The end of the school year is just days away for most school districts in the Pittsburgh area. Any parent who has a child in school knows from experience that the last month of the school year is pure chaos. When you multiply that chaos by four kids, life gets crazy! After months of having something scheduled every single day, I officially declared we will be having an unscheduled summer!
It’s a bold choice, but a necessary one. When I say unscheduled, I truly mean it. No soccer. No basketball. No summer dance classes. No Vacation Bible Schools. No summer camps. No storytime. NOTHING. For once, I want my family to be able to do whatever we want whenever we want to do it without worrying about sticking to a strict schedule.
Summers for my family are typically very busy. I usually watch another child (or two or three or four) in addition to having my own four kids at home. We’ve had many summers full of scheduled sports and activities, we’ve had summers where I planned several playdates and outings each week, and we’ve had summers where I scheduled at home crafts and activities for each weekday – AKA Camp Mom. But after 13+ years of orchestrating these busy summers, this mom AND the kids need a break!
I can’t help but wonder what happened to summers like the ones I experienced as a child? We eagerly counted down the days until school ended, and when school let out, several months stretched out ahead of us with no scheduled activities other than holidays and vacation.
We found ways to keep busy, and that was without the use of electronics! We rode our bikes, went for walks, played with our friends until after dark, and went swimming. Our parents allowed us to be kids with minimal responsibilities. We didn’t get bored, and the break from everything – and I mean everything – was glorious!
But sometime over the years, lazy summers became a thing of the past. The norm today is to fill the summer schedule with camps, vacation bible school, summer sports, and activities. Parents became solely responsible for arranging experiences for their kids. The mindset is that if you’re not doing it that way, you’re doing it wrong. But the problem with overscheduled summers is that they are just an extension of the school year. Kids aren’t allowed to just be kids anymore. They have to work and train and socialize all summer long. They aren’t allowed to relax and enjoy childhood.
A few weeks ago, I sat down to fill out our summer schedule. Between summer dance classes, basketball, storytime, and soccer training camp, our weeks were booked and very expensive. How on Earth was I going to juggle my work, give my kids a fun summer, and be a mom taxi for all of their commitments? Nothing was changing from the busy school year other than the fact that they weren’t in school!
At that moment, the realization hit me then that doing what everybody else was planning was the wrong decision. I wanted to spend time WITH my kids, not spend time taking them to all of their sports and activities. So I put my foot down. Summer Break was going to be just that…a break!
I sat my kids down and told them our plan was to do nothing, and surprisingly, they were on board. I want to be able to wake up and decide what we are going to do that day based on the weather, not on a schedule. I want to be able to take my kids to the park, take them swimming, take them to an event if I want to, or take them hiking after I get my work done for the day.
And if we have to stay home all day? Not a problem! Read a book. Draw a picture. Jump on the trampoline. Drag sleeping bags into the living room and watch a movie. Use your imagination. Just enjoy being a kid with no commitments!
Yes, there will still be appointments. There will still be kids at our house often. I will still be taking my kids places. But for the most part, our summer is going to be unplanned and free from the stress of a busy schedule! I’m thinking late nights, making s’mores, catching fireflies, having sleepovers with best friends, playing in the backyard, and staying outside until after dark. That sounds like perfection!
When I was a child, summer break was an exciting time. But as every adult knows, childhood is fleeting. One day, those summers of complete freedom will be gone. So why not teach our kids to embrace carefree summers while they can?
With just 6 days of school left, the promise of summer break is so close! This summer, our focus is going to be on spending time with those we love most and making lasting memories. It may not be the norm, but I have no doubt that it’s exactly what my family needs!