Our kids get out of school this week—I know, it’s crazy late. I’m learning that that’s just life in the Pacific Northwest. And if you haven’t gathered by my podcasts, Instagrams, and general one-liners here at there on the blog, you’ll know: I’m so very ready for summer. I’ve felt like a kid, eagerly counting down the days. I even contemplated making a paper chain to officially count down—for me, not the kids.

I’ve wisened up to the fact that our family’s summers need to find that happy medium of relaxed and somewhat structured (but not in a boring, taskmaster sense). After a week or two of decompressing from the school year and enjoying some lazy days with nothing but play on the agenda, my kids need a few—shall we say, suggestions—to make the most of their freedom.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all about letting the kids explore, wander through their summer days, and enjoy the challenge of being bored. We’ll be doing plenty of that. But I also don’t see any reason we can’t still learn stuff and, you know, be intentional with our time.

So here’s how our family will strike that lovely balance for the next few months between free time to explore and a wee bit of summer structure.

15-minute “school”

Yeah… I’m gonna be that mom. And I only call it school out of irony, really, because I believe learning best happens through life lived, so that’s pretty much what we’ll be doing. But I do want the kids to keep up with a little bit of brainwork.

tate reading

For about 15-30 minutes a few times a week, we’ll work on a weekly rotation of subjects—foreign language, math, handwriting, and a bit of catch-up on grammar that I feel like my oldest one missed this past year. My five-year-old will work a bit on phonics and reading, but he doesn’t really know he’s learning anything, because he thinks it’s pure fun.

We’re talking fun stuff, like Rosetta Stone, online math games, this cursive joke book, and casually talking through First Language Lessons. And like the rest of the year, we’ll keep Story of the World playing in our car, we’ll cook together (fractions!), and of course, read, read, read.

I’ve found that with just a bit of planning, this really only does take about two hours a week, tops. And of course, we’ll skip all this when we decide to go off and do something epic instead. No pressure to finish anything here.

Mandi recently wrote a compelling post about why her family does year-round school.

Book list

Tons of stores and local libraries have book lists, so we’ll cull from each of those and make our own. My oldest loves reading independently, but I do find I need to give her suggestions in order to gently push her towards more challenging reading. So, we’ll work through our book list, just for fun. And the prize for finishing? I have no idea yet. Maybe pride and joy.

Art supplies

As always, we’ll keep our centrally-located craft cabinet stocked with paper, scissors, glue, cardboard, tape, stickers, pipe cleaners, and whatever other scraps might be reinvented in to something glorious.

craft cabinet - crayons and markers

No direction needed here—our kids come up with their own crazy ideas.

Daily room straightening

When my kids wait to clean their rooms until it’s an epic disaster, nobody wins—there is gnashing of teeth, the kids cry with overwhelm, and I’m totally annoyed at the whole situation. So, for everyone’s sanity, we’ll keep up with a daily room straightening (it doesn’t need to be perfect). Just a quick pick-up every afternoon works wonders.

No TV until after lunch & the rooms are straightened

Yeah… I’m that mom again. Since we don’t have regular television (we only do Netflix and Hulu), our kids don’t have to catch a show at a particular time, and I’ve found that they are Grumpy Gills when they watch it in the morning. I don’t know what it does, but on the rare occasion we let them catch a bit of screen time in the a.m., it somehow reflects off the sunrise and sends laser signals to the brain that tells them they’re perfectly free to be jerks to each other.

So. We don’t turn on the TV until after lunch and the rooms are relatively non-disastrous.

Pool, library, park, bike rides, & weekly movies


My childhood summer memories involve riding my bike to the neighborhood pool and staying till kingdom come, almost every day. I’d like my kids to have some of the same, and since they’re part fish with their undying love for the swim, we make the most of it. Especially since it’s frigid winter up here ten months out of the year.

(I kid.)

(Sorta. It’s more like a solid nine for me.)

We also like regular library visits, hitting up the local park scene, going on family bike rides, and this year, we’ll try and catch a few dollar movies on Tuesdays.

Ye olde Pinterest bucket list

The advent of Pinterest has brought on an influx of mom pressure to have an Official Summer Bucket List. I’ve tried this before. It doesn’t really work for our family. But I do like having a visible checklist with some ideas of what the kids can do, so that’s what we’ll do, laid-back style.

Summer 2013 pinboard by Tsh Oxenreider.

My 8-year-old knows how to get on the Internet and look at my summer pinboard, if she wants some ideas. I’m not up for spending hours on crafts that I ultimately finish, but she’s welcome to tackle some on her own, if she wants.

And of course, we’ve got camping trips and lake visits on our agenda, a few local road trips, and a week down visiting friends and family in Texas, since it’s so mild there during July. But outside of these, we’ll be home, and I’m all about keeping a fun summer simple. Kids don’t need loads of perfectly-organized crafts or activities—ours just need a wee bit of structure and a whole lot of freedom.

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability. -Sam Keen

I’m also slowing down my work a bit for the next month or so, so you’ll see a few guest posts here, like we do every summer. And while I enjoy a bit more time to sew, learn some French for fun, work on some book preparation stuff, and maybe read a book or three just for the heck of it, I’ll be back much more refreshed and excited to write here again. As a reader, you should be happy about this.

(And of course, I’ll still be podcasting every other week, and you can always catch me on Instagram.)

What are you most looking forward to this summer?