How to Plan a Meaningful Summer

Meaningful Summer Blog

I am a homeschooling mom to three very active, (read wild and crazy and sometimes quite naughty) little boys.  But most importantly, I remind myself to focus on their love of learning, their contagious smiles, their sweet spirits, and sensitive hearts. Summertime is quickly approaching and like any mother, public, private, or homeschooling, I found myself a few weeks ago, thinking of the long, schedule-less, hot and humid days spent with three boys, lurking just around the corner! We have a  busy and full school routine, September through May. And then summer comes and I'm home with the kids and I'm left with the daunting question, "What will we do all summer long?" No vacations of any length, took that in early May. No summer camps, I'm home anyway with them and can't justify stretching the budget to accommodate the hundreds spent for each boy to be entertained by someone else, though that does sound amazing.  Hmm....let the planning begin.

When the boys were little, before school age, we could spend every day at a city splash park, or the big park just blocks from our house and whittle away the lazy days.  They loved every single monotonous day! But as they've grown, I find the need to be more intentional about our summer adventures.  We sat down last week, the four of us, at the beginning of one school day, and made three broad-spectrum goals for this summer.  We dubbed these upcoming months, "The summer of music, reading, and adventure."  These are three of our family’s highest values and we want to take the extra time we have this summer to invest in them!

The Summer of Music!  

My oldest son takes private cello lessons, my middle son, violin lessons, and Colton, well he plays with his mini violin under very close adult supervision. Music is an important part of our family. Our children will study privately through high school, and quitting is not an option! With our school studies slowing down, we will replace much of that time with extra instrument practice. We have a corner of our basement playroom/schoolroom set up as our practice center. This works well during the summer right!? Cool basement practice sessions! We'll also attend as many 6pm Millennium Stage Concerts at the Kennedy Center as we can squeeze in. Check out the schedule! Do you know it's seven days a week and FREE?! Don't you love our city!? We’ll go to some National Symphony Orchestra family concerts so Wes can hear his cello teacher perform. We'll also take our instruments to the park and practice with a change of scenery. We've been known to do this in the past and the park kiddos LOVE it! They gather around and Wesley gives them a little lesson on string instruments.

The Summer of Reading!

I've been working so very hard to instill a love of reading in my children since the day they were each born. I bought a reading curriculum for my first son's third birthday.  Needless to say, it was a bit early, he wasn't thrilled and I forced him through the first ten lessons before I packed away the book and didn't revisit it until halfway through Kindergarten. However, at the end of first grade, he is an efficient reader. Notice efficient, not avid. I keep waiting for the day that he'll lay on the couch with a kid-sized chapter book in hand and fight bedtime because he's so into his book. Nope, seven years old, but it hasn't happened yet. So...our goal this summer, read, read, read. Library, library, and more library. Let's see if we can develop this love of reading! My five year old also reads quite well  He did that same reading curriculum this year with less fuss than Wesley at the same age. Perhaps watching his older brother helped his enthusiasm and willingness. So I've been on a hunt for fun, easy readers, and chapter books that I hope they will both devour this summer. Again, reading and library are perfect for a hot DC Summer. Lots of inside AC time! And of course, DC Library Summer Reading Program where the kids can log an age appropriate amount of time to earn free baseball tickets. Wesley and Cooper are already logging hours and can’t wait to take Mommy or Daddy to a baseball game!

The Summer of Adventure!

I'll hand the reigns to my husband for this one.  It's nice to let him take charge of one of our summer goals.  He's our adventure planner!

From Dustin:

We love adventure. Just tonight I finished reading The Value of Adventure which is a Value Tales book about the life of Sacagawea. The boys loved it. I also plan to give each of them a dollar coin with Sacagawea on one side. I hope they carry this coin with them on each adventure we take this summer.

I have some lofty goals for us. I want to go on an adventure every Saturday during the summer and go camping every other week. For the Saturday adventures, there are some rules. It must be outside, it must be physically challenging, it must be fun, and it must be at least a little dangerous or have some element of unknown. I don’t want to be bored with just another day at the playground. Some initial ideas are climbing Old Rag, taking an inner tube down Rock Creek, and biking the C&O Canal from DC to Harper’s Ferry.

The camping should be pretty easy for us. The boys and I have been camping a lot over the past two years, but never more than once a quarter. Twice a month is beyond ambitious, but that’s part of the adventure. I figure that if we go often enough, I won’t have to unpack the car. The tent, pads, bags, and gear can all stay in the trunk. We just have to bring a new cooler of food and water. Some of the great places near DC I want to camp in are Wolf Gap (George Washington National Forest, VA), Susquehanna State Park (MD), and Camp Henlopen (Rehoboth, DE). Most of all, I hope this summer of adventure instills a sense of whimsy in our boys that they never relent.

Your family may share our values or have different things at the top of your list.  Either way, take time to think them through and use this summer to invest in what is most important to you!

Sarah Hanks

Sarah Hanks is mom to Wesley (age seven), Cooper (age five), and Colton (age 2), who thinks he's at least 5 in order to keep up with his bigs.  She also has a thriving Private Suzuki Violin studio a short walk or bike ride from her house at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop.  She work 2 1/2 hours a day outside the home in addition to the 8 hours a day that she is schooling, feeding, mothering her own children.  It's a busy life, but she loves both of her jobs and wouldn't trade this city life for anything!