“Summertime … and the livin’ is easy.”
When George Gershwin penned those memorable lyrics, he pictured warm, languid days, fish jumping so high they fairly begged to be caught, and plump bolls of cotton bursting like popcorn in rich brown fields.
He never gave a thought to the homeschooling mother of five whose 2-year-old keeps standing in the toilet and whose dog just plowed through the newly repaired screen door. The only thing jumping at her house is the frog the 8-year-old let loose in his bedroom. There’s a month of schoolwork left but only a week in which to do it, because Mom has finally announced, “I don’t care what the teacher’s guide says—on June 14, we’re DONE.” She’s looking for a break, and summertime shimmers on the horizon like an alluring mirage.
Even if you homeschool year-round, everybody’s happy when Mom declares time off. Whether just for a week or till the September leaves start turning, a well-deserved vacation gives everyone a chance to regroup, at least for a little while.
As you cut up the first ripe watermelon of summer and look forward to a bit of a breather, do enjoy that juicy— albeit temporary—slice of paradise. It won’t be long before the chanting of the summer mantra begins: “Mom, there’s nothing to do!” So when boredom rears its lazy head and tempers rise along with the thermometer, it’s wise to have a strategy to keep the kids happy and maintain harmony in your home.
It’s easy to plan away the summer, filling the days with activities for your restless kids. Just remember: If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Grammar issues aside, there’s a mountain of truth in those seven words. Refill your own empty cup so you have plenty to pour over your family when school starts up again.
Read a book. Who has time to read for pleasure during the year? Don’t let summer slip away without a satisfying novel under your belt. Stretch a hammock between two shady trees some lazy afternoon and indulge in a selection from your “I’ll read it someday” list. And just in case it should cross your mind, curriculum does not count!
Ask your husband or a trusted friend to occupy the children so you can go for a walk, work uninterrupted on a project, or take a needed nap. Or get away for a little while. Don’t even think about getting the dog groomed or dropping off the dry cleaning. I’m talking about refreshment! Bible in tow, enjoy a quiet time at the park. Browse a nearby book or fabric store. Window shop. Meet your sister for coffee.
For many women, a 30-minute retreat to the tub can multiply into hours of patient parenting later on. Grab a bath pillow, some fragrant salts, a glass of iced tea, and a favorite magazine or devotional and get lost among the bubbles. Whatever you do, don’t forget to post a “Do Not Disturb Under Penalty of Death” sign.
Ignore the notes the kids slip under the door.
And those little peanut butter- covered fingers wiggling under the crack? Ignore them too.
Outings and Activities
Why not turn your house into a cool refuge by playing board games or listening to books on tape as you sprawl out on the living room floor with the fan blowing? Set aside Wednesday afternoons for renting videos and whipping up chocolate milkshakes. Chairs, card tables, and sheets make a great fort. Build your fortress and enjoy a picnic under the dining room table.
Exercise is another great way to fill time productively. Kick a soccer ball around the yard, or hop on bikes or roller blades. Sign everyone up for a sports workshop or swimming lessons. Explore a nearby creek or hiking trail or simply traipse around the neighborhood.
Homeschool moms are pros at sniffing out good field trips … but why limit them to the school year? Fit in some outings to the zoo, beach, or city. Take in a children’s museum or look into special summer programs at other venues, such as a farm, botanical garden, or space center. Contact your fire or police department to arrange a tour. Don’t plan to go out every day, but do budget time for occasional treks to the library, movies, community pool, or pizza place.
How do you maintain your cool when the temperature takes an upswing? At home, pull out the hose and beat the heat by dousing your brood with a surprise squirt. Keep in mind that kids have long memories, so you probably shouldn’t turn your back on them anytime soon, if you get my drift.
You can bring a bit of winter to a sweltering summer day by visiting an indoor ice rink. For a cheaper chill-and-thrill, buy a couple of ten-pound blocks of ice and head to a grassy slope for some “ice blocking.” Simply set a towel atop the ice block, hop on, and whoosh! Off you go—sledding in summer!
And when you’re melting in the shade, there’s nothing like a frosty refresher to soothe irritable dispositions. Stir up a chilled pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade or treat everyone to frozen delights from the ice cream man. Even better, make smoothies, homemade ice cream, or floats.
Stay tuned! Next week, I’ll post Part 2 of this article, Summertime: No Excuse for Chaos, which will include some fun summer writing activities for the kids.
Copyright © 2006 Kim Kautzer
Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Summer 2006. Used with permission.