Getting Ready for Summer

summer

Is it Friday yet? It’s been a long week around here, and it’s only Wednesday. I’m not just ready for Friday, I’m ready for the school year to be over. I’m ready for the lazy days of summer. I’m ready to get my kids home so I can work on building them up and regaining some of the joy this school year has sucked out of them.

It’s May 1, so that means it’s time to start planning for summer in our house. Many of you know that we usually do a big summer adventure in our house each year. I choose a theme, we invite a couple of the girls’ friends to join us, and we have a lot of fun learning about how God wants us to act in certain situations. You can find the plans for one of our past summer adventures for free here.

I’m super excited about this summer’s adventure because it’s something that you can join us in doing. I’ll have more details for you later in the month, so keep an eye out. We’d love to have you join us.

But today’s post is about choosing to use the summer months as a time to be intentional in teaching your kids and having fun with them. Whether you send your kids to school or you homeschool, summer is a time that you can use to jump outside your routine and teach your kids in a new way. With the academic stuff out of the way, you can truly focus on character and family.

Too many times, summer can fly by without us ever being truly intentional with our kids. Proverbs 21:5 says “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” While that verse is talking about money, it also applies to our time. If we have a plan going into the summer, we’re more likely to follow it and our families will profit from it.

You may not have the time or the energy to create your own themed summer adventure, and that’s OK. You can be intentional with your kids in other ways. You can simply commit to grabbing the teachable moments that God provides. You can decide on a character quality you want to work on and make intentional strides toward teaching that character quality to your kids. You can turn a trip to the zoo into a discussion about God’s creation.

All it takes is a little planning. Last May, I wrote a series on planning your summer called The Best Summer Ever. I’m not going to repeat it here, but I encourage you to check it out. You’ll find all the advice and free printables you need to get started planning your summer. Just click on The Best Summer Ever icon in the sidebar.

I want to encourage you to start thinking and planning your summer now. That way when the final school bell rings, you’ll have a plan in place. This summer won’t slip by without you taking advantage of the extra moments with your kids.

How to Cure the Mid-Summer Blues

It’s the middle of summer. My kids are getting tired of each other and tired of me. They are finding it more and more difficult to entertain themselves. This is the time of the summer when I often start looking longingly at the calendar, wondering when school starts. Everyone’s patience is thin and growing thinner by the day.

But we’ve got nearly half the summer left. And as those days stretch out before us, I know that I want to use them well. I want to enjoy the time with my daughters. I want them to enjoy the time with me. So we need to find a way to kick these mid-summer blues.

If your household is stuck in the throes of the mid-summer blues, as well, try some of these ideas to shake them loose and make the most of the time you have left.

Shake up the schedule. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut. We go to the pool every Wednesday afternoon. We do chores and reading time every morning. We go to the library every Friday. Because everyone knows exactly what to expect, the excitement of the summer is gone. Regain some of that excitement by switching up the schedule. Have breakfast for dinner. Skip doing chores for the day. Let the kids stay up late and chase fireflies.

Do something silly. Get everyone laughing. Declare a wig day where everyone wears funny wigs. Have a dance-off in the kitchen. Eat ice cream for lunch. Enjoy the time you have with your kids. Laughter is a great way to shake off the mid-summer boredom and remind everyone of why they love spending time together. Proverbs 17:22 says “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Create joyful hearts in your home with some silliness.

Plan something special. Have a party for no reason. Go on a day trip to see something you’ve never seen before. Have a cookout with some friends. For a quick, fun idea, check out this Teddy Bear Picnic from Kristen at Celebrate Every Day With Me. With a little planning and not much money, you can plan something special that will have your kids counting the days until the event. Having something to look forward to always makes the time go faster and gives kids something to anticipate.

Have a theme day. Make a favorite book or movie come alive or choose a favorite account from the Bible and make it your theme for the day. Fix food that comes from that time period. Dress like people would have dressed in the book, movie or Bible account. Act out your favorite scenes. Read the book or watch the movie together. Make up games to go along with your theme.

Have an opposite day. Wear your clothes backwards. Start the day with dinner and end with breakfast. Make yes mean no and no mean yes for the day. Lots of laughter and hilarity will ensue when people get confused. Make the kids walk backwards in the house.

Just because it’s the middle of the summer, it doesn’t mean you have to get stuck in the mid-summer blues. Shake things up at your house and get back to enjoying your time with your kids.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Making the Most of History

Courtesy Simon Howden

I grew up in the suburbs of Boston. History surrounded us. The American Revolution started on the greens of Concord and Lexington, just a few miles from my house. Sam Adams, John Hancock and John Adams walked the streets of Boston. Paul Revere’s house is still there. The events surrounding the founding of our country came alive because we could see and touch it.

Here in Kansas, there’s a different kind of history. Settlers going west in covered wagons in search of a better life, stepped off on their trip in nearby Independence, Missouri. Bloody battles were fought between slave state Missouri and free state Kansas. Just down the road is the only original stagecoach stop still in existence.

Understanding historical events is not just an important part of our kids’ education. It’s an opportunity to help them separate fact from fiction. When we take our kids to visit historical sites and learn about the men and women who came before us, we teach our kids to appreciate the past. We teach them to appreciate the comforts they now have. And we can use it to teach them that faith is enduring and the events of the Bible are as real as the American Revolution or the Westward Migration.

When you visit a historical site with your kids, do so with an eye toward teaching them not just history but how to distinguish reality from fiction.

Do your homework. Before going to visit a historical site near you, find out what you can about it beforehand. Be prepared to answer questions. See if you can find an account of a person of faith who lived nearby or did something amazing either at the site or during the historical time period.

Prepare your kids. Before you go, read about the place you’re going to visit with your kids or read a fiction book set in the time period of the historical site. Talk about the difference between historical fact and historical fiction. Ask them what they think the Bible is. Talk about how the Bible is not just a story like a fiction book but is a factual account of things that actually happened.

Ask your kids questions. As you view the historical site, ask your kids questions about the event that happened there. Ask them how we know that those things happened. Talk about the evidence that lets us know what happened. It may be letters from someone who was there or other first-person accounts. It may be that archaeologists found the evidence. Talk with your kids about how the same evidence exists for the events in the Bible.

Have an ABC scavenger hunt. Give each child one of the ABC scavenger hunt printables. Ask them to write down facts about the historical site that start with each letter. You’ll have your kids hunting for signs to read and learning without even trying. On your way home, have everyone share their facts. Ask your kids why we should care about those facts. Talk about how understanding what happened in the past can encourage us through hardships now and help us to understand how to avoid mistakes in the future. Talk about how the events of the Bible help us to do the same thing.

Visiting an historical site with your kids can be a fun learning experience and part of The Best Summer Ever. We want to remember the past so that we can learn from it. Over and over again in the Bible, God tells us to not forget what happened before. Psalm 77:11 says “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” We can use a fun trip to a historical site to help our kids understand the importance of remembering what God did in the past.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows and Denise in Bloom.

The Best Summer Ever: A Trip to the Pool

Courtesy tungphoto

One of our favorite things to do in the summer is to spend lazy afternoons at the pool. It’s cool and refreshing in the middle of a hot and humid Kansas summer. Because we have pool passes, it’s also cheap. The perfect combination.

We go to the pool so often that the trip often becomes ordinary. It’s not an adventure. It’s not a learning experience. It’s often just a way to kill time and cool off.

But it doesn’t have to be. Trips to the pool can be a great opportunity to focus our kids’ attention on Jesus. Throughout the Bible, water plays a role in several miracles. God parted the Red Sea. Jesus turned water into wine. Jesus even compared himself to water drawn from a well.

We can turn a simple trip to the pool into an extraordinary opportunity for our kids to learn about God:

Get in the pool with your kids and ask them to make a path through the water. Explain that you want them to pile up the water on either side of you so that you are standing on dry ground. No matter how hard your kids try, the water will just fill back in. Talk about how amazing it must have been for the Israelites to see, not a pool full of water, but the entire Red Sea pushed back on either side. Talk with your kids about how God has power over His creation. He can do anything.

When you get to the pool, tell your kids you want them to walk across the top of the water, without getting anything wet but the bottoms of their feet. After they sink a few times, talk about how Jesus walked on the water. Talk about how Peter jumped out of the boat and walked on the water, too. Explain that He only sank when He became more worried about the wind and the waves than He was about keeping His eyes on Jesus. Explain that when God asks us to do difficult things as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can do it. When we take our eyes off Jesus is when things get difficult.

On the way home, ask your kids if they swallowed any pool water. Talk about the fact that drinking pool water isn’t good for you because of the chemicals. Explain that our bodies need clean drinking water to survive. We can go without food longer than we can go without water. Talk about how Jesus compared himself to drinking water. He said that He is “living water” that offers eternal life. When we follow Jesus, it’s like drinking good water. It fills us up and lets us do the things God wants us to do.

There are many more accounts that include water in the Bible. Jesus turned water into wine. Abraham’s servant met Rachel at the well. The Israelites crossed the Jordan River. God used water to flood the world. You can find a printable list of many of these accounts along with their references here. You can use a trip to the pool to focus on each of these.

Turn your summertime trips to the pool into extraordinary opportunities to teach your kids about God. It will make your pool trips a time of refreshment for both your bodies and your souls.

 

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows and Denise in Bloom.

Resetting Summer

Today is the official first day of summer. Around here, it’s been hot since mid-May, and we’ve already been on a trip, been to camp, had Vacation Bible School and hosted our annual family reunion. This month has been crazy. We have one more trip to go at the end of the month. I’m really looking forward to July.

I knew that this month would be ridiculously crazy. Our company left yesterday, and we had the first lazy day of the summer. Other than doing a little cleaning and a couple loads of laundry, we didn’t really do much. The kids played with some of the neighbors, and I mostly just hung out.

Even with the lazy day, my kids were cooked by the end of the day. Three weeks of constant activity had caught up with them. My oldest was in bed asleep by 8 p.m., and my youngest cried herself to sleep last night, a combination of being overtired and missing her cousins.

As I look at our month so far (which has been so busy that I haven’t even managed to flip the calendar page), I remember all the good intentions I had for the summer. The chore system that was going to work, the educational stuff we were going to do, the books we were going to read together, the exercise I was going to get, and I realize that this month has been a loss for most of those things.

We have two months of summer left. My kids go back to school on August 15. As I look at the months before us on this day the calendar tells me is the first official day of summer, I’m hitting the reset button on our summer. Today, I’m pulling out my The Best Summer Ever calendar and putting some intentional things on it. But I’m also scheduling some days to do nothing. If anything, this past month has shown us that not having a break results in tired, cranky children and a really stressed-out mommy.

If your summer hasn’t started out the way you wanted, take a minute today and hit the reset button. Pray over what remains of your summer and ask God how He wants you to spend it. God is big on second chances. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us that His mercies are new every morning. He is always ready to offer us a second chance, so if you feel like you’ve missed the boat on being intentional with your kids this summer, declare a do-over. And get started making the rest of this summer The Best Summer Ever.

Celebrate the first day of summer with free ice cream. Maggie Moo’s and Marble Slab Creamery are giving away 1,000 free ice cream cones. Check out their Facebook page at 10 a.m. EST today to grab your coupon. And the winner of our 101 Days to Knowing God devotional card drawing is Andrea Cartwright.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

The Best Summer Ever: A Trip to the Zoo

Courtesy africa

My younger daughter and I are off to the zoo today. Even though I often feel as though I already live in a zoo, I love to go to the zoo.

A trip to the zoo is always a fun summertime activity, but we can take that trip to the zoo and turn it into an amazing lesson about God’s creation. Each animal can become an example of the variety and creativity inherent in God’s creation.

 So, take a little time to get ready for your next zoo trip and make it a day of fun and laughter that includes opportunities to thank God for His creation.

  • Look up some facts about your kids’ favorite animals. Use these facts to point out the differences between the animals and the diversity of God’s creation. For example, somewhere in my life I learned that elephants actually walk on their tiptoes. When we go to the zoo, I remind my children of this fact, and we always spend a moment in awe of how God made such a huge creature, and yet it balances itself on the toe bones of its foot.
  • Create a scavenger hunt for your kids or use the free printable here. Give them different challenges as you go through the zoo. Have them find three animals with wings or three animals with long noses. Have them look for the animal with the longest neck or the smallest animal at the zoo. Use the scavenger hunt to direct your kids’ attention to how each animal is different and God made them that way so they could best feed themselves or protect themselves. Talk about how God made different animals to eat different things, so that there would be enough food for everyone.
  • The zoo is a great time to talk about the story of Noah’s ark. Ask your kids what they think life on Noah’s ark was like. Remind them that the story of Noah reminds us that God always keeps His promises. You can also remind them that Noah and his family were saved from the flood because they obeyed God even when it seemed like it was a crazy thing to do. Imagine how many of Noah’s neighbors and friends thought he was crazy.
  • Use these verses to talk to your kids while you’re at the zoo.
    • Genesis 1:21 — So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
    • Psalm 104:24-25 — How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.
  • Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the day with plenty of laughter and joy.

 

Day 14: Don’t Forget to Rest (and a giveaway)

Today is the last day of The Best Summer Ever Series. Hopefully, you have a binder full of great ideas for your summer. You’ve planned places to go, things to teach, character qualities to emphasize and projects to do. All of those things are important, but don’t forget something that’s equally important this summer — rest.

Our kids have been busy all year — whether you have toddlers or teenagers. Their minds and their bodies need time to rest. Rest is biblical. Even God rested: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:2).

Our children need time to simply be kids. They need time to play outside with nothing more than a stick and their imaginations. They need time to sleep in. They need time to just hang out with their friends.

Summer is a time for cold glasses of lemonade, camping out in the backyard, sleeping past the sunrise and staying up late. It’s a time for going to the pool and making forts under the tree in the backyard. It’s a time for long walks and long talks.

Don’t fill your summer so full of activities that you forget to give your kids some time to rest. Leave room in your schedule for unscheduled fun — pick-up basketball games on the driveway, read-alouds before bedtime, s’mores over the fire pit. These are the moments your kids will remember.

They’ll remember the day you got up and took them for donuts. They’ll remember the lazy afternoons at the pool where you got in and played with them. They’ll remember lemonade stands and homemade ice cream. They’ll remember water balloon fights and evening bike rides.

Make time to rest. Leave unstructured time in your summer days. It will help make this The Best Summer Ever.

Don’t miss our giveaway to wrap up The Best Summer Ever Series. We’re giving away a $15 gift card to Cold Stone Creamery so our lucky winner can make a memory with her family this summer. Enter to win below. I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday.

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Linking up today with Beholding Glory and Your Thriving Family.

Day 13: Keep Learning

Today marks the first day of summer break here. Bedtime went out the window last night. There’s no need for my girls to get up this morning. Let the lazy days of summer begin.

While summer offers freedom from the structure of the school day, it doesn’t mean my girls stop learning. An entire summer without polishing their math and reading skills means a tough month when school starts back up in the fall. That’s why it’s so important to keep the learning going.

Proverbs 1:5 says “let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” We want our lives and the lives of our kids to be ones of continual learning. But learning doesn’t have to be diagramming sentences, writing papers and doing math worksheets. With a little creativity, summer learning can be something your kids look forward to. Try out some of these ideas to keep learning fresh and fun at your home this summer.

Reading

Start your own reading club. Check out today’s free printable for reading tokens you can give out to your kids every time they finish a book. Come up with a rewards system that allows your kids to spend their tokens. The rewards can be anything from an extra helping of dessert to a movie outing to a Silly String war (a favorite in our house).

Read together. Set aside some time every day for read aloud. When your kids get tired or it’s too hot to play outside, spend half an hour reading. It gives everyone a break and stretches imaginations.

Be intentional with the books you choose. Summer is a time when our kids don’t have to read books dictated by school. Find books that fit with your summer theme and encourage your kids to read those or use them as read alouds.

Math

Play math games. Check out Cool Math, which offers tons of great math games on the computer. Grab a deck of cards and give everyone cards numbered from 2 to 10. Take turns rolling a pair of dice. Add, subtract, multiply or divide to make the numbers on your cards. When you get a number, flip the card over. First person to flip over all their cards wins.

Create active math problems. Send your kids into the backyard to count trees or flowers or even weeds. Count the number of stairs in your house, then ask your kids how many stairs you would have if you had 12 houses. Get your kids moving while they do math.

Cook with your kids. A great way to review fractions is to break out the cookbook. Kids get practical application, and you end up with something yummy to eat.

History

Take field trips. Every area has some local history. Take your kids to visit some of the sites in your area. Learn about the people who lived in your town before you. Take a trip to a living history site where your kids can step back in time and learn about history in a way that makes it come alive.

Science

Do some simple experiments. Make a baking soda volcano. Drop Mentos in a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke. Play with magnets. Mix corn starch and water and make goop. Get dirty and have fun learning about the world around you.

Summer learning doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be something your kids look forward to. Keep it fun and interesting, and your kids won’t even know they’re learning. With a little creativity, this can be The Best (and most educational) Summer Ever.

Don’t miss the conclusion of The Best Summer Ever Series tomorrow. We’ll have another giveaway and a few more suggestions for making this The Best Summer Ever.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows and Denise in Bloom.

Day 12: Start Summer with a Celebration

I looked up and there she was on a 8-foot screen. My firstborn baby girl — no hair and a few teeth, dressed in her Christmas best. Almost before I could blink, she was replaced by a picture of a young woman, one I barely recognize as my baby.

My daughter’s fifth grade celebration was last night. Today, is her last day of elementary school. As last night’s slide show projected photo after photo of every kid in her grade as a baby, then as they are now, we remembered the big moments and the small ones that have gotten us to this point. It seems like only yesterday we sent them off to kindergarten, and here they are on their way to middle school.

Last night, we celebrated their accomplishments. We celebrated their growth. And we celebrated even the tough moments. There’s a blank spot on the wall where the kids leave their handprints at our school for the classmate who died last year. There were awards to celebrate the kids social studies accomplishments. And there were notes from a teacher at the school celebrating every child in the grade.

Summer starts tomorrow, but last night we celebrated what the kids accomplished in the past six school years. Whether your child is finishing preschool or high school, end your school year with a celebration. Remember the high points and the low points of the year. Celebrate the fun and the silly and the sad and the amazing. Mark this moment in time because it won’t come again.

Today, I’ll walk home with six little (and not so little anymore) girls. We’ll hang out at our house, eat some pizza and celebrate the important moments of the year. We’ll spend a little time reflecting on the big moments and the little ones. And we’ll spend some time thanking God for another year, our friends and our accomplishments.

God wants us to celebrate the moments. All through the Old Testament, the Israelites made altars to remind them of the things that God had done. They piled up some stones that said, “In this place, God did something good.” In Psalm 145:7, we’re told “They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Use the start of summer to create some altars of your own. Celebrate God’s goodness.

Plan a celebration. It doesn’t have to be big — a special lunch or an ice cream sundae will do. Simply make time to celebrate what has happened this year. Don’t forget to keep a record of what you’re celebrating. Start a tradition. Use the Celebration worksheet to record what your kids consider to be their biggest accomplishments, their toughest moments and the moments where they saw God at work. Take a moment to reflect on the year just past before you jump into summer.

Before you start The Best Summer Ever, celebrate the year that got you here.

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Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Day 11: Dealing with Words

Every summer, my girls and I spend a lot of time together. During the school year, the girls are gone most of the day. Our afternoons and evenings are often filled with activities and sports. The time we spend at home during the school year is pretty small compared with the time we spend at home together during the summer.

Inevitably, my girls have trouble adjusting to spending so much time with each other. They squabble and fight until they get it figured out. But the biggest trouble we have adjusting to our summer schedule comes in controlling our words.

And I don’t know about you, but I get tired of listening to them bicker. I cringe when I hear the words they sling at each other without a thought. This summer, we’re placing a focus on choosing our words wisely. I’ve already informed my girls that talk that tears each other down isn’t allowed in our house. If I catch them slinging hurtful words at each other, then they will have to go sit outside because those words aren’t allowed in the house. Besides the fact that we live in Kansas where summer days are hot and humid, this lets them know that hurtful words are not OK.

I’m also placing visible reminders of what our words should look like around our house. Check out today’s free printable poster for your own visible reminder. These reminders help my girls think about their words before they say them. It forces them to ask these questions: Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it encouraging? Does it build up rather than tear down? Is it appropriate? Will it make the situation better or worse? Does it benefit those who listen?

Our words need to measure up to the standard of Ephesians 4:29, which says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” A visible reminder helps your kids measure their words before they say them.

When your kids’ words don’t meet the standards of Ephesians 4:29 either sit down with them and talk about which of the criteria their words didn’t meet or let them fill out a What’s Wrong with My Words sheet. While they’re sitting outside, they can identify what was wrong with their words and how they can change their behavior next time.

Don’t spend the summer listening to your kids bicker. Get a handle on those tongues and make this The Best (and most peaceful) Summer Ever.

Just getting started on planning your summer, check out the start of our The Best Summer Ever series. Have friends who want in on the fun? Don’t forget to share the series with them.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.