Summer has officially begun in our area as the schools are finally out for the year. While my family is celebrating Pkin’s successful completion of 2nd grade (which sometimes seemed like it might be overwhelmed and derailed by math), we are also working to find the best way to give a sense of normalcy and routine to an otherwise unscheduled and wide open time.
Routine is just so much easier when there is an outside expectation, like school, to schedule around. You know when it starts, when it ends, what you do each day. You know there will be homework each night and that, depending on how much of it is math, you’ll be spending an hour or two working on it. And, frankly, you don’t have to make that many decisions.
I’ve been surprised to find that routine isn’t only important to Pkin, it also helps me in my parenting. In all honesty, it can be useful to know that the battles surrounding homework and bedtime will happen at roughly specific times so I don’t have the constant worry of potential blow-ups hanging over my head (though those do come anyway, of course).
Two summers ago, we avoided the summer routine vacuum by sending Pkin to day camp for most of the summer. She wasn’t always happy about it (though it helped that her best friend was attending), but we were able to find a way to make it manageable.
Last summer, that friend wasn’t attending the camp and Pkin was having nothing to do with going without her. I had also just left my job for health reasons so saw a summer spent with my daughter as a time to reconnect and to feel like I could actually be a productive member of the family even though I wasn’t bringing in my full-time salary anymore. Despite my best laid plans, and I love to plan, the summer ended up being a chaotic mash of whatever we felt like doing on any given day and a lot of wow, it’s too hot to do anything.
I plan for this summer to be different. That doesn’t mean, though, that every day is scheduled top to bottom. I’ve learned that planning of that sort never works out the way I expect (if I set aside 15 minutes to transition from one activity to the other, it will take 30. If I scheduled 30, it will take 10. You never know!). There are some things that do need to happen at specific times. Pkin is taking several cooking classes this summer. We are also doing ongoing work in Math (because she needs it) and History (because she likes it). But there is still a lot of time unaccounted for and I don’t want it to all be spent watching TV or playing video games.
I also want Pkin to feel like she has an active role in the planning. I want her to feel both a sense of some control of her day and to learn how to plan and prioritize (hello executive function!). As she is a strongly visual learner, I’ve created little cards with images connected to various options for activities with short words or phrases to explain them. They are color coded so we can easily tell which items we “have” to do each day and which items are “options.” She gets to decide the order in which we do things. I get to help her determine if there is enough time in each day to do everything.
Of course, for all of this to work, I have to give up some of my control. The unstated agreement behind this process is that I have to do what she wants to do if she’s going to have to do what I want her to do. I imagine this means I’ll be spending a lot of time at the pool this summer…maybe I can find a way for her to do her math underwater…