Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dear Grand Plans

Dear Grand Plans,

You are like a flashing neon sign at the start of summer vacation.  When the weather gets warmer, when the kiddos are out from school, and when I have the kiddos 24-7 there's quality family time, you bet I kick into high gear and begin to brainstorm what it is we (as in the three of us) will do all summer long so that the kiddos won't kill each other and I won't kill myself.  School ended on Monday, and I had it all figured out by Tuesday.  Ambitious much?

When summers roll around, every time I ask the kiddos if they want to sign up for something over the summer, I get a negative.  Want to go to summer camp?  No.  Want to take swimming lessons?  No.  Want to try tennis?  I dunno.  Want to take basketball camp?  I dunno.  Want to take Mommy Day Camp?  YES!!!!  I guess my kiddos are home bodies.  They like to stay home and do things with me.  They want me to teach them how to swim.  They want me to bake/cook in the kitchen with them.  They want me to do fun projects with them.  I can't even pay someone to entertain them for a few hours here and there.  But I guess it's sweet that they like to be with me (for now), so I gotta suck it up.

As far as Grand Planning, Dear Husband has it easy.  All he has to do is look at his calendar and find a time for a family getaway (well, that and pay for it).  He'll even plan the entire trip.  I, on the other hand, will be joined to the hips of a tween and her little brother for 11 weeks (minus 2 hours a day for 3.5 weeks for summer school).  That's a lot of hours to fill.  And I must satisfy all of the following requirements: education/academics work, physical exercise, emotional well-being, imaginative/creative play, cooking/baking fun, responsibility training, and peer interactions over the course of the summer.  You see, I just cannot allow the kiddos' brains to ferment over the summer, nor can I tolerate any complaints of being bored.  So to seek a fine balance, I came up with Grand Plan v. 1.

Our school encourages academic review all summer long.  Reading is a daily requirement, and math is reviewed with a leveled workbook to be done throughout the summer.  There is also a computer-based personalized learning curriculum where teachers can track what students worked on over the summer.  So I thought it would be fair for the kiddos to do the math workbook and/or computer four days a week, Monday through Thursday.

Next, twice a week, we will review what the kiddos learned in Chinese School.  I would hate to have spent a year in the classroom just to forget everything over the summer.  Which is what would happen if we don't spend a little time each week to read and write.  Twice a week seems to be a reasonable amount of time.  Of course, we cannot leave out crafting and cooking/baking, which will fill the other two days.  Dear Daughter loves to do anything crafty, and Dear Son loves to do anything she does.  And the both of them love to help me in the kitchen, so cooking will be a highlight each week.  With all the crafts and kids cookbooks DD received for her birthday, I think we will be covered for the entire summer.

DD's art teacher gave the students a packet of ideas and guidelines for doodling for the summer.  She calls doodling 'Brain Dessert' (which I find awesome!).  DD will do this twice a week, while DS will work on his Pigeon Activity Book.  (This comes in handy when the two get into a quarrel and need some alone time).  The other two days will be spent on writing.  I told the kiddos that we will make a photo journal book for Summer 2013.  They will take their own pictures and write about each one.  I plan to make each of them a photobook with their work at the end of the summer.  I got this idea from having just made a Blurb book with the first 100 posts of this blog (thanks to my BFF's thoughtful gift).  It only took a year for me to complete this project, because "anal" does not even begin to describe my OCD personality when it comes to copy editing.  In any case, the end result gives quite a feeling of accomplishment (or so I'd hope, when I actually have the book in my own two hands), so I'd like for the kiddos to have a similar sense of achievement for their summer as well.

As for the extracurricular stuff, I cut the kiddos' violin lessons down to every other week over the summer.  One, we cannot afford weekly lessons, and two, I don't mind moving at a slower pace over the summer.  DS also has Tae Kwon Do lessons twice a week, and we plan to go to the YMCA at least twice a week for swimming and other sports fun.  Finally, the kiddos will do their chores twice a week.  Which means--Fridays are "Fun Days, Free Days, or Play Date Days," and weekends are Daddy Days.  So other than their daily reading and violin lesson requirements, they must do work on four days out of the week, which I think is a respectable and decent amount of time for learning. 

Now before you Tiger Mom me, I just want to throw out my disclaimer: these activities do not take long.  Each one is ten, twenty minutes, tops.  Unless they want to keep at it.  What I believe in is the routine and the continuity.  Because a few minutes a day is much more effective than all those minutes done in one or two days.  Remember cramming for college exams?  That never worked for me.  But believe me, this still leaves the kiddos with hours and hours of play time, screen time, and outdoors time each day.  They approved my Grand Plan v. 1, and there is always room for improvement and flexibility for change.  And, most importantly, this is something that works for our family. 

(And, I haven't given up altogether on finding classes for the kiddos to take.  I'm looking at kids summer fun courses at a local college as well as park districts and the Y.  It's just hard to plan anything at this point since summer school starts next week, and we haven't made definite vacation plans yet.)  

Yesterday was day two, and on the list was Craft and Writing.  DD still hadn't written thank-you cards for the gifts she received for her birthday (largely because I hadn't bought them yet).  So I suggested making the cards with decorative tape, stickers, and stamps.  She loved the idea, and worked diligently on hand-making 13 cards, while DS and I helped her fold envelopes.  For writing, DS began his photo journal with Entry #1, while DD wrote all the thank-you notes.  Voila.  Three birds, one stone.

There is always so much excitement at the beginning of summer vacation.  The change in weather, the longer days, and lots of time for daydreaming all make wrapping up obligations at school a welcomed one.  I just hope that we feel as accomplished as we are ambitious now come the end of the summer.  I will find out if my Grand Plan works out or not: if it's realistic, if it's actually feasible, or if I was just high on summer humidity.  As much as I'd like to stick to my plan, Flexibility is always a good passenger to have in the backseat.  You never know if you'll need her to take the driver's seat at some point.

Which sort of brings me to, um, me.  With this sort of schedule, I'm not sure if I'll be able to get anything accomplished--for me.  I'm not sure where I'd fit in cleaning the house or writing this blog.  I'd much prefer the latter to the former, in case you were wondering, but how can anything be written when I've got little mini-mes making demands at all hours of the day?  I need a snack!  What's this word?  Where is my <fill in the blank>???  What's for dinner?  S/he is annoying me!!!  Did I mention I have a backup driver in case I needed to, um, hop out of the car for a few moments of sanity?  At which time my kiddos might be seen out in the backyard playing in Fields of Gold Weeds while I type furiously to crank out an overdue post...

So, Dear Grand Plans, you have been created and posted on our calendar.  I guess only time will tell how silly I was even ever thinking of drafting you.  But I do wish to see the completed photobooks, I do wish to see the kiddos return to school not having lost their brains to the summer heat, and I do wish that they will have had fun while achieving all these tasks.  So, wish me luck, will ya?

Happy Summer Vacation!



  1. Woah - now, that's one largely planned summer. I'm quite certain I'll never have the focus or stamina to pull off something like that for my own child. So, day camp it will be!

    1. Well, Nilsa, working moms have a whole different set of challenges! I'm putting in my hours with these kiddos since I'm making no other contributions... And we're so far, so good. :)

  2. Whew, I need to breathe! It certainly sounds like a lot ON YOUR PART, with all the planning and organizing supplies, so I gotta give you a round of applause. So you have a calendar outlining the specific activity to do each day? Like what craft and the supplies you need? I get overwhelmed just thinking about that b/c this or next year, when J will be home instead of at daycare, I will want to develop a curriculum for him to follow so he isn't just sitting in front of the TV all day. Any suggestions for materials/curriculums?

    And hey, I want to see this Blurb book on your 100 posts! So cool! I will try to remember to incorporate blog posts into baby books I'm making for my kids.

    As for doing reviewing and learning over the summer, kudos to the school for recognizing this and sending home activities/assignments.

    1. Hi, Lisa! The activities are not specific, and usually decided by what we have on hand and what the kiddos' interests are. We have a lot of craft kits at home, so just those take care of many weeks. We also have the basics for baking. Most of the time, I just pull ideas out of magic hat and we roll with it. As far as materials and curriculum, surely there are books for age appropriate ideas. Otherwise, I get a ton of ideas just by googling preschool activities. But like I said, I usually just decide on the spur of the moment.

      I'll send some more pics of my Blurb book. (You know, with this sort of summer schedule, I am just wiped out--haven't had time to do much at all, so sorry for responding SO LATE). And yes, I LOVE our school. The staff and principal are the best group of folks that really care for students' academic and emotional well-beings.

  3. I'm impressed with the thought and planning you put into this. I'm sure it will show when they resume their studies at the end of summer. I think a little structure is good for them, too.

    I work from home most of the time, so I'm not available to coordinate their activities much. It's been two weeks of summer here and neither one has been reading, so I will have to start enforcing that one! If they start fighting or get too rowdy, I send them outside. If that doesn't work, they have to separate for half an hour. If all else fails, they get more chores to do. Some days make me wonder, "is school ready to start yet?"

    1. Hi, Janna, it's all actually going pretty well so far! We thrive on routines and structure, so they don't mind it. Yes, the whole idea of summer being one huge lump of 24-7 time with my kiddos is pretty daunting, to say the least. I'm sure I'll reach that point very soon--when's school back in session? I get so very little me time now it's pathetic. Oh wells. Wishing you some productivity that I won't have this summer, Janna! :)

  4. Wow! I am impressed with your planning and energy. :-) I wish you all a happy and productive summer. :-)

    1. Hi, Imelda, I kind of feel like the reverse as you: I'm on break during the school year, and on-the-job during the summer, busy teaching my kids. I know you're happy to be on break since you homeschool. Two weeks down, nine more to go! Happy summer to you, too!