Getting Ready for 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.

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.

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Day 10: Have a Summer Adventure

Each summer, I take my girls and four of their friends on a “summer adventure.” We’ve been on a trip around the world, a journey across the United States and searched for clues about ourselves. This year, we’re taking a trip through American history.

Each week, my girls and four of their friends gather around our kitchen table to learn something about themselves and a lot about how God wants our character to reflect His. Each summer adventure has a single purpose. Our trip around the world was meant to teach the girls about what life is like in other countries and how rich we truly are. Our trip across the United States taught them about character qualities. And our clue adventure gave them a better appreciation for the gifts and talents each of them has. This summer’s adventure is focusing on courage and problem-solving.

We meet once a week for six to eight weeks, depending on our schedules. We’re flexible. Some weeks we meet and some weeks we don’t and some weeks we meet twice. The girls have to memorize a verse each week and do a little homework.

We started our summer adventures because I wanted to do some intentional teaching with my girls. I wanted to deal with some issues that I saw in our household, and I wanted to fulfill the command in Psalm 78:5-7, “He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children,so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”

Planning a summer adventure isn’t hard, but it does take some work. Here are the steps I follow each year:

Identify an issue you’d like to address with your kids. It can be anything from gratitude to courage to selfishness to beauty to kindness. Any character attribute will work. I suggest only choosing one. It makes it easier to plan.

Gather some friends. You can have a summer adventure with just your children, but it’s a whole lot more fun with friends. It may take some heroic scheduling work on your part, but adding friends to the mix will make it a really special adventure.

Create or buy some curriculum. I write my own curriculum every summer because I know exactly what I want to focus on with my kids. But there’s some great stuff out there that you can modify for a summer adventure. You can use Sunday School curriculum or Vacation Bible School curriculum or a short homeschool unit. Don’t feel like you have to create something from scratch. To give you an idea of what we do, you can print out the instructions from our very first summer curriculum called Passport to the World. Use it, modify it or use it as a model for your own.

Meet consistently. We’re starting our summer adventure on Wednesday afternoon, which is the day the girls have their last half day of school. We always get bogged down in schedules over the summer and struggle to get the last couple of meetings in. Starting early lets us get a couple of meetings under our belts before vacations and things kick in. Choose a day and do your best to stick with it.

Make it fun. Don’t just teach your kids. Do crazy stuff to get your point across. We’ve done everything from have water gun vs. bow and arrow wars to building a sod house in our backyard. We’ve been ice skating and learned to tap dance. We’ve tried to lift a car and watched an episode of Schoolhouse Rock. It’s summer. It’s supposed to be fun.

Plan a big ending. We always have a big scavenger hunt of some kind that takes the kids around town to find clues. The hunt always ends at a fun place. We’ve been to a local arcade and to play laser tag, among other things.

Keep God at the center. Pray over your plans. Pray with the kids during your time together. Get them praying for each other. Remember the point is to teach them something about God.

Good luck planning your own summer adventure. It’s a big job, but it’s definitely worth it. You can follow along with us on this year’s summer adventure “Journey Through Time: Learning about courage one century at a time” most Wednesdays this summer. I also blogged the last two summer adventures. You can find the beginning of each at 39 Clues to You and Journey Across America. To find the rest, just search the blog for summer fun.

A summer adventure is a great way to make this The Best Summer Ever.

Don’t forget to download your copy of our first summer adventure, Passport to the World. If you’ve missed any of our free downloads, you can find them here.

Day 9: Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

We’re big racing fans in our house — well, three of us are. My oldest daughter would rather do just about anything other than go to the race track and watch cars go around in circles. Once a year we make her go with us to the Indy 500.

If you asked the three of us who like racing about the 500, we’ll give you a glowing account of the racing, the pit stops, the crashes and who won. If you ask my older daughter about the race, she’s most likely to tell you about the pre-race ceremonies and the people she saw in the crowd. What she gets out of the event has a lot to do with her perspective going in.

The same is true of our summertime excursions. We can take our kids to the zoo, a museum, mini golfing or to the pool. If our perspective is that this will be a fun outing, then that’s all it will be. But if our perspective is that this outing is an opportunity to teach our kids something, then the trip takes on a whole new meaning.

We can take the everyday things we do in the summer and turn them into meaningful moments that teach our kids about God. There’s nothing wrong with an outing that’s simply fun, but when we take those fun moments and use them to teach our kids, then those outings become life-changing moments.

A trip to the pool becomes a chance to talk about Jesus as living water. A trip to an art museum becomes a time to talk about how your child is a masterpiece made by God. A trip to the zoo becomes a lesson in God’s amazing creation.

When we take the time to plan ahead and be intentional in how we structure our summertime outings, we can fill our kids’ hearts with knowledge of God. We can teach our kids to look for Him in everything. God is everywhere. Psalm 139:7-10 says “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Nearly any activity can be turned into an opportunity to teach our kids about God. Check out today’s printable for a list of common summertime outings for ideas on how to turn an ordinary outing with your kids into an extraordinary one that teaches them about God. It’s all part of making this The Best Summer Ever.

Be sure to join me on Monday as I take you through the steps of planning a summer adventure. And don’t miss Monday’s printable — a copy of our very first summer adventure, a “trip” around the world. If you haven’t followed our summer adventures in the past, you can check out the beginning of last year’s here.

Linking up today with Beholding Glory and Your Thriving Family.