As a homeschooling mother I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what it is like to have children at home when you are still trying to accomplish daily life requirements and take care of yourself as a mother. With the exception of my oldest who chose to attend an early college high school this year my other six children are home with me all the time. I love my lifestyle and I choose it again every day. I also know what it feels like to need some time to myself and I understand that children sometimes need to be directed into positive activities that I fully support.
I wanted to share a few tips for others who may be wondering how they can get through summer feeling calm and peaceful and having your children home.
- Ask your children for a top 10 list of what would make their summer great. Really listen to what they want to do and try to put aside what YOU want to do for a few minutes. You may be surprised. Often the activities that my family loves most and has the best memories of are simple activities that don’t take a lot of time, money, or planning to do. Maybe several of the activities suggested are desired by all family members. For example, in the summer we love to attend local, small town rodeos. We go to the parade in the morning and make an entire day of it, packing lunch and staying for the late afternoon rodeo. By the end of the day we have spent about $100 total for my family of 9 (including tickets that we purchased before the event) and have had such a great time together. My children prefer this type of activity to time at the local trampoline park or other crowded location where many parents are looking for entertainment. Another favorite is a fireside night of making smores and singing songs. Children LOVE this and it is simple to do.
- Turn off screens and get outside. I can guarantee you that children today need more outside play. They need time to lie in the grass and look for recognizable shapes in the clouds. They need time to run and jump and pick flowers and get dirty. Set a timer for 2 hours and give them some ideas and let them go. At first maybe they will feel like they don’t know what to do, but if they know you are serious about being outdoors they will begin coming up with their own play. This past week my children had cousins over and came up with an intense set up for cowboys and indians. They did a lot more dressing up to play than play and the dressing up became part of the play. It was delightful to watch and amazing to see the age span that came together for at least 4 hours of play.
- Remain firm on a regular bedtime. This is a sanity saver for parents. With warmer temperatures and more time outside in sun and swimming pools your children will be exhausted by the end of the day! The times when I see poor behavior in my children are most often connected with being sleep deprived. Play hard all day, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and then wake up for another day of play and fun. It is important for you as a mother to have this time at night to enjoy the quiet house and to take time to listen to your own soul and get the rest you need as well. You need to get your sleep too! The rule over here is 8pm for the kiddos and 10pm for the parents. Of course their are exceptions when we do an outside movie night with the projector, fireworks and things like that. Those events end up being just that, exceptions, but regular bed time is always the rule. I need time to unwind and read a little in bed before I am ready to sleep and this gives me a chance to do some evening work on the computer as well.
- Stock up on some basic supplies that will always be available to fight boredom. My short list includes sidewalk chalk, a big jug of water that is filled up outside (or cases of water), water balloons, a good sprinkler, bubbles, crayons, markers, watercolors, construction paper and glue sticks. Gather the outdoor items into a bucket that you keep in the garage or back yard and then another bucket that you keep inside. If you begin to hear about boredom give them the option of either creating from one of the buckets, reading a good book, or helping with a chore:). Given that list they will most likely get busy with an activity bucket.
- Keep the morning routine consistent. No matter what time of year it is, my children know that I expect them to brush their teeth and hair, make their bed, say prayers, tidy their bedroom and put clean laundry away. They know they should not even ask me about another activity unless the basics are done. We all feel happy when we accomplish things and take care of our own spaces. This gives children the ability to learn to care for themselves while also lightening your load in the mornings. It is important to make sure that everyone knows what their basics are and that they stay consistent. Don’t add extra things on each day or give a super long list that can be discouraging. This list should be able to be accomplished in 20 minutes and should be 5 or 6 things maximum. Try not to ‘stack’ on their list, either. My children do well with specific, single items they can accomplish. When I say things like ‘take out the garbage, then clean up the front yard and sweep the porch’ they feel overwhelmed by the stack of things to accomplish. Instead I can say ‘here is your daily morning list. On Thursday morning part of that list is taking out the trash’. Then later in the day when we are getting ready for dinner and bedtime I ask for specific things like ‘please spend 5 mintues sweeping the porch’.
- “Close” the kitchen in between meal times. Often when children are not sure what to do next or when they are thirsty they go looking for food. Serve your meals and then make an announcment that the kitchen is closed until the next meal. In the mean time let them know where they can have plenty of water and a snack if they need it. I leave a bowl of carrots or fruit on the counter that is always available but the fridge and pantry are off limits. I leave a water jug outside and I have a low cupboard with plastic cups easily accessible for drinks of water and ice from the fridge dispenser. Some afternoons I will offer a popsicle or ice cream cone but again this is an exception and not the rule.
- Establish an afternoon ‘Quiet Time’. This is a life saver for mothers. Between the hours of 2 and 4 pm our bodies need a little boost to get through the rest of the day. This is a great time for me to lie in ‘corpse pose’ for 10 minutes and replenish my adrenals while my children are quietly playing. They know that I am not to be disturbed during this time (ours is an hour long). This may be time you use returning some emails or reading or resting yourself. Set the peramaters that you are comfortable with. The rule at our home is that they can be playing with each other in their bedrooms as long as it is quiet and everyone is speaking kindly to each other. When we are struggling with kindness then people need to split to their own spaces and read a book. All of my children share bedrooms so the home is open to other areas where they can seek quiet space as long as it does not interfere with me or someone else.
- Put the house to bed each night. Let the House go a little bit during the day. I know, you may already hate me for even suggesting it. All I’m saying is that how immaculate your home is has NOTHING to do with your value as a human being or as a mother. It is ok if you don’t get to all of the sorting and deep cleaning for a month or two while you are enjoying summer. Those things are not going anywhere and when your children head back to school and your schedule gets in a new groove you can address them. Don’t run around all day cleaning up everything that has happened during the day. Allow the day to unfold and the play to happen. Then, after your evening meal, everyone has a responsibility to help until the house is back in order. No one is finished until it is acceptable to mom. The way we do this is that one person is the ‘Boss’ each night. On their night of the week their responsibility is to load the dishwasher and wash the pots and pans. All other jobs they get to assign to others. The big perk for the Boss is that they get the music remote in their pocket and they get to pick the play list we listen to as we clean up. For me I feel so great having help putting things back in order and I love seeing everyone help. I love knowing that the kitchen is ready to start fresh the next morning and that the house is vaccuumed and in order. This is a huge piece of CALM and PEACE for me!
- Make good friends with your local library. There is a difference between children reading for school and summer reading. Summer is a time for them to explore new books, silly books, maybe even books well below their reading level that are just for fun. Summer is a time to read just for the pure love of reading. This is a perfect time to check out those ‘how to’ books or for them to try learning to sketch from books or trying other new things. Set a regular libaray trip and try some new books. This is another way to help with the ‘I’m bored’ chant. If there is always a supply on hand of new material to discover or read you can always have that as a go to for an activity. Your local library may also offer awesome summer reading programs with great prizes like ours does. We love our local libraries and the friendly librarians who help my children find just what they are looking for.
- Remember that LOVE IS ALWAYS THE ANSWER. Give yourself some grace. Remember that you are the mother for your children because you were specifically hand picked by an all-knowing, all loving God who knows your special set of strengths and abilities. Quite possibly the most important thing you will do for your children this summer is to love them for who they are, where they are, and for all the little moments of joy they bring to your life. Take time to love yourself and acknowledge that every day you get up, show up, and do you best. I believe in you. You are loved.