Before we get started, I want to clarify that I am not really going to tackle "real" activities like athletics or major trips. Instead, today I am going to give you a little glimpse into how I keep myself sane while keeping 4 children entertained and learning all summer long. The concept is simple, but I am proud of our execution. I think we are *starting* to get this right (after 8 years and counting of practice...)
DO WHAT THEY DO.
Yes, I know. I told you it was simple, but hold on two seconds and hear me out OK? One of my problems parenting was that I would get so SO bored participating in the kids' activity of the day. If they were building with play dough, I could do it for maybe 2 minutes before my lungs started to itch and the small creative creature inside started rearing its impatient head. My second problem was that if I was doing something other than what the kids were doing, I wasn't spending time with them. I missed them and I felt a LOT of guilt.
DO WHAT THEY DO -- just an adult version.
1. Here is how it works. Each evening, I think of what I need or want to get accomplished the next day. I connect the dots, creating a parallel child/adult activity (see examples below). Sometimes a parallel activity just means we are in the same room or in a similar quiet or active state, but when done perfectly, it means we are doing the same thing, just differently. See ART for example :)
2. Then I look through our craft/toy/book and learning stashes for the kids. My local thrift store is invaluable to add to the stash for summer! I collect a small laundry basket from all over the house of all the various supplies we will need.
3. On a clipboard, I write out the very broad "themes" for the day. The kids get to pick from all of them, from 2 of them or I dictate the order we do them depending on my motherly discretion. For instance, if I know I need to get painting done on the west side of the house before the sun reaches it, we will do that first. If there is a reading activity and a writing activity that are equal in my estimation, then the kids can choose which one they want to do first.
Here are two days of examples, including what THEY did and what I did and why they worked together.
WRITING: The boys were given writing prompts according to their age and a spot in the loft to sit. I sat with them and caught up on a bunch of letters I needed to write. I accomplished a chore I wasn't particularly looking forward to and we were all writing together.
ART: They painted sun visors and trains as messy as they wanted to be under the apple tree. I stayed on the porch and worked on my bird city project. I could keep my area neat and my project adult, while the kids could be as messy as they wanted on their table. I could hear them and talk to them, but they were somewhat out of sight so that the mess didn't give me hives and they could do their projects exactly as they wanted.
READING: The boys were tasked to find birds in a birding book and describe the details of several to each other. I used this time to zip around the kitchen getting lunch ready and switching the laundry.
SCIENCE: I read them a little about the history of rockets and we talked about acids/bases then shot off a rocket. While they kept playing with the rocket, I cleaned the porch a bit.
TODAY WE WILL DO...
WRITING: The boys are going to start in on DIY hardback books with the prompts they wrote yesterday. I need to tackle a little writing online, so we will do it at the same time.
ART: I want to paint bottles and kcups for our garden party, so the boys will work outside beside me with messy glow sand.
PLANTING: It rained yesterday and will be raining the next three days, so I want to get seeds into the ground NOW. It is the perfect time! The kids have also been asking about the seed bombs that they saw me packaging up for Iretreat, so I saved some for them and they are going to go "bomb" our property with seeds while I do the same, in a little more restrained manner. They will play in the sandbox for the rest of the time.
RUN: Self-explanatory, yes? If I put running on the list, then they look forward to running games and it gets me active with them.
See how it works? Simple, but not always easy. Once the summer is really rolling, I start doing mommy camp in conjunction with my strategy above. It takes a little bit of planning, but makes our days a little more productive and less chaotic.