Most of my work for the summer takes place on a sunny June afternoon, about two weeks before the kids are home for good. Before my special weekend day, I’ll spend about 10-15 minutes on my weeknights thinking about types of activities we might enjoy or excursions we might take over the summer. Then, on a weekend afternoon, I leave the house with a few blank July/August calendar pages (and my iphone!) and draw up a tentative calendar of events.
First, I ink in all of our committments, like soccer, tball and swim lessons, as well as any family visits or vacation days away. This gives me a sense of which days of the week are already generally busy and which days are more flexible. Here’s what July looks like before I’ve added our “Summer of Funner” events:
Next, and most importantly, I take a day of the week and assign it an overall theme or role. Although I say this is a “Food Day” or a “Culture Day,” what I really mean is that we will be doing some sort of activity or group of activities IN THE MORNING that relate to this theme. I figure that with some sort of structure or activity before lunch, the afternoons will be left for more free and independent play (i.e. me getting some work done!), whether this be at home or out at the park with friends.
Mondays this summer are easy, because the kids go to visit their grandparents! I’ll call this “Soccer Day” because they will have soccer in the evenings back near our house. In reality this is my “day off” – call it soccer if you will. I don’t really have to schedule anything. Ten weeks of mondays = ten days to work by myself!!
Tuesdays are my “Food Days.” Our local farmer’s market is on Tuesday mornings. And, based on our experiences over the past few summers, our Tuesday activities have generally stemmed from trips to the market and the things we purchase there. We can cook with fruits and veggies, paint, print, or take rubbings of their skins, create energy from them, photograph them, and study how they grow/their origins. This year, I’m going to try to transition from sweet to savoury from week to week. I’ve come up with Strawberry day, “Pomme” day (Apples and Potatoes), Chocolate Day, Healthy Pizza Ingredients Day, Marshmallow-and-Toothpick Day, Pickles-and-Mustard Day, Crazy Fruits Day, Egg Day, and Ice Cream Day. We’ve done the Marshamallow and the Pickle days before – the kids asked for these again this year.
Wednesdays, I have dubbed “Culture Days.” This is a new category for me – the kids are a bit older and I think we’re ready to do a bit more than just “absorb” our environment. I want to use these days for interactive outings in the city. These will include Sketching with Charcoals at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Writing Dinosaur Number-Poems at the Royal Ontario Museum, Visiting the Children’s Wing of a Downtown Library, Taking Photos of City Landmarks, Making Magical Potions in a Magical Place (collecting specimens along the Don River?), Writing a Newspaper Report About an Event in a Public Square, Writing a Nature Song in a Greenhouse, and Composing a Song/Fable Inspired by one of the shoes at the Shoe Museum. I should note that “Culture Days” don’t really have to cost money. Most museums have free days or nights or summer coupons. And, their exteriors do just as well in terms of inspiration.
Thursdays will be “Story” days. I plan to devote Thursday mornings in July to having the kids write and illustrate a story about a fictional character they made up over the course of the last school year – This character (his name will be revealed at a later date!) originally developed, I think, from the kids trying to call each other funny names. We’ll have a brainstorming session our first week. And then, over the next few weeks, the kids will write and illustrate a chapter of their three chapter-story. I might also have them fuss around on the piano to write a theme song to go with it. (This activity would work just as well as a “board story” in which kids copy out a story from a story book and illustrate it themselves. When my kids were smaller, I just read to them and had them draw pictures.) Thursdays in August will likely have to do with reading old comics and creating new ones, as well as getting in some chess practice. It looks like papa will be home on Thursdays in August – so these will likely be his fish to fry, so to speak.
Fridays are “Test-then-Party” days. I usually ask the kids to spell a word or two and answer a math question in chalk on the back fence or on the sidewalk (think of it as a simple skill-testing question – easy peasy) and then we either head down to the beach or go to the park/splash pad for the morning. Since they have swimming lessons on Thursday afternoons, I figure that getting them back into the water is a good idea. Occasionally, I’ll take them to a movie instead.
We tend to leave the weekends free and clear. We usually incorporate a “film festival” into our weekend schedule. Once a week, we’ll watch an old-fashioned cartoon or serial and then a film related to some sort of theme. The kids really liked the old “Kennel Murder Case,” so perhaps a mystery theme is in order.
Once I’ve got my tentative plans in gear, I put everything up on a dry erase calendar on the side of the fridge so that the kids can get excited about it (sorry for the poor resolution…) :
This might sound like a lot of work, but with this schedule in place, my life becomes a lot easier.