s fun!)

Weekly Theme. We've decided to pick a weekly theme--one the girls are interested in and want to learn more about--then all of our activities for the week will be incorporating our theme somehow. For instance, last week the girls picked Horses as our theme, so on Wed. we went to the library and picked out all sorts of books on horses and borrowed My Friend Flicka from the library as well. Friday, we were lucky enough to find that the Miniature Horse Show was going on up at the County Fairgrounds, so we packed a picnic lunch and went to go see them. We found an owner who was kind enough to let 7 little kids under the age of 8 maul...I mean pet... her horse and get pictures with him...they were in LOVE!

Weekly Schedule. I read a study once (apparently I read a lot of those…) on the affects of anticipation, where one group of kids were told months in advance that they were going to go to Disneyland, while another group wasn’t given any notice, just taken there one day. Years later, the group that was given a chance to anticipate the trip was shown to have remembered greater details about the trip, shown greater satisfaction in and happier memories of their vacation, and had better and happier memories of those they went on the trip with, than the group that wasn’t given any notice. Because of this, I try to let my girls anticipate upcoming activities as much as they can, and I think because they’re really just little people, they like to know what’s going on and what to expect. So, here’s what I’ve come up with (though, I'm not naive enough to believe that it will work out like this every week, all summer long) :

Monday--Swimming Day. We have a membership at the City Rec. Center, so I figured we better let the kids use it too! I'm excited that my former swim instructing/lifeguarding skills can once again surface, but I'm really hoping not to need the latter…

Tuesday--Movie/Book Report Day. We'll either borrow or rent a movie that has to do with our theme for the week. I love that the library has lots of great choices. Not only do they have a few popular movies, but there are lots of educational DVD's that the kids are WAY excited to watch. We borrowed one on the life of butterflies and moths, and they watched it 5 times before taking it back. Since the kids will have borrowed at least one book on our weekly theme, I figured their “homework” for the day can be a book report. Great way to practice handwriting as well as reading comprehension! (My 4 y.o. LOVES drawing pictures about the books she’s read, so it really works for any age!)

Wednesday—Library/Picnic at the Park Day. Every Wed. the library does StoryTime, where they read a few books, blow some bubbles, do a little relaxing yoga (seriously!), then make a craft to take home. It's nice to let someone else do the reading for a while, and we can return our books and get new ones for the week while were there. My rule for this summer is 3 books each. One from the library's reading list they provide for each grade level, one having to do with our weekly theme, and one that's just whatever the heck they want. I'd love to let them get more, but that's 15 books already, and I have to carry them AND the baby back to the car, AND keep track of them once they're at my house for the week, so...limits are essential. After we’re done at the library, we’ll take our picnic to the park where we’ve invited ALL of our friends to join us, so it’s not only a great playdate for the kids, but great mom time with my friends as well!

Thursday--Project Day. My girls have such imaginations! Thankfully they really like to express themselves through making things. I'd like to keep to our weekly theme when doing our projects, but frankly, I'm not sure if I can come up with a unique project every week that sticks to that, so we'll just go with the flow on this one. For this week, we're going to decorate our Summer Planners, and I may even break out the forbidden paint and markers...maybe. J

Friday—Field Trip Day. We'll plan some sort of outing, hopefully theme-related, that will get us out and doing something we wouldn't normally do, for instance, the Miniature Horse Show. I'm really hoping to mix it up and let the girls experience all sorts of different things. Of course, most of these things will have to be free, but I'm up to the challenge of finding some jewels out there!

I must say that I’m so totally excited to let this summer be about doing things with and for my children! Now that most of them are in school, I’m feeling a bit like I need to soak them up as much as I can while I have them. So, I guess what I’m hoping all you Bloomies will help me out with is sharing some of your uber-creativity and imagination in finding some great ideas for themes, projects, and field trips, as well as letting all of us in on the way you’ve planned out your summer.


Kathryn said...

Our summer isn't quite as scheduled as yours, too many camps and swim lessons to make a solid schedule. And for now we are enjoying the freedom from a schedule. By August I'll be screaming for a schedule, I'm sure.

I have vowed to be a yes-mom or a fun-mom, this summer. I've agreed to afternoons in the sprinkler day after day. Knowing it ment later bedtimes because of unexpected showers. Yet the smiles on their faces was well worth it.

I have a list of 'Fun Things To Do' for summer 2010. Most are simple like going to the farmers market and storytime at the library. But I also have some things on there my children would love to experience yet are out of my comfort zone.

I also have a list of arts and crafts for us to enjoy. Simple things because my children are only 3 and 5. For example, I purchased a three pack of canvas panels from Joanns. We'll break out the paints one day this summer and make our own artwork. My children love artwork but with the mass of projects I find it overwhelming to manage. With the canvas I'm hoping to use a chunk of time (planning the artwork, painting) and get one nice keepsake for each child.

Rachael said...

I have a similar schedule for my children (ages 5, 3, and 1). Mondays are "learning days" (they picked all the topics they wanted to learn about--everything from volcanoes to butterflies to "what makes cars go"); we read a few books from the library about the topic and then do a hands-on activity); Tuesdays are art days; Wednesday is "adventure day"--so far we've gone to the zoo, children's museum, a hike, and a playground picnic with friends; Thursdays are a regular playdate with friends (one week at our house, the next week at theirs); and Fridays we go to the library for storytime and to pick up our next load of books.

Andrea said...

I love your schedule! What fun ideas. This summer we're focusing on a different country each week (or most weeks, anyway), but I love your idea of doing general themes. There are so many great possibilities! I think maybe we'll do that next summer.

One great resource we've found is You have to sign up for a free membership, but then you have access to all sorts of wonderful worksheets, coloring pages, clip art, lesson plans, etc. I've been so impressed by that website. There's a section where they have little worksheets and fact sheets categorized by theme, which would be perfect for your weekly theme idea.

Another resource we refer to often is Family Fun magazine and the website, which is They have really fun craft and activity ideas.

Thanks for a great post! I'm feeling inspired.

amelia said...

i LOVE this! this very topic has been on my mind very heavily lately - so thank you bloom & amamnda!
cheers to summer!

jess said...

my sister is hosting a bunch of "funner in the summer" themed posts on her blog:
Tons of good ideas... go check it out!

Vicky said...

We're not taking a vacation this year, so I have 6 weeks to entertain the kids all by myself. I think I might be following this plan to the letter!