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.

Setting Goals

We lead a busy life, probably busier than it needs to be on some nights. With two girls playing sports, all of us actively involved in our church and a couple other activities thrown in, our calendar often looks like someone threw up colored ink all over it.

Every now and then, it’s important to re-evaluate everything that’s on the calendar. We have to take a step back, look at our goals and decide whether the things we’re putting on the calendar meet our goals as a family.

We’re doing that this week. Monday night at dinner, everyone got a goals worksheet. (You can get a copy here or by clicking on the picture above.) They have until Thursday night at dinner to fill it out so that each person has time to pray and think about it. The worksheet asks each person to decide on their spiritual, family, academic/work, sports/fitness, and character goals. Each person has to figure out what their goals are, the steps they need to take to accomplish those goals and the things they need to reach their goals. Thursday night at dinner, we’ll talk about what each person’s goals are and how to meet them. We’ll also evaluate the things we’re doing to see if we’re working toward the goals we’ve listed.

Setting goals is a good exercise not just for our kids but for us grown-ups, too. Sometimes our families can just cruise along on auto pilot, doing the same things we’ve always done just because we assume that everyone is happy doing them. The truth is that over time, our kids change, we change. If we don’t take the time to re-evaluate every now and then, we miss the opportunity to change what we’re doing. We may miss an important opportunity to work with our kids on a spiritual issue or a character trait. We may be forcing our kids to keep doing an activity they don’t want to do and missing an opportunity to encourage to do something else they love.

Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” We often end up with a poverty of time and/or money because we aren’t diligent in making sure what we’re doing is meeting the needs and goals of our family. We may have unrealistic goals or we may have goals that don’t fit the gifts and desires of the rest of the family.

Sitting down together and setting goals as a family is a good way to make sure you’re on track to meet the goals that everyone has. It helps you to distribute the limited resources of time and money that your family has in the most effective way. It gives you an opportunity to pray over those goals and make sure your family is all on the same page.

 

The Afternoon Routine

In these blissful first days of school, the homework is minimal. We’ve only got one sport’s practice to get a child to. It seems like we have plenty of time for everything. We even have time for evening Wii tournaments or walks around the block. Everyone’s homework gets done with a minimum of fuss.

Yet, D-Day on our calendar is September 4. It seems everything starts on that day — special chorus, afterschool math competition, hockey, a new mom’s group that I’m leading. If we don’t have our afternoon routine down by Sept. 4, it will be a disaster.

While getting everyone out the door in the morning can be difficult, getting everything done in the afternoon can be just as crazy. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan. If we just let everything come down to chance, then we’ll be flustered and our kids will be frustrated. Proverbs 21:5 says “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”

Now, having a plan for our after-school routine isn’t going to make us rich, but it will keep us from having a poverty of time or patience. Use these tips to plan your own after-school routine.

Give your kids time to decompress. School can be stressful. Your child has been sitting still for several hours. Build some time in your schedule for them to grab a snack and relax for a few minutes before moving on to the next thing. Be available for them to talk with you about their day during that time. Whether it’s five minutes or half an hour, our kids need a little time to rest their brains and bodies before rushing off to something else.

Have a set time and place for homework. My girls know that after they have their snack, it’s homework time. Homework has to be done before practice or we don’t go to practice. Usually we do homework at the kitchen table, but my older daughter will sometimes take hers to the desk in her room. Having a set time and place for homework means you’re sure it gets done, and you’re not trying to cram it in around everything else. Your set time and place may be different from ours. It may be that your kids do their homework in the evening after they have piano lessons. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s simply important to have a time and a spot.

Work with your kids. We can make all the plans we want, but kids are unpredicatable. We may think we’ve created the perfect homework environment only to find out that one of our kids gets distracted sitting next to the window. Talk with your kids about what works best for them. Create an environment after school that works for your kids. And keep in mind that the routine doesn’t have to be the same every day or for every kid in your family. Find what works best for your family, and do that.

Plan ahead. Tuesdays are crazy days around here. We have guitar lessons and soccer practice. The window for dinner on Tuesday nights is miniscule, so I have to plan ahead. Dinner has to be ready before we head off to guitar or my older daughter won’t get to eat. Yesterday, we had dinner at four o’clock because my younger daughter had an hour-long lesson instead of half an hour. It takes some planning, but we manage to get everyone fed and out the door on those nights.

Be flexible. Don’t let your schedule be so rigid that you can’t be flexible. If you’ve had a stretch of horrible weather, and it’s a sunny afternoon, bend the homework rule and send your kids out to play. Pick your kids up from school and take them out for ice cream every now and then. Our kids need to know what to expect when they get home, but that doesn’t mean we can’t switch up the routine every now and then.

Having an afternoon routine helps our kids know what to expect when they get home. It keeps chaos to a minimum and helps us keep our patience and tempers in check. Nagging about homework and getting ready for practice is kept to a minimum when everyone knows what to expect. An afternoon routine offers your household an opportunity for peace and fun and can help make this the best school year ever.

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

Day 2: Setting Summer Goals

One of the first things my girls learned when they started playing soccer and hockey was to keep their heads up. You see, a person’s natural tendency is to look at their feet when they are learning to dribble a ball or stickhandle a puck, but when you put your head down, you can’t see where you are going. And when you can’t see where you’re going, you can run into something you didn’t intend to run into — like another person or the boards. The kids get so focused on what they are doing, that they end up off course from the goal.

We want to be careful not to lose sight of our goals for our summers, and to do that, we have to set goals. You spent yesterday praying about what God wanted you to do with your kids. You asked Him to direct the way you spend your time this summer. Today, it’s time to set some goals.

While we need to let God direct our path, we need to define for ourselves what God wants to accomplish in our kids’ lives this summer. The danger of planning our summers without setting some goals, is a lot like the danger of playing soccer or hockey with our heads down. We might have a lot of fun, but we will probably end up in a different place than we wanted to be.

While God wants us to give our plans to Him and let Him set them, it doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility of mapping out a plan to reach the goals He’s given us. Proverbs 21:5 says “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Setting some goals based on what God has revealed to us and making some plans will allow us to have a profitable summer with our kids.

So, how do we go about setting goals for the summer? Guess what? There’s a great printable worksheet just waiting for you to fill it out and put it in your binder. There are five areas on your worksheet — physical, spiritual, relational, educational and fun. And, yes, you need goals in all five. Let’s take a closer look at what each section is about.

Physical

Physical goals are just that. What do you want to accomplish with your kids as far as their bodies are concerned? This can be anything from improving soccer skills to exercising as a family to talking with your kids about puberty or personal hygiene.

Spiritual

Spiritual goals are what you want your kids to learn about God this summer. Our summers are usually spent working on a character quality or two, but yours can be learning about the character of God or simply focusing on the fact that God loves us. Use what God revealed to you in your prayer time to fill this out.

Relational

Relational goals are what you want your kids to learn about dealing with relationships. This can be anything from being kind to others to learning to resolve conflict.

Educational

Educational goals are just that, educational. You may want to work with your kids over the summer to refresh some skills they learned in school this year. Your child might need an extra boost in a certain subject. Or you might want to nurture an interest that isn’t given much time in school.

Fun

Last, set some fun goals. If you want to go on a trip or learn something new with your kids this summer, this is the place to list that.

After you’ve listed all your goals for the summer, take a minute to pray over them. Ask God to show you if you’ve added too many things or if you’ve missed something important. As we start adding activities to our summer plan, these goals will become important because we’ll want to choose activities that help us reach these goals.

Keeping our heads up and our eyes on the goal will help us have The Best Summer Ever.

Click here to get today’s printable. If you missed the beginning of The Best Summer Ever series, check it out here. Do you blog and want to share The Best Summer Ever series with your readers? Check out the button in the sidebar. And don’t forget to head over to the Facebook page to share your goals with and encourage other readers.

Don’t Get Stuck in Tradition

Today is the last day of November. Once the calendar page flips to December, it’s an all-out sprint to Christmas. Our December calendar has all the normal stuff on it plus all the Christmas stuff. It’s filling up fast.

One thing I’ve yet to get on the calendar is the annual visit to “The Penguin House.” There’s a house in our town that has more than 100 Christmas-themed penguin blow-ups in the yard. My youngest daughter loves going to this house every year. It is at the top of her list of favorite Christmas traditions.

Yet, there are Christmas traditions that not everyone in my house likes. Nobody but me likes date cookies — a long time family recipe. A couple of years ago, I quit making them. They’re hard to make and they’re extra calories I don’t need. When I want some, I go see my mom who still makes them. If I have extra time, I might make a batch for me, but I no longer stress about getting the date cookies made.

Christmas traditions are great, but they’re not good if they become a chore or a source of contention within your family. Make it a point this year to destress your Christmas season by planning which traditions to take part in.

Tonight is a rare quiet night in our house. No practices so we’ll all sit down to dinner together, and the girls will get to bed on time. It will be a great night to do our Christmas
planning.

In years past, I’ve decided what Christmas traditions to put on the calendar, but this
year, I’m enlisting the help of the family. The days leading up to Christmas get jam-packed with all the things we try to do because we’ve always done them. Yet, no one ever stops to ask if we really like doing them.

Letting your family help you plan for the holiday can take a lot of the stress and all of the feelings of not being appreciated out of the mix. You don’t necessarily have to have a detailed plan but get a general idea of the things that your family wants to do this season. Then get rid of the things that no one likes but that you always do. Just  because you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean you have to continue doing it. If no
one likes great-grandma’s fruitcake recipe, quit making it. If your kids don’t like to go to the annual Christmas tree lighting in your city, don’t go.

Sorting out what your family wants to do during the Christmas season not only eliminates some of the grumpiness in your family, it frees up your time. Proverbs 21:5 says “The plans of the diligent lead to profit  as surely as haste leads to poverty.”
In this case, the profit is time and happiness. With a plan for the holidays, you might find you even have enough time to try something new and different.

Set aside some time with your entire family to make a plan for the holidays. Start
with these questions:

  • What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?
  • What Christmas tradition do you like the least?
  • Is there anything that we haven’t done at Christmas that you would like to do?
  • If you had to pick one thing to do this Christmas, what would it be?

Try to pick at least one thing that each family member thinks is important to celebrating Christmas. Then, get out your calendar and schedule those things in.

When you have a plan and are doing the things your family really wants to do during the busy Christmas season, you have more time to focus on what’s important — the birth of Christ. So, break out your calendars, settle your families at the kitchen table and start planning. You’ll be glad you did.

Faithfulness Requires a Plan

Courtesy Thanunkorn

My husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to organization. He likes to have a plan for everything, especially our money. I’m more of a “fly by the seat of your pants” type of person. Too much structure makes me feel hemmed in and stifled.

As you can imagine, that has led to more than our fair share of “discussions” about everything from why there’s so much clutter on the counter to how to spend our money.

A couple of years ago, my husband decided that we needed to have a written budget and go to a cash envelope system (thank you, Dave Ramsey). I was not interested. The written budget was OK, but the whole cash thing really threw me for a loop. I mean, who pays for anything in cash these days?

In my mind, things were fine the way they were. We had a mortgage but no other debt, and we were managing to save a little. Why mess with it if it’s not broken?

But, my husband was insistent, so we switched to an all cash envelope system budget. That means we put cash in envelopes for things like groceries, gas, entertainment and clothing. When the envelopes were empty, that was it. I hated it. The thing I hated the most was having to go into the gas station to pay. That meant I had to haul my kids out of the car and into the gas station every time I filled up my car.

I also didn’t like looking at the empty envelope and deciding we couldn’t go out to dinner or to a movie because the entertainment envelope was empty.

However, as we worked at this system, it began to grow on me. We spent less. There’s something about handing over cash that makes you think twice before spending it, and we began to whittle away at that mortgage. In less than five years from the time we made the switch, we were completely debt free.

Now, our income went up in that time because I started working more, but the budget made us more disciplined with our money.

A lot of money troubles come from not having a plan and sticking to it. Every family needs a written budget. A budget is simply a plan for your money that you and your spouse, if you have one, arrive at together. It lets you see exactly how far your money can go. It forces you to make choices about how you want to spend your money. And it helps us to be faithful with what God has given us.

Luke 16:10 tells us, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” God wants us to be faithful in using our money wisely, so He can trust us with even bigger responsibilities, monetary or otherwise. If we frivolously spend our money, go into debt and don’t give a care for how God says we should spend it, then He’s unlikely to trust us with more. But if we are faithful in the way we handle our money, then God knows that He can give us even greater responsibility and we will be faithful with it as well.

Start being faithful by creating a budget. List all your expenses and all your income. The expense column must be less than the income column. If it’s not, you either need to reduce expenses or create more income because the Bible tells us not to go into debt (which is a topic we’ll tackle in-depth tomorrow).

Once you have a plan, you and your family need to stick to it. When your kids see you sticking to a budget, they learn that being faithful with your money is important. My kids have learned that when the envelopes are empty, we don’t go out or buy things. They may not like it, but they understand the idea.

Our kids need to know that money is not an unlimited resource and we have to make choices about what to do with it. God wants us to cover our needs, be prepared for tomorrow and take care of our fellow man. If we don’t have a plan to do that, then we aren’t being wise. Proverbs 21:5 says “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”

Teach your kids the value of a budget as early as they can understand the concept of money. Young kids can learn that they need to tithe 10 percent, save whatever percentage you decide and can spend the rest. That’s a simple budget.

As kids get older, they can begin to budget for things like birthday and Christmas gifts, special activities they want to do and any miscellaneous purchases they want to make. Help them create a written budget, so they can see exactly where their money is going. Teenagers can begin budgeting for their own clothes, trips, gas for the car, car insurance and going out with their friends.

If we teach our kids the value of budgeting when they are young, it will be a habit that they can rely on when they get older.

Whether the system we use for budgeting is right for your family, is up to you, but every family needs a plan for their money. It’s impossible to be faithful with what God has given you without a plan.