Friday, June 17, 2011

Beating Summer Boredom

I love summer break. It seems to me that I am the only mom out there who actually enjoys having the kids home for 2-1/2 straight months. I love it. I look forward to it. Perhaps it is because I still have kids at home that I am able to keep entertained and busy that I don't have much of a struggle finding things to keep the older ones busy too.

Summer is a wonderful time for learning. The best kind of learning, the kind of learning that naturally happens as a child learns to work and play with parents and siblings. The rich kind of learning that happens naturally that you can start with answering one question and it can lead into a whole series of events and activities. Perhaps this is why I love summer so much.

In April, I saw on the website Kids.Woot an offer for a butterfly garden. It was $5, with $5 shipping and handling, and then $5 for the live caterpillars to be shipped separately. In anticipation for the upcoming summer break, I went ahead and ordered it.

In addition to our butterfly life cycle, we have so many other things to do that keep us busy. In fact, we have been so busy these first few weeks of summer that my kids are begging for a breather and I have actually allotted a few hours of the afternoon time as "free time" or "playtime" when they can just play and do what they want.

The four kids are enrolled in swimming lessons. It wasn't cheap but I feel swimming lessons are necessary. Especially since I love to take them to the swimming pool on hot summer afternoons. It's much easier to handle four kids (well, five) at the pool when most of them can swim independently. Plus we visit Arizona every summer and my parents have a backyard pool. I feel swimming lessons are a safety precaution.

We also bought a family zoo pass for the year, which we'll use often in the summer. I find that $70-$100 is worth it to be able to return many times with such a large group. Last summer we had a pass to another attraction here that offered a museum, a farm and some rolling gardens. Unfortunately, budget constraints made it impossible to renew that pass for another year, but perhaps next year we'll do it again.

In addition to all that, I look for free or cheap events in the community, things like parades and carnivals. Where we live, the smaller cities often have "Town Days" where they celebrate the founding of the town with rodeos, parades, carnivals, and other attractions.

Just going to the regular park is fun. We have so many parks around our city that there are many to choose from. Perhaps it's because I don't take my kids to the park very often during the school year or maybe they just love parks and being outside, but they never tire of going to a park. We often ride bikes to the park and the parks have bike paths to ride around on too. Or we take sports equipment and a picnic. For some reason, eating at a park is so much more fun than eating at home, even when it's the same old pb&j's.

Also where we live there are paths in the canyons to take bikes or roller blades on as well as just walk/hike and enjoy nature.

And besides all the free time stuff, I decided to utilize my talents this year. I have often struggled with the idea that some people are extraordinarily talented in certain areas--they play an instrument really well or they are gifted in dance or a sport. I have no areas in which I am super-talented. But I'm finally realizing that being well-rounded and having an interest in lots of things and learning those skills is my strength. Therefore, I am using my strength to bless my family.

I am taking it upon myself to teach the basics in piano, dance, tumbling, and art to my children. Why should I pay someone else to do something I am quite capable of doing myself?

And in addition to all that, my school-age kids will be doing reading time and math time to retain what they have learned. They will be doing workbooks too, but I will be actively engaged in helping them, answering questions and helping them to review it.

I figure that since I signed on as mom, part of my job is to make sure my children are learning, so that is what I will spend my summer doing. Sure it cuts in on my own personal time that I'm used to having when they are at school, but it's worth it to keep them busy, out of trouble, learning, and happy.

So bring on summer. I can't wait! Sad that already two weeks of the summer break are already over...

If you would like to follow what we are doing to glean some ideas, check out my other blog Love For Learning.

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