4 Lazy Ways to Simplify Summer Days

by Ivory Soap

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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.

Forget THAT!

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

Here’s ours:

  • 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….



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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa May 16, 2012 at 7:10 am

These are the best tips I have EVER seen for surviving the summer. Ever! Thanks!

Grace May 16, 2012 at 8:19 am

This brought back something I hadn’t thought about in years.

When I was 8-ish a neighbor girl and I made a recipe for watermelon ice we found in a Good Housekeeping magazine. It was an astounding mess and seemed to take forever. Our moms must have been at a Newcomers Club meeting, they were gone, anyway.

We also got shipped off to the farm for a week at a time during the summer. Grandma came into town on Tuesdays and would pick us up on the way back home. That’s where I learned to sew and garden and can and forage and keep chickens and kill chickens and cook chickens and bake cookies.

Thanks for the nostalgia!

Naomi May 17, 2012 at 6:38 am

I no longer have children at home, but I so enjoyed reading this, I needed the laughs. I love the ideas though; children really do need/want structure, and it sounds like they’re getting a good summertime education in the meantime. Thanks for an excellent article!

Meridith Murray May 17, 2012 at 7:04 am

Great ideas! I had five kids so assigning each kid a “day” was a no-brainer (and no more fighting over who sits up front or who gets the best “TV chair”!) I read this somewhere, and it is brilliant: every so often (not TOO often or it loses its punch) you announce a “Templeton holiday” (remember Templeton the rat in Charlotte’s Web? Remember how he ate himself stupid at the fair?) On a Templeton Holiday day, everyone is allowed to indulge as much as he/she likes. Stay in your pajamas all day. Eat ice cream for breakfast. Don’t brush your teeth. Watch cartoons all day. (OK, this may be horrible parenting, but the kids love it, and what harm will come from one day of sloth??) Plus, by the next day, everyone is ready for a little discipline and structure! Carpe Diem!

Heidi May 17, 2012 at 9:33 am

May I just say that I think you are fantastic? This is exactly the kind of recommendations and encouragement real moms need. Have a wonderful summer!

Life at Home Mom, Becky May 17, 2012 at 10:59 am

Awesome!!! Love, love, love the ideas. So perfect.

Ivory Soap May 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Becky, Heidi, Meridith….I’m SO GLAD you liked it! Thank you!

Sasha May 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I love your ideas and approval of laziness! I like to add into the routine “DEAR” time – Drop Everything And Read. There’s nothing like a picnic blanket in the shade with a good book to create some nice family time and lazy-summer enjoyment! And it also frequently leads to doing some semi-educational logic or puzzle games together.

Jayne May 19, 2012 at 7:12 am

am passing this on to friends with young children, I remember trying to fill up summer days 🙂

Heidi June 22, 2013 at 7:42 am

Thank you for this post! I read it when you first posted last year and I’m still thinking about it now. #3 Meal Planning really hit home with me. I love your easy-going approach. Sometimes we need to hear that its okay to give in a little and relax into “not poison,” etc. in the name of summer. Thanks so much for a great blog!

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