Where did the Spring go??? Summer crept up on me and has already been filled with vacations and summer camps. I have yet to have a single day where we are home long enough to even catch up on house chores, yet I need to organize our summer, like YESTERDAY, or else I will go bonkers. I need a plan and a calendar of events – that’s the teacher side of me – and a nap – that’s the exhausted Mommy side of me.
I have to say, our lack of a routine has brought out some pretty ugly behaviors in my kids (and myself unfortunately – just being honest here since we’re all friends), and I am going to put an end to that. So I am going to throw a lot at you guys at once so you can see our complete summer schedule, “school supply” list, and what we are learning this summer! If any of you are out there treading water like I am, I know that you’ll start floating along as soon as a schedule/routine/plan/ANYTHING is in place!
Here is our schedule for days that we don’t have anything planned:
1. TV goes off at 8 am
This gives Mommy enough time to wake up from my slumber, get the required amount of caffeine pumping through my system, and hopefully whip something like bowls of cereal up for breakfast (I am not a morning person).
This was a great idea by my friend, Kim! She sets aside worship time for her kids and they choose how they want to spend that time! They can create artwork, listen to music on a kid-friendly CD player, read their Bible, journal, dance, etc. It is a great way to instill personal time with the Lord as a necessity from an early age.
3. Outdoor play and snack
I am banking on no rainy days this summer! But if it does rain, we will probably pull out some toy bins that I will reserve for rainy days only. Other than that, you can catch us outside in the sprinkler!
4. Learning Activity and Lessons
More on this below!
5. Clean up and Chores
This summer I am introducing more chores to my 4 and 6 year old: sweeping, dishes, laundry, vacuuming, toilets, bathroom and more! Before they were helping out here and there, but now they will be carrying a lot more weight around the house. I do plan on having a daily schedule for this, but haven’t quite gotten that organized yet.
In my mind I have a picture of us all singing and making lunch together, but, let’s face it, I will be making lunch while they probably pull out all the toys they just picked up.
My boys have the option to either take a nap or have quiet reading time in their bed.
8. Designated Electronic Free Time
This time will be earned minute by minute this summer! More on that below.
After this, Daddy should be home from work and we will probably spend more time outside, working on dinner, and picking up for the evening.
This schedule will already have to start off really flexible as we have several weeks of camps and swim lessons that last the remainder of June, but at least my teacher self is more at ease with our plan.
SUMMER “SCHOOL SUPPLIES”
Now, that same teacher side of me also had to purchase some “school supplies” for this summer.
Big chart paper – the kids love when I teach and draw on here like we are in a real classroom!
Journal Notebooks – I am hoping that each day we will spend a few minutes either drawing pictures (my 4 year old) or writing a short journal entry (my 6 year old) to keep up these skills for when they enter Pre-K and 2nd grade in the fall.
Craft Supplies – these were all impulse buys that I will figure SOMETHING to do with them… pipe cleaners, card stock, a large roll of Kraft paper, colored clothespins (after I thought, “really, Casey? Was that a necessary purchase?”), markers, colored pencils and crayons
Behavior Chart supplies: dry/erase poster, PLAY MONEY (more on this later), stickers, and picture frames (not pictured)
Adventure supplies: magnifying glasses – my kids love to go exploring and we can only find one magnifying glass, so we got new ones.
Our crafts this summer will probably be super easy and consist mainly of card stock, pipe cleaners and random colored clothes pins (gee, I wonder why?). With our busy, unpredictable schedule this summer (is this how it is with older kids?!?), I will be creating on the fly!
THIS summer, however, I am switching things up a bit and we are going to focus on positive behaviors that we typically talk about here and there, but we will take the time to explore them in depth. These behaviors, or VIRTUES, will be taught and explored through role plays, crafts, songs (that we probably make up), journaling, drawing/painting, puppet shows, Bible verses and more!
GOOD BEHAVIOR + CHORES = ELECTRONIC FREE TIME
I am going to preface this part with a disclaimer: every one has different parenting skills and not every one will agree with the method that my husband and I have chosen for the summer as rewards for our children’s behavior and house duties.
Some people believe that you should not reward behavior with extrinsic motivators (stickers, toys, play money, etc.), but in our case, our children are really having a hard time listening the first time we tell them to do something. We are pulling this one specific trait out that we want to fix and will be rewarding them for listening the first time with $1 in play money. When they have successfully learned to do so, we will slowly replace the reward with high fives and positive talk.
Our goals for our reward system this summer are to teach about responsibility, positive behaviors, earning privileges and MATH: money and time. $1 corresponds with 1 minute of play time on their electronic entertainment of choice: video games, computer, or TV. This will help us enforce that these are all SPECIAL privileges, and that listening and behaving appropriately will help them earn those privileges.
Now, I feel SLIGHTLY more prepared for the summer! Do you have a summer schedule? Please share with us your plans!!!
Last Mother’s Day, my kids gave me a great planter for us to start a home garden!
My husband works at a factory and they frequently get shipments of equipment that come in these long crates that are perfect for starting a garden (especially because they are free). Keep your eyes peeled for wooden crates and pallets and you can get free planters as well!
This year we have a few more!
Now, this is a little intimidating for me because I do NOT have a green thumb… but my husband is a little bit better at watering…and my kids are REALLY good at watering… a little too good as they sometimes over water.
So many early childhood teachers will grow plants in the classroom for kids to learn the parts of the plant, how to care for a plant, and what plants need to grow: soil, water, sun. Here are a few activities for you to do at home to teach your kids about growing plants if you have or plan on starting your own garden at home.
1. Journal: Have your kids document plant growth.
Pre-schoolers – model drawing sketches of what your plants look like each week and then give them a crayon for them to do the same (may not look like much, but they will at least think they are drawing a plant). Introduce vocabulary such as plant, green, grow, sun, soil
Pre-K – have them add words to their drawings (even if their words are just a mix up of letters – write what they are trying to spell underneath). Vocabulary: the name of the plants, ex: bell peppers, parts of the plant
Kinder – write a sentence or two describing the plant. Vocabulary and discussion: the name of the plants, ex: bell peppers, parts of the plant, why plants are important
1st grade and above – a paragraph (minimum) documenting any changes they may see, how long they watered, what time of the day they watered, etc. Vocabulary and Discussion: the name of the plants, ex: bell peppers, parts of the plant, describe why plants are important, how they reproduce, nutrition and the benefits of eating home grown foods
2. Predict: Have your kids predict what is going to happen throughout the summer with their plants, use your journal from above to help document, then calculate results by a certain date at the end of the summer.
Calendar Math: Using a summer calendar, mark the day you plant your plants. Have your kids each choose a different date in which they predict they can start picking their ripe produce.
Measuring: Using a ruler, guess the size of the produce and how tall the plants will become by the end of the summer. Have them draw this out on poster paper to compare at the end of the summer.
Counting: Predict the amount of produce each type of plant will produce.
Science – Weather: predict the number of rainy days versus sunny days
Comparison: predict what type of plant will produce the biggest/smallest, most/least amount, greenest, etc. produce
3. Experiment: Get several seedlings that are the same type and are all similar in size. Experiment with different amounts of sunlight or soil type or watering schedule (choose one) to see what is the optimal amount for that particular plant. Plant several seedlings in each of the different conditions to get the best average outcome. And, go back to the first activity: journal 🙂
4. Create a Cookbook: As your plants are growing, decide as a family what you are going to use your plants for and create a family cookbook together! Take pictures of your growing plants to include in the “ingredients” section of each recipe.
BONUS: Include a raw versus cooked taste test of each fruit/vegetable to include that 5th sense that we often don’t get to use in a classroom.
5. Dissect the Plants:
Science: learn about the different plant parts including the parts you don’t see… inside the stem, the roots, inside the fruit and flowers. When you are finished, use the roots, stem, leaves, flowers to make art on a poster board.
Math: Compare/Contrast the different types of plants: length, leaf shape, fruit, root length and thickness and number of roots
Art: Create leaf prints by placing a piece of paper on top of the leaves and using the edge of a crayon to etch the shape of the leaf. Draw the type of produce next to each leaf.
BONUS: One of my friends started a private Facebook group for some of her friends who wanted to start a home garden. On it we are sharing pictures and knowledge with each other and when the produce is ripe, we will be having garden picking parties! It is nice to see what everyone else is growing (and these ladies know way more than I do about gardening so it’s helpful too)! I encourage you to start a similar group for your friends with green (or slightly unripened) thumbs.
It is so wonderful seeing how excited my kids are to watch our plants grow! Right now, we just have bell peppers and cherry tomatoes, but we hope to fill our other planters soon!
Leyson and I tore a paper plate in half to draw our measurements of the peppers (paper plates are sturdier than sheets of paper thus easier to measure the peppers on). We used a marker to draw a line on each side of the paper and later use a ruler to measure from line to line. We numbered our peppers 1, 2 and 3. Measure them week by week so you can see how much they grow in one week.
How does your garden grow??? How have you involved your children in your garden?
…and a complete new behavior modification system to discourage future closet explosions.
I introduce to you…
The Room Rating
(located right outside of their bedroom door for those times when it is so messy I can’t even walk into it)
Green: Mommy approves!
Yellow: Slightly messy. You will have to clean it before bed.
Red: Total wreck. You may not come out of your room until it is clean.
or, according to my husband,
Green: Mommy approves!
Yellow: Daddy approves!
Red: Just shut the door.
I was looking for a dry erase board to put on my clipboard, but found this doodle pad instead! And then I thought that this is pretty genius so I don’t have to leave a marker within reach of the kids… I’d definitely have another mess to clean up! I used Command strips to secure it to the clipboard.
Check back in with me in a week and let’s see if we stick to this! So far, the kids are excited about trying to keep it on green! Green = Clean! Say it with me! Green = Clean!
Everything is nice and neat, and labeled by size and article of clothing so that they can read the tags on their clothes to determine who they belong to. Once they are sorted, they know exactly where they need to go! Definitely encouraging some independence (and help around the house) here!
4T, 5T, XS = L’s clothes
6+, S+ = J’s clothes
Oh, and another thing new we’re trying? Bins for BIG TOYS and bins for small toys.
No more organizing by type of toy for us. It was just taking way too long to clean. The new rule is that if it is larger than your hand, it goes in the bin for BIG TOYS. If it is smaller than your hand, it goes in the bin for small toys.
And BONUS x 2! All these labels are GREAT for increasing print awareness for my 4 year old and encouraging reading for my 6 year old!
I read about Little Free Libraries in a local newspaper and fell in love with the idea. The basic concept is that a Little Free Library belongs to the community, and anyone can take or donate a book. When you’re finished with the book you can return it to any LFL location around the world or pass it on to a friend.
The first decision was where to put it. People locate their LFLs near their church, school, home, or place of business. We decided to place ours in our front yard because our house is located at the entrance of our neighborhood and faces a street with lots of pedestrian traffic, so we thought our Little Free Library would be used by neighbors and passersby. Having it at our house also makes it easy to maintain, and it’s fun check out the latest activity!
Next, the design: there are so many possibilities for how to design your library! You can buy a pre-made one from littlefreelibrary.org, use their plans to make your own, or create your own unique design. My dad built ours from plans on the LFL website and painted it to look like our house.
Choosing books: some LFLs have a specific theme, like children’s books or hobby books, but we live in an eclectic neighborhood with young families, retirees, college professors, and lots of college students walking by, so we filled our LFL with a variety of books. We included novels, travel books, hobby books, children’s books, etc. We’ll keep an eye out for what kinds of books people seem to like and try to stock more of those types of books. We’re also planning to have a party to invite friends and neighbors to visit our LFL and bring a buck and a book to help keep it stocked.
Before placing the books in our LFL we imprinted each one with our special LFL seal (ordered from http://www.littlefreelibrary.org) so that when the books are passed on people can see where they came from. We couldn’t imprint the thick pages of children’s board books, so we just placed a sticker inside those.
We also placed a notebook in our LFL for people to write comments, suggestions, reviews, and requests. Reading the notebook is a fun way to feel connected to the people who enjoy our LFL.
To teach people about our LFL we posted our LFL plaque and some basic instructions, and I printed fliers with more detailed instructions and placed them inside the library for those who wanted to know more.
During the installation several neighbors stopped by to ask what it was and offer to donate books.
A few hours later we went outside to admire our LFL and noticed that someone had already donated a book! It’s exciting to walk outside and see what people have taken from and added to the library. I’m looking forward to when my son is old enough to choose books to donate to and borrow from the library. For now he just has fun opening and closing the door.
Erin Walker is a teacher, Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, and soon to be stay at home mom. She earned her B.S. in Psychology and Sociology from Louisiana State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from University of South Florida. She’s taught at University of South Florida in Tampa, FL; Saint Joseph’s School in Shreveport, LA; and Catholic High School, Saint Joseph’s Academy, and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA. She currently works as a Selection Consultant in the telecommunications industry. She lives with her husband, 15 month old son, and two dogs, and is expecting a baby girl in July. She very occasionally blogs at firstyoumakearoux.typepad.com.