I won’t get into the all the gory details of The Great Whole Family Melt-Down of Aught Eight, but I will tell you I learned quickly that as much as I love the lazy days of summer, having no schedule at all will lead to certain doom with three children in the house. I like to maintain what I lovingly refer to as an UN schedule. We keep lazy in our days, I just make sure I work it in. I’m not big on camps or summer sports. They do a few short day camp things throughout the summer but mostly it’s just me and my kids and a whole lot of time.
There are four elements that I make sure to include. I am not advocating any of them for you except bed time. I am certain everything works better in life when there is an established bedtime. It can be later. It can be flexible, but the routine should remain as much as possible from school to summer. My kids get up later in the morning, but I try to get them in bed together and at mostly the same time every night. Trust me, no kid was ever harmed by too much sleep.
For our UnSchedule we have:
1. Set Mornings: Unlike school days, I don’t wake anyone, but I do set a limit on breakfast time to keep kids from grazing until noon and to make sure I stay on track with dishes and clean up. There is nothing worse than coming home to a filthy kitchen. I have cereal and bowls out and I make sure I am awake in time to pour drinks. If the kids wake before me, they have to wait on beverages.;)
2. Mommy School: The kids named this part of our day. It happens sometime after breakfast but not always right away. It consists of some sort of directed activity at our dining room table. I’m not super creative so it may be a simple craft, a math game from my teaching days or a story and picture activity. I found if I didn’t plan something to do with my kids, I might go an entire day without real interaction. Also, we may all be tempted to just lay around and watch television if we didn’t have Mommy School to keep us moving forward. They love this part of the morning still, so I’ll keep doing it until they don’t.
3. Outside: Sometimes this one is tough when the temps creep into the high 90s. But I try every day to make sure we get to the park, beach or just outside in the blow up pool. They’re trapped inside for too many months during the year, so we soak up as much sun as we can June-August. This helps to make popcorn and movies that much more special on rainy days!
4. Dinner and Bedtime: Now, let’s be clear, these times and even locations of these vary wildly during the summer. Sometimes we eat in pajamas on the beach and head directly to our beds from the car. Sometimes we eat early and wear pajamas for a night movie. Sometimes we walk after dinner (not in pajamas-usually!). Whatever the day holds though, we make sure we sit down to dinner together even if it is just pancakes. As for bed, I try to have them all in bed by nine but if that doesn’t work, we still go through our bedtime rituals, no matter the time or place. So far, it has led to happy morning people around these parts.
So you can see by the fact that there are only four parts to this schedule that much of our day is unplanned and care free. We have all sorts of activities we add in (or don’t) throughout the summer. I’m not crazy about maintaining exact times or places. I’m just crazy about maintaining some sort of order to help us all maintain our sanity.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.