“‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free”
This is the last week of school for my kids before the summer break, and we’ve been counting down the days–they with gleeful anticipation, me with rising panic.
It’s going to be a simple summer at home this year. The two oldest boys will each return to sleep-away camp for a week, but that’s all that’s on the program (or in the budget) right now. Last year was our triennial, month-long, Eastern Canada vacation, and we went to Disney World and Universal Studios for spring break. I don’t feel too sorry for us, do you?
Still, the empty calendar looms large. I’ve always embraced minimalist summers, but it was easier when the kids were smaller. Now I have a child in elementary, middle, and high school, and it’s harder to span all three of their interests and needs. I’m particularly perplexed as to what to do with my teenager. I don’t want to turn him loose all day, every day, but neither do I want Netflix binge-watching to be the theme of his summer vacation. A part-time job might be an answer (and will probably be expected next year), but I also want him to savor what time he has left to be a kid on summer break. I like being free of the tyranny of the clock myself during the summer months.
I think our salvation will lie in routine, same as it did when they were tiny, and I had them home all day, every day. We’ve never been much for schedules around here, but we all do better when our days have a rhythm and a routine. I’ve recently been using a time management technique called time blocking. Before school gets out this week, I’m going to use it to plot a daily template. Nothing too detailed, just a loose outline, so that everyone has an idea of what to expect between waking and sleeping, and downtime is balanced by active time. I’m also going to have to create a physical boundary for my work, probably leaving the house early in the morning while they are content to hang around pants-less and play video games.
How to use free time is a good problem to have, isn’t it? I hope with a little planning and a lot of imagination, we can make the most of it. If you’ve got any simple summer suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
P.S. My friends Asha and Christine, authors of Minimalist Parenting recently spoke on NPR about scaling back summer. Do you feel pressure to keep your kids busy with structured activities during summer break, or is it a matter of practical necessity? What would your ideal summer with kids look like?