Hooray for Summer (Exclamation Point): Steps to a Successful Break (Question Mark)


Last year's leftover school supplies. This year's haul is rumored to be even more epic: my son was told to bring a garbage bag to school on desk-clearing day.

Ah, the dump that is end-of-year school supplies. The fifth-grade haul is rumored to be even more epic: my son was told to bring a garbage bag to school on desk-clearing day.  (God help us.)


It’s here!  Summer break.  Honestly, my head is spinning the school year went by so fast.  And I feel totally unprepared.  So I dug up this post from 2015 (which also earned a repost last year) to help refresh my brain on how to (and not!) navigate summer with kids.  And I hope it helps you, too:

Two years ago, as the school year drew to an end, I wrote a post that received some flak.  In Hooray for Summer? (In retrospect, Horrors, It’s Summer! would have been a fun title…) I described the difficult transition for parents, myself wholeheartedly included, to having the kiddos home for three months.  I outlined my plan to keep us all from going crazy, which, it ends up, was a near-total flop.  Disappointing, to say the least…I needed a solid strategy because I was really not looking forward to the loss of (forgive me) my freedom.

But this year?  I am stoked for summer.  Cannot.  Wait.  We are going to have a blast.  I learned a lot from past failures.  Plus my kids are a year older, with more specific interests.  We have lots to look forward to this summer, but before I get into our new-and-improved plan (hopefully resembling a jewel-encrusted flip-flop instead of a plain old crummy flop), here’s a summary of what didn’t work in years past.  And because some things work better for some kids than others, you may find our failures to be your successes.

Summer Fun Plan (aka, How Not to Kill Each Other While On Summer Break):

**Set a Schedule (this-happens-at-this-time-or-else-you’re-grounded!).  Yeah, you can see why this was a total disaster.  Even without the threat of grounding.  Yes, I really thought my kids liked routine.  Maybe it’s only the routine set by school (under the threat of the principal’s office?) that they “like.”  I get why they drug their feet with 10:00 am flash cards but with the 1:30 pm go-crazy-outside-in-the-beautiful-mountain-air?  I’m still lost on that one.

**The “I’m Bored” Jar (Russian Roulette for kids).  The rules were straightforward:  say the words “I’m bored!” and draw an activity out of a whimsically decorated jam jar.  The activity could be “water the plants” but it could be “go out for ice cream.”  A fun game of chance!  Not really.  Here’s how things went down in our house:

Kiddo:  “I’m bored!”

Me:  “Here’s the jar!  Let’s see what you get!”

K:  (drawing out a labelled popsicle stick…come on, how whimsically creative is that?):  “I don’t wanna!”

M:  “It could be ice cream….!”

K: (reading his activity)  “Awwww!  I don’t wanna build a fort!”

M:  “But you love to build forts!”

K;  “No, I don’t!”

You get the idea.

**Read the Newspaper.  I did.  We have an amazingly vibrant town with endless summertime activities.  Response to Endless Summer was similar to the jar activities.

**Who’s Who on the Loop.  There are about 20 children who live on our cul-de-sac.  How many were around during the day last summer?  About negative 5.  Which was weird as many of them were around to play the previous summer (I recall 12 in our yard one particular sunny day) but not so weird, really, in that many of them have both parents working outside the home.  So most of those kids were enrolled in day camps and not home when my kids knocked on their doors after lunch.  My kids were kinda lonely.

**Compromise.  Tried it exactly once.  I like to jog and my kids like to shoot hoops (shoot!  that should have been a jar activity!) so I took my kids to the local rec center to play basketball while I ran on the track above the court.  Great idea, right?  I think I jogged exactly 10 minutes before my kids started arguing over whose ball was whose, a no-win situation since the balls were identical.


So Summer Fun Plan was not exactly stellar.  But we made it through and did enjoy a late summer family vacation.  But that’s beside the point.  Because what is important now is the…

Stupendous Summer Plan (aka, Mom’s Learned From Her Past Mistakes and is Super-Stoked to Make New Ones.):

**Attitude.  I will admit I was in a bad place a year ago, feeling the impending arrival of summer break and departure of my flexibility.  This year, I am using the power of positive thinking to fuel our entry into the next three months.  That, and:

**Pre-planning.  Something I have never been good at when it comes to summer activities.  In the past I put my kids in a couple impromptu day camps and it was a veritable disaster.  They hated it, and from all accounts of their experience, I don’t blame them.  They still wax hatred over it.  And I won’t ever again send them to that particular camp.  Then I promised myself I’d do what I’ve never successfully done before, and that is lock in the good stuff.   But as most parents know, registration for sought-after summer activities can start way in advance, and April being tax month makes writing those summer security checks rather painful.  But I do it.  We’ve done violin camp, theatre camp and gymnastics camp.  This year my younger son will do a day camp with the local humane society.   The checks cleared.  We didn’t bankrupt ourselves.  And my kids are really excited.

**Who’s Who on the Loop, the Sequel.  I am putting together a list of all the kids mine want to play and have sleepovers with this summer, along with their parents’ contact info.  And who I can get ahold of on a weekday for a playdate and who is better able to come on a Saturday.  I’m keeping the list on my phone so it is always handy.  No excuse for not calling someone up and planning some fun.

**Goal Setting.  I’m going to run a half marathon.  I’m going to run a half marathon.  Did I mention the half marathon?  No?  Well, a friend and I have committed ourselves to 13.1-mile “Thirsty 13 2015.”  We are training together.  A half marathon in October.  I’M GOING TO DO IT.  Why?  Because I never have and I want to.  Last summer I felt I could only slip in a workout here and there, like if the kids were having some screen time and dad was home.  I didn’t make exercise a summer routine like I did during the school year and that was bad for my psyche.  This summer?  I have set a goal.  Made an obligation to a terrific friend.  I’m making myself (creatively) carve out the “me time” that keeps me a sane mother and a present one.

So, yes, I am truly excited for summer, with an exclamation point.  But will our new-and-hopefully-improved game plan work:  that remains the question mark.  At least right now, I feel confident it will (period).

Our end-of-homeschool year-haul: no garbage bag required, just space in the store room. Now that garbage bag is looking pretty good….


(Original post from June, 2015 and revised June 2016 and June 2017)


  • Sometimes, being bored is not a bad thing. When kids are bored and left to their own devices, they will find something to do. Maybe, it is as simple as studying the ants in the grass.

    As I watch my grandchildren and all of their activities, I sometimes wonder what happened to just being a kid; free to day dream, ride your bike, play ball, climb a tree or lay in the grass and read a book.

    Most of all, summer time is for relaxing and enjoying life to its fullest.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Electronics get in the way so my challenge is setting conditions on the IPads! But we are getting there.

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