I have been dreading it for a month already. SUMMER. It’s not that the kids are home. They’re home all the time. It’s that the STRUCTURE of the school year is gone. Whether you home-school or away-school, the day revolves around school time. And for a few blessed hours, no one is wandering around making messes, whining about boredom, or begging to play the Xbox.
Unfortunately, in all my googling, I see that there are many high-energy, elaborate ways to keep my kids organized this summer.
So here are my four strategies:
1. Theme of the Month!
For one month after school is finished, we have one rule. “Put it away immediately.” How is this lazy? Well, there’s no other cleaning going on AT ALL.
There’s no massive clean out or decluttering or revamping of lifestyle other than Theme of the Month. You *can* clean out a drawer if you desperately desire, but for one month we’re just focusing on maintaining this exact level of mess without adding to it.
During the summer, toy after toy, after project after project is pulled out. Unless I have the TV on non-stop, my house WILL explode when summer vacation hits. So, unless they’re only walking away to go tinkle, it must be put it away. Until this is mastered, there’s no sense in doing a big clean out. And frankly, yelling “Theme of the Month!” sounds better than “Why are you leaving your crap everywhere? All I do is clean up behind you! Pick all this up!”
2. Kid of the Day
We have four kids, but only three old enough to fight over the front captain’s chair in the back of the minivan. So years ago, we assigned days of the week. Monday-Tuesday is the oldest. Wednesday-Thursday is the middle. Friday-Saturday is the youngest. Sunday is first come, first served. No kid ever forgets their days.
Using that structure as a peg, we recently attached a HELPER day to it. If it’s your seat day, you get to help cook, but you are also the dishwasher unloader, the laundry switcher, the one who picks up behind baby, takes out the chicken bucket, waters the animals, and the one I yell for when I need you to bring me more wipes or anyone yells for toilet paper. How is this lazy? NO CHORE CHARTS.
3. Meal Planning
Even if you never meal plan any other time of the year, do it for the summer to give your days SOME structure. As I wrote in 5 Lazy Ways to Simplify Your Days, I use benchmarks, not the clock to organize our life. No school? No benchmarks! ACK!
Focusing on meals helps the kids feed that “what’s coming next” curiosity that is so consistently filled during the school year. What’s for dinner, lunch, breakfast? I can tell my kids what’s for lunch six days from now and they really like that.
But meal planning can be a super complicated affair. Remember, we’re being LAZY, so here are the rules:
- Plan LAME, easy stuff. No lamb chops with mint reduction or some such nonsense. Try this: Grilled cheese, turkey sandwiches, Taco Bell night, Crockpot chicken, hot dogs, frozen pizza. That’s a week of dinners. WOOT! Wanna see me do lunches?…PB tortilla roll-ups, turkey rolled around raw veg, mini pizzas, yogurt shakes, cheese/cold cuts and crackers, leftovers.
- Don’t try to be too healthy…yet. We try to maintain a sane level of protein around here, minus as many nitrates as we can easily weed out, but for the first month or so of summer, there’s a lot of french fries up in here. Remember, we’re trying to survive, people! Ditch perfection for a month and go for NOT POISON.
- Don’t use the oven, if you can help it. In addition to usually signaling that you’ve officially spent too much time on this meal, using the oven heats up your house and makes you cranky. Most importantly, your helper is probably too afraid to use it (or you’re too afraid to let him.) If you can’t make it on the stove, crockpot, or toaster over, it’s not happening.
- Let the kids cook, and waste time. Summer is the time for more time consuming (though SIMPLE) meals, since there’s lots of time to be consumed and kids will flip pancakes for an hour just to do it. So the kids took 45 minutes to make PB and J? Awesome.
- Make the kids do the planning. Since the Kid of the Day has things he wants to help cook, I involved the kids in the meal planning (read: make them do the meal planning). You probably require more variety out of yourself than they do. They just want their turn this week with the stick blender or the griddle. We have muffins least once a week, and if I don’t make sure it rotates between the cooks, I have some angry chefs. Muffin pans are apparently AWESOME.
4. Establish a Routine
- Breakfast, play outside while it’ not too hot.
- Lunch, TV time while we digest and rest.
- Mid-Afternoon, find our friends in the neighborhood or head to Grammy’s house.
- Dinner, bath, bed.
Good luck with your summer! I let you know if I survive mine….