Can you feel it? Summer is coming.
For most of you it’s already begun, but in my neck of the woods summer doesn’t start until next week, when the school bells ring for the last time, the tassels get turned from one side to the other (no one is ever really sure if it’s right to left or left to right), alma maters are sung, and caps are tossed into a perfect 1980’s freeze frame.
It’s my first summer as a mother of two. While most families increase by adding a newborn, my family increased by a teenager at the end of last summer after my son’s mother passed away tragically at the end of last summer. It’s been a great year despite it all. My daughter is learning to read, and is mimicking my favorite past time by picking up a chapter book that is way over her reading level and declared she will read this before the summer is over. My son went from barely passing the 7th grade to pwning the 8th grade on merit roll the first marking period, and honor roll for the rest of them. I couldn’t be prouder of my brood, but that doesn’t mean I’m not terrified of the prospect of an entire summer in each other’s faces.
I know I could have sent them to summer camps, and preserved my daytime quiet, but this is the first time we’ve all gotten to spend this much unscheduled time together, and I’ve decided that I want to enjoy it. So instead of sending them out to camp, I’m bringing camp to us, and I plan to share it all with you.
Here’s the plan:
Democratic Education: When I was in college I’d intended to become a high school teacher, so I took a few of my university’s education courses. Montclair State University teaches a method called democratic education, which means including the students in all aspects of their own curriculum, and that’s how we’re going to plan our summer. Together.
Goal setting: We’ll take a look at their test scores and report cards to assess where the kids need help. For my rising first grader that will likely mean practicing writing, reading, and making sure she doesn’t write her numbers backwards. For my about to be a high schooler we’ll focus on building math skills, study habits, and reading comprehension skills. During our first week of camp we’ll discuss the areas they’d like to grow in, what things they want to learn about, and what we realistically think we can accomplish together. So far here’s what we’ve already come up with:
Have a garage sale to clean out the basement, and donate anything unsold.
Exercise. We each want to be able to do 25 real push-ups by the end of the summer.
A summer of sonnets. This was my personal goal that I expected to do on my own, but when I mentioned it to my family they thought it was a great idea. Each day we’re going to read and discuss each of Shakespeare’s sonnets. This will either continue into the Fall, or we’ll take on two or three some days. I’ll be blogging the summer of sonnets here, so be sure to tune in every day for the results.
Incentives: In the real world we are paid for the work we do, so while some parents might look at incentives as bribery, I fully believe in rewarding my kids for their diligence, and giving them a motivation to continue.
The activity jar: On color coded popsicle sticks we’ll write down ideas for activities we can do to reward ourselves for a job well done. We’ll have ideas for rainy days, way too hot days, day trips, and pure fun good weather days. Some examples are:
Great Adventure: we have a season pass to the Six flags theme park and water park, so this is a pretty budget-friendly idea.
Board game tournament
The big trips: Once we’ve decided the areas we want to grow in and learn about, we can look for ways to take weekend jaunts to places where we can engage with those topics. A weekend trip is a great way to reward ourselves with a change of scenery, and is a great way to bond as a family.
Visuals: I haven’t made this yet, but I want to create a large calendar with movable tokens, where we can decide how to plan one week at at a time. I want to be able to have some daily activities that are constant, as well as a selection of activities they can choose to complete on their own. We’ll decide what we want to accomplish per week, and then on Sundays we can choose tokens that correspond to various subject areas, and add them to the day we want to do them. Each person chooses for themselves, but is responsible to the others for completion. If we each achieve our goals, we can choose a reward activity.
Feedback circles: At the end of each week we’ll discuss how we think the previous week went. Were our goals to high? How can we modify our curriculum to make it better? Are there any activities we’d like to add to the jar? This gives us a chance to learn as we go, and not be constricted by a set of rules for the entire summer.
How do you spend your summer? Do you send your kids to camp, or do you choose to embrace the lazy days of summer sun or somewhere in between?