Establish a Summer Schedule They’ll Beg You to Stick With
Summertime is a tremendous period of learning and growth, but it is also a chance to pause and reflect. Ideally, a child’s summertime schedule looks different than it does during the traditional school year. The summertime schedule should be fluid and flexible. It should have plenty of space to absorb spontaneous plans, unexpected visitors, and any sudden need for solitude and reflection.
However, even the loosest schedule is a schedule of some kind. Most of us, if left to our own devices, have a deeply ingrained natural rhythm we’ll adhere to if given the chance. On a day you don’t need to be anywhere, watch your child and see if his natural rhythms are evident.
- What time does your child naturally wake up and fall asleep?
- When does your child get hungry?
- What time of day are your child’s highest and lowest levels of energy?
- When is her attention sharpest?
- When does he most often need time to be alone or require a change of scenery?
- When is your child most responsive to physical activity?
Ask your child to track this information as well. Once clear patterns are established, plan the rest of your summer schedule accordingly. Have fun with this. There are many great ways to add fun learning opportunities to your beautiful summer days.
Mandy from Texas writes:
“My 7-year-old son wakes up early in the morning with lots of energy. By 6:30, he is ready for something fun to do and meanwhile I’m still wishing I was in bed! Early on, I recognized that we need a light morning schedule in the summertime. When he wakes up he usually comes into my room to say good morning. I get up, help him prepare breakfast, and talk about the day. He does much better if he knows the plan for the day ahead, so while he eats we talk about what the entire day ahead will look like—right down to what we are eating for supper.
After breakfast, my son looks at books while I do a few chores and get ready for the day. We keep a big box full of new library books and garage sale purchases in the living room. I make sure there are always new things to find in the box and he has a lot of fun looking through it for treasures. When I’ve finished doing what I have to do, I sit with him and we read two or three of the books together. Next, we usually do some sort of structured activity like painting, a nature walk, a puzzle, or a science experiment. My son is more focused in the morning and it’s the time he is most receptive to projects I want to try with him. Also, I find if he has my full attention in the early hours, he is more independent in the afternoon.
After that, we have snack and clean up our morning messes. By then he is ready to play on his own and I use this time to prepare for lunch and get a few more things done around the house. After lunch, we like to get out of the house. This usually means having a playdate with friends, going to the pool or, if it’s really hot, we like to head to an air conditioned place like the library or science museum. Dinner and bedtime happen at the same time each evening. It’s so easy to let these things slide in the summer, but I know my son feels so much better when we are consistent.
I wouldn’t say our days are overly structured. I like to leave lots of time for spontaneous fun. But our days have a certain sense of order that make things go more smoothly both for my son and for me.”
Wendy T. from New Jersey writes:
“My 14-year-old daughter is a late sleeper. She would stay in bed until lunch, if she could. I’m grateful for the rest she gets during summer vacation. During the school year, she is very busy and always has a difficult time getting up in the morning. However, when I let her sleep too late, she’s up too late at night. I have two other younger children who are up early and we all go to bed early. It doesn’t feel right to have one family member’s schedule so out of sync with everyone else’s. I don’t want to get into a pattern where I am nagging her to get up each day. Instead, we schedule a lot of the fun stuff away from the house during the earlier parts of the day.
Last summer, each morning started with some sort of activity she had come up with herself. She volunteered three days each week at an animal shelter up the road from our home. She practiced piano with her teacher one morning and pottery on another morning. Since it was her idea to do each of these things, it was easy to get her moving at a reasonable time—but not too early. She was sure not to plan anything for before 10:00! When she got home, we’d eat lunch together as a family and plan out our afternoon together. Usually she would rest a little after lunch with a book in the hammock or go visit a friend.
I like the kids to help around the house—I think they learn a lot from this. At around 3:00, we tend to all get in the garden together and weed and pick foods for dinner. My daughter is a talented cook and she helps me out in the kitchen all of the time—especially in the summer. We try to cook dinner together at least three nights a week in the summer.
I don’t want to over schedule my daughter’s time in the summer, but I like her to have enough on her plate to be sure she doesn’t just sleep her vacation away. I think we have struck a very nice balance between structured and unstructured activities.”
This summer, I encourage you to create a fun summer schedule for your family that includes many different types of learning activities. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Your goal is to create a summer schedule that your kids are so excited about that they beg you to stick with it.