Friday Thoughts

1) Summer Schedule Thoughts: With my kids getting out of school for the summer a week from today (!!), summer (and staying sane and scheduled) is on my mind. In fact, I have so many thoughts swirling around my head about summer that this might be the only “Friday Thought” I share today.

Over the last 10 summers, we’ve done various systems/schedules to keep us organized. Those of you who know me well already know that I’m super scheduled – schedules keep me sane. I’m kind of in love with schedules, actually.

So while there are some parents who approach the summer 100% free range style, I’m not one of them (although I admire greatly parents with this style, and my kids, I’m sure, often wish they had been born to a mother with a little more free range in her).

However, let me be very clear, I do not keep my kids scheduled 100% of the day. And they aren’t involved in a lot of outside activities/summer camps in the summer. Maybe summer “system” is the better word for what we have going on here.

I believe in summer chores (work before play is our motto).

And I believe it’s ok for my kids to be bored once in a while.

Every year, given the changing ages of my kids, we sit down one-on-one and evaluate what goals they would like to accomplish during the summer (learn Photoshop, build a wood project in garage, etc). And of course, I throw in a few of my own.

Our “system” has changed from year to year. In the past, I’ve done an official, super cute job chart (I made the cards from Susan Fitch’s amazing job chart clipart on Etsy). I would fill in the slots each night before I went to bed so when the kids woke up, they’d have an outline of their jobs:

It worked great for many summers, but my older kids have kind of graduated from a cutesie system like this. So we’ve also muddled through a few summers where I would do the ol’ pen and paper system for them and the cute job chart for the littles.

Now I’m at the point that I want one system for all. Simplicity! So this summer, my plan is to print out a one-page chart (I’ve linked it below) on cardstock, laminate, and use a dry erase marker for the kids to mark off their jobs.

And I’m changing up our “every day chore” system and moving toward a life skills method.

I’m realizing that my kids can do bits and pieces of a job pretty well – but clean the bathroom top to bottom thoroughly? Uh, yeah. Scary.

This summer they’ll have a daily list of tasks to complete by noon (Fridays are a free day for all the *’d jobs):

-Pick up room/make bed
-Reading (30 mins)
-Typing* (1-2 lessons per day; goal to get to 40 wpm by end of summer for age 10 and older)
-Practice piano/cello* (30 mins)
-Math facts* (10 mins)
-Dad’s outside job list (Brian writes this out every morning)

Quick note: for typing, in the past, we’ve used Typing Instructor for Kids (actual software you buy) but it didn’t play nicely with our mac, so now we just use typing.com. It’s a little boring (no frills and games) but it gets the job done and every time they finish a level, they can play a game (tons of free ones online). If anyone has great typing program suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

And then they’ll have a weekly job assignment. The cleaning jobs have to be finished and checked off by me by Thursday at noon with the caveat that if we have company or something else happening, I can ask them (nicely) to complete the job sooner.

We’ll rotate through these weekly job assignments (and I’ll help the 6- and 8-year old, but I’m expecting that my 10-, 12-, and 14-year olds should be able to do an adequate job themselves with a little training).

Weekly tasks: 

-Vacuum whole house, including stairs
-Dust entire house room-by-room and help plan and prepare one dinner this week
-Clean bathrooms top to bottom (we have 2.5 bathrooms)
-Clean up breakfast every day this week and prepare one hot breakfast this week
-Clean up lunch every day this week and prepare one lunch (hot or cold) this week

Five kids. Five weekly assignments. (Here’s a PDF of the chart I threw together in Pages for a visual.)

We also have a “room job” chart that we’ve used for years that includes things like cleaning up dinner, picking up various rooms in the house, wiping down the guest bathroom, feeding animals, etc.

It works wonders for our family, and is the longest running job system I’ve ever used (we use this year long, not just in the summer). I really love this little wheel. It saves my sanity on a daily basis.

I redo it every once in a while when we need to add job or change things up. Every single day of our lives around dinnertime or right after, I call out “room jobs!” and everyone knows exactly what I’m talking about – and they (hopefully) get moving on their room job. And trust me, if one of them is still fat dogging it on the couch, one of their siblings will quickly call them out to get moving on their room job. #siblingaccountability

Anyway, I’m not sure how our summer system will work this year. It’s the first time I’ve done the “weekly” job thing – but Brian and I talk all the time how we want to raise functional, responsible kids who know how to work, how to finish a job, and how to…well…clean a toilet.

So, that’s the goal this summer. I’m still working on delegating laundry. I’m worried for my life, our septic tank, and all the clothes in our house if I offload this responsibility. They DO fold all the clothes (see room job chart), but I still do the washing.

Lest you think that my kids are the most disadvantaged kids in the history of ever to have their summer focused around jobs and chores, I always start the summer asking them to write down the three things they’d be sad if they didn’t do during the summer. The answers are enlightening. And we try to make many of them happen (assuming the list isn’t focused on international travel and anything that would require me to sell a child to afford).

So far, this summer’s list is looking doable: lemonade stand, sno cones, take walks, bowling, camping, each week a kid cooks, fishing, etc.

Since jobs are always done by noon (and usually much earlier since we are still up by 7:15 a.m. during the summer to read scriptures as a family during the week, much to my teenager’s dismay), they have the rest of the day to play basketball in the front yard, put the sprinkler under the tramp, work on their individual summer goals (woodworking, photoshop, etc), do their fave drawing tutorials on ArtHub, and, you know…get bored. 🙂

Enter my boredom busters chart.

I have this thing laminated and hanging permanently on the fridge during the summer (not during the school year). They’ve learned not to even come to me and say “I’m bored” because they’ll most likely get another job to do or I’ll rope them into whatever project I’m doing (this summer it is going to be a lot of indoor painting of rooms).

So they often consult this chart, and usually manage to find something to do to entertain them (some of the ideas require mom approval).

And guess what? If they STILL end up writhing in boredom on the couch moaning that all of their friends are at Disneyland all summer long, I console myself knowing they actually do have lots of opportunities for creativity and fun, whether they can see that right now or not.

The boredom buster chart saves me too, because despite being at home full-time (something I’m intensely grateful for), I still have to fit in 3-5 blog working hours every day, since this crazy blog of mine requires a crazy amount of work.

While I do most of that late at night, especially in the summer, I also tell my kids several days during the week that I have work hours from 1-3 (or whatever we decide that day), and they need to self-entertain and only come to me if it involves the three B’s: blood, broken bones, barf.

In addition to weekly trips to the community library, a trip to the local waterpark once in the summer, swim lessons, community pool now and then, and several family reunions, I also try to incorporate one or two NEW things each summer to keep everyone excited at home (at least for the first two weeks – ha!).

Last summer it was a slack line (similar to this one) aff. link that my parents gave to them for Christmas the year before but we hadn’t pulled out before. It stayed up all summer and was the hit of all hits.

This year, I added a few new games to our Osmo system aff. link (we love this thing – anyone else have it??). This is a learning-while-playing system – they don’t get unlimited access to it, but I’ll let them dig it out in the afternoons for 30-45 minutes (or until someone starts arguing, whichever comes first).

We just got the Awbie coding game aff. link (super excited about this one). We also have words, numbers, Newton and a few others.

And the other surprise for this summer is this impressive shaved ice machine (aff. link) A bit excessive, I know. It’s not for the faint of heart, but I have several friends with the blue model (aff. link) of this popular machine, and they can’t stop talking about it. The jury’s still out on whether or not we’ll actually use it enough to justify it; I’ll keep you posted (I’ll probably sell it if we decide it’s too much machine for us – haha).

If I had a neighbor with kids, I would have pressured them into splitting the cost with us, but I’m sure we’ll get a ton of use out of this summer, even if I haven’t figured out where to store it (my house is sadly lacking in storage – it might have to take my side of the bed and I’ll sleep on the couch).

A few other things that save us in the summer. Some of these have been birthday/Christmas gifts that continue to prove their awesomeness:

bunch o’ ballooons aff. links
-free ArtHub drawing video tutorials
-ThinkFun games (these games are so fun; we love the roller coaster one and the tilt oneaff. links
Snap Circuits aff. link and Legos
-Origami tutorials (we search free ones on YouTube and we also have this easy origami book) aff. link
-Lots of markers/crayons/colored pencils
-Latch hook kits (buy them with 40% off coupons at Hobby Lobby)

Phew! This is long! And I am really, really interested and excited to hear YOUR thoughts and YOUR summer systems.

But one last quick note.

Brian and I have really tried to encourage the entrepreneurial/work side of life to our kids. My 10-year old is planning on opening up a donut shop this summer and selling homemade donuts (his trial run a month or so ago produced the best donuts ever, thanks to the recipe book a frequent commenter here, Liz, sent him!). And cupcakes too, I think!

We’ve told our kids that when they turn 13, they need to be working 6-8 hours a week. Last summer, my then 13-year old made fliers for lawn mowing, helped his friend with a trash bin cleaning business, and got several odd jobs doing yard work for people in our small community.

It was a little painful, I’m not going to lie.

Most of his friends were playing video games and going on vacations all summer (at least according to him), and “working” was the last thing he wanted to do as a 13-year old, but even he admitted at the end of the summer that he was excited about the money he had earned (and even more excited about the money he had put in savings).

And I was excited he wasn’t pestering his younger siblings all summer long. We really try to foster this “work” element by sitting down and making a plan early with him (and we’ll try and do the same as the other boys reach the same age), encouraging him to find work that he really enjoys, and fronting the money for businesses or projects where he can pay us back as he earns a profit.

This year, at 14, our requirement is that he’s working 10-12 hours a week (with the idea that by the time he’s 16, working a 40-hour week job in the summer won’t kill him off). He already has a job lined up to sand down and paint a swingset, and he’s also starting a flag-selling business (Boise State and BYU flags).

Even though all the details written out like this makes me tired, I know it will be much easier to implement than it looks on paper because we’ll tackle it one day at a time, have Fridays off (yay! free day!), and ultimately, we are used to schedules so we all kind of thrive with the structure.

My goal by the end of this summer is that we’ll all still feel like this:   

Haha. In reality, I know there will be ups and downs this summer and some days where it all falls apart, but hopefully our new-ish summer system will work well.

Please share what your summer system looks like if you have one!

I welcome any and all comments (please just keep it respectful and open to all differing opinions!).

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