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How to Structure a Simple Summer Schedule (For You and Your Kids)

Sing it with me. Go ahead. “School’s out for summer!” 

Children across the U.S. (and let’s be honest, the school staff, too) are belting it out, but parents and caregivers may be filled with unease. How will I keep my kids entertained? Better yet, how can I structure the day so they entertain themselves? What are ways to prevent summer learning loss after an already challenging school year? What type of boundaries or structure should exist in their day? Chores? Screentime? Exercise? The list goes on. 

Whether your kids are home with you, a relative, a babysitter, daycare, or camp, there are many ways you can help ensure reading and other important activities are a part of everyday life by having some structure. 

At our house, we’ll have a quick family meeting each night to discuss our plans for the following day. Having experienced at-home learning during the pandemic, I learned my family feels more comfortable when they know what the schedule is for the next day and expectations are clearly defined. 

Using a small dry erase board, we fill in a chart that lists activities we “must do” and “could do” (see example below). We work together to generate the list of must do tasks, giving the kids part ownership over the expectations. Having a back-up idea in the “could do” column comes in very handy when the dreaded “I’m bored” phrase shows up. And we categorize all the ideas into values that are important to our family (helping, moving, creating, and learning), but this will be unique to each family.

Here’s an example of what a typical day might look like for my kids, ages 11 and 13.  

ACTION:MUST DO:COULD DO:
HELPstrip sheets off the bed, then remake bed when sheets are dryweeding ($1 for every 5-gallon bucket)
MOVEswim practice, 7:00-8:30go on a walk/scooter ride
CREATEcontinue to create Lego stop motion video/make card for upcoming weddingstart new puzzle or make cookies
READ/WRITE/LEARNcontinue reading Blood for Blood/start Wolf Hollow help Mom with Raising Real Readers book review

Completion of MUST DOs = 1.5 hours of screen time the next day. 

Other ideas: 

  • Since I’m home with the kids, I will include my own must do and could do activities. Modeling goes a long way in influencing children and helps them to buy into the system.
  • If your child won’t be home most of the day, be realistic about what can actually be accomplished during limited evening hours. Or discuss with them ways they could read, exercise, or be creative while away at whatever childcare arrangements your family is using this summer. 
  • Do you have a fun summertime activity in mind, like a day at the pool or trip to the zoo? Use this to your advantage. If your kids successfully complete a certain number of must do tasks in a row, allow them to earn the activity! This demonstrates that hard work and consistency pays off. 
  • The power of surprise is real. Perhaps you’ve seen your child display a selfless act or go the extra mile on a task. Allow them to choose one must do to cross off their list for the day! 
  • Follow through. Consistency is key.

By working together to create some loose structure to the day, you’re helping to ensure that your family’s values get attention, but with a collaborative feel. You’re also helping to nurture your child’s executive functioning, the ability to complete tasks from start to finish. 

Do you have a summer schedule? How do you ensure your kids stay active? Share with our readers on social media in order to help us all learn from each other! 

Conquer Reading Log Stress

My ideal family evening is a winter night, all of us snuggled on the couch with a good book. There’s a fire going and no one is in a hurry. Our bellies are full, the dishes are put away, lunches are made. When bedtime approaches, teeth are brushed, hugs and kisses are exchanged, and sleep comes quickly.

Our current reality looks nothing like that. Winter is the busiest time of the year for my family. Both of my kids are playing a sport (basketball) and both have a time-consuming hobby (robotics and horseback riding). Many evenings feel more like a carefully orchestrated circus than a cozy evening of calm. I take solace knowing that the rest of our year isn’t this busy, but that doesn’t help with the stress of the current moment. So when the topic of reading logs comes up, my first thought is, “ain’t nobody got time for that!” Am I right?

As a teacher AND a mom, I urge you to trust your parenting instincts and opt for quality over quantity.

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Parents as Reading Role Models: How to Find the Time

One of the greatest things parents can do to influence their children as they grow up is to model the very behaviors and values they hope to instill in their children. Reading is one of the best examples of this: every study shows that children who see their parents reading and writing are more likely to engage in those activities as well. So we’re kicking off a series of posts about how parents can be the best reading rode models for their children.

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20 Minutes of Reading a Day: 18 Tips to Make It a Habit, Not a Chore

One of the most popular forms of homework is usually some version of a weekly reading log, where students read for at least 20 minutes each day. As a former classroom teacher turned school librarian/reading specialist, I have mixed feelings about this assignment.

Let’s be happy whenever students are encouraged to read, especially if the alternative is a worksheet.

This is the type of assignment that could go a long way toward making reading a daily habit, if both the teacher and parents frame it in a way that makes it seem less like an assignment and more like a gift.

But when parents (and teachers!) fall into certain “reading log traps,” they may be causing more harm than good when it comes to nurturing a lifelong reading habit.

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Required Reading Minutes/Reading Logs

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Why You Need to Let Children Choose Their Own Books

On the last day of our summer vacation, I told my kids they could each pick out a souvenir from the national park gift shop. They chose the $7 grab bag of fake gemstones. Literally something we could buy at our local dollar store, and had no significance to the place we’d been. I was sure the stones would end up at the bottom of our toy bin. I cringed while I made the purchase and handed over the tiny drawstring bags to their eager hands. Read More

Location, Location, Location

We’ve all heard this expression before. And while it usually conjures images of homes in just the right spot, the idea can easily be transferred to the reading life you and your family create.

In the same way that homes can increase or decrease in value because of their location, switching up the places you keep books can make reading more appealing or feel special.

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