Last year we finally got summer right.

We always go up my parents' summer home at a lake a few hours away for most of July (I've been doing this since I was a little kid and it's heavenly to hang out on the beach day after day with my sisters and all our kids) but before last year, June had typically ended up being either boring or stressful.  One year we tried just lounging at the pool and doing whatever came up. After a week or so, we were all pretty bored and frustrated and started scrambling for more playdates and day camps to join.  The next year,  I ran the kids around to a bunch of classes to keep them busy but I found all the classes to be mediocre at best and felt we were wasting our time and our money while stressing ourselves out with trying to get to certain places at certain times too much.  Then the following year, I actually conducted classes for the kids and all their friends. Doing our own tuition-based summer school with classes of 10-12 kids was SO fun but SO much work!

So last year, I decided NOT to take the kids to classes all over town and NOT to invite the whole neighborhood over for classes.  Instead, the kids and I came up with our own plan for the "Loosli Learning Adventures Camp" that lasted throughout June.  Together, we brainstormed a list of things that would be good to do to keep our bodies and brains active and our house clean and then brainstormed a "bucket list" of fun activities we'd like to do together. We ended up with a good list of six things the kids agreed to complete individually each day (usually in the morning) and a list of exciting group activities we'd chip away at (usually in the afternoon).

Each  morning, we got up whenever we woke up (usually by around 8), had a leisurely breakfast that finished by around 8:30 or 9, and then did our individual activities for a couple hours until lunchtime (they did their stuff on their list and I got a couple hours of work done for Power of Moms - with a few interruptions here and there - but they became quite self-directed after the first few days). Here's what we decided together would be on the kids' required individual daily activities list:
  • READ: read for 20 minutes (some read for longer - that's fine!)
  • WRITING: write a page in your journal (write about whatever you want, write a story, write about what happened yesterday, or pick a writing idea from a jar full of writing prompts we've got)
  • PHYSICAL: do a physical activity (can be individual or do it as a group - ride bikes or scooters, go for a walk, play at the playground)
  • PRACTICE: practice a skill for 20 minutes (piano, basketball, guitar, typing - each child has their short list of skills they want to develop)
  • HOME: do a job from the job list (we have a list of 5-10 minute household jobs that need to be completed each week - i.d. dust the living room, weed one flower bed, vaccum the stairs, wipe down the kids' bathroom sink)
  • EXTRA: pick an extra activity to do on your own or with siblings. Examples: work on Spanish (we're loving the simple on-line free program Coffee Break Spanish - 15 minute lessons), do "Raz-Kids" online reading program or math games online, play a board game with siblings, research something from our "wondering list" (a list of things the kids bring up that they're wondering about - last summer we had a great time on YouTube and Wikipedia finding great information on how to make yogurt, how cars are made, where baby carrots come from and how monster trucks work)
The kids and I created simple charts that could be printed out for each week where they had checklist of what they needed to do each day and then on Saturday, they got paid $.25 for each thing they accomplished (so they could make $1.50/day for doing their 6 things or $7.50/week for doing the 6 things for the 5 week days).  They saved that money up for a big family activity at the end of June (we went to an amusement park and they needed to save $35 each to pay their way on that).

Here's one of the writing projects my daughter came up with last summer based on a book she read:

Here's one of the kids' favorite group activities - we did a group bike ride a couple times a week that counted for their physical point and their extra point.

One of our Power of Moms readers sent in a great idea for having specified days for different things. We used her idea to group our long "bucket list" of brainstormed activities into categories for our afternoon group activities each day:
  • Masterpiece Monday (art projects or a visit to the library to learn about artists and inventors or other creative or cultural activities - art and invention are big things in our family)
  • Take a trip Tuesday (the park, a museum, a bike ride, a field trip to a historic place, a picnic, a friend's house...)
  • Wet Wednesday (swim/go to a spash pad/play in the sprinklers)
  • anyThing goes Thursday (a chance to choose from a list of fun and simple activities we'll all brainstorm together at the beginning of the summer)
  • Friend Friday (everyone can have a friend over - nice to do it all at once and protect our family time the rest of the week.  Plus we always have Family Movie Night on Fridays)
    a "wet Wednesday" - simple sprinkler time
    a "Take a Trip Tuesday" with friends

I love being my kids' teacher.  I mean all moms are their kids' teachers in many ways - but it's great to do it in a little more formal way sometimes.  I so admire moms who home school.  While I don't know if it would be the right thing for us longterm,  I feel like summer's the perfect time set up a special sort of summer "home school" where I can teach my kids about things I really value and love while we really enjoy each other's company.
my kids working on their "wondering list"