I started looking into ideas for fun and interesting things for my kids to do this summer and it hit me: I’m stressing already. Make no mistake, I look forward to summer. No more pre-dawn rising, quizzing for tests and packing lunches. I can take a three-month break from repetitively nagging every night.
“Did you do your homework? Do you need a shower? Did you lay out your clothes for tomorrow? Is your gym bag packed? Is your track bag packed? Are you bringing or buying lunch tomorrow? Do you need a snack?”
The strict adherence to routine will get a rest. The obsessive planning necessary to get everyone up and out every day will go away; but so will my personal space. With the kids around, when will I get to my daily “To Do” list that keeps this household running? Where will be my personal space, my peace, my quiet? In a quest to make the most of our time and avoid undue stress, I find myself focused on getting it right this year. There should be equal parts fun, relaxation, quiet, chores and educational or skill-building activities. I want to give the kids the opportunity to engage in camps or classes that build on interests they have.
In my Google search, I saw multiple references to things like “Do-It-Yourself Summer Camp” and “DIY Summer School.” There were references to the “Summer Learning Loss” and the “Achievement Gap.” One mom suggested a schedule with Math Monday, Time Table Tuesday, Writing Wednesday, and so on. I am not a Pinterest Mom and I am happily far from perfect. My kids do well in school without much help from me. These were perfect examples of what we WON’T be doing this summer.
Our summer plans revolve around the pool, the beach and sleep away camp. Our kids always go to Camp St. Andrew for a week. They and their friends have the time of their lives jumping in the lake, sleeping in bunk beds in unairconditioned, rustic cabins. They rave about the food, the high ropes course, stories around the camp fire and the hiking.
A week at the shore is also a given. Seven days of playing with cousins on the beach, biking on the boardwalk and huge family dinners strengthens bonds and creates lifelong memories.
We spend nearly every nice summer day at the Glen Oak pool. The kids run around playing and splashing, while lifeguards watch them, and I relax (sort of- Sarah is still only two). The pool opens daily at noon, providing the structure we need: Get done what we choose in the morning and relax in the afternoon.
When they were younger, I put the kids into a variety of day camps. We looked for affordable, fun options. At Vacation Bible Camps, they spent a week singing songs, doing crafts and learning dances at area churches. At Waverly’s Comm Camp, they did projects, played sports and went on field trips. At the Endless Mountains Nature Center Camp, they interacted with huge birds of prey and hiked through the forest. They honed their tumbling skills at gymnastics camps at Alpha and United Sports Academy, and their ball skills at Baptist Bible College’s Big Blue Soccer and Basketball Camps.
As they’ve grown into middle schoolers, they have started to focus more on where their interests lie. My soon-to-be sixth-grader will fill her free time with piano lessons and horseback riding. My older daughter will spend her free time on the high school track, honing her skills for the next season.
They have expressed interest in some very specific and costly camps as well. These are under discussion as we assess our funding capabilities. One would like to attend the Scranton Cultural Center’s Broadway Bound Summer Stage, a two-week camp where they visit Broadway, then study and learn parts from either Wicked or Newsies. The other wants to attend a track and field camp run by a former Olympian at Kutztown University.
Whatever we are able to accomplish in the summer of 2014, my greatest hope is for long days of sun and fun. As much as we crave the conclusion of the school year, the end of homework and the temporary retirement of the alarm clock, come late August, we will surely be ready to return to structure, routine, intellectual stimulation and personal space. There’s no time of year that I appreciate teachers more than when the kids have been home for three months.