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My Ambitious Summer Plans

In theory, I think parents should be careful about over-scheduling their children, especially in the summer. In theory, I think it’s wise to give kids plenty of free time to play, learn and explore during the lazy days of summer.

In theory.

In practice, there are four children in my house, and while unstructured summer days may lead to great personal discoveries for the children, they can also lead to a few pounding headaches for the mom. I (and the kids, for that matter) can only handle so much non-structure before we start grouching at each other and climbing the walls.

So this time of year, as the start of summer sits right in front of us, I start figuring out just how to walk this fine line. Because the truth is, as much as I enjoy all the sleeping late and park trips and lazy afternoons at the pool, I can’t help but see our summers as a chance to catch up on some of the projects that elude us during the busy school year. Those empty months beckon to me, asking to be filled with fun (!) and learning (!) and constantly peaceful family togetherness (!).

I’m keeping a list, tucked away in my calendar, of all the things I hope we might be able to accomplish. It’s an ambitious list, and a clever one (if I do say so myself) -- and it will, likely, remain mostly undone come August. But a mom can dream…

1. Stamp collecting. We have my grandfather’s old stamp collection, packed away in two boxes that have remained unopened since my grandfather last worked on it, more than 40 years ago. I’ve told my sons that this summer we’ll dig through and learn about what all is inside -- cataloging it for future generations. Let us blissfully ignore the inherent risk involved in letting three rowdy boys touch a family heirloom and move along to item #2…

2. Learning to cook. Normally, during the school year, they’re doing homework and chores while I’m fixing dinner, so they’re not often able to help. But what a fantasy I have concocted in my head, in which I suggest they whip up some spaghetti and meatballs, and they can actually do it. Maybe this summer, I’ll actually teach them how.

3. Listening to books on CD. There a couple of series I’ve been wanting to read along with the kids, and, especially during those sweltering days in August, a quiet afternoon of book-listening sounds lovely, doesn’t it? (Any series you would recommend?)

4. Learning our city map. My older kids, especially, need a better understanding of which streets end up where, and in what order. (Although I’m not sure I, as someone who spends a decent amount of time being lost, should be the one to teach them. This may be a job for Dad.)

With only a handful of school days left before us, we’re heading into the summer with our growing list. I’m loving the fact that this year, for the first time, the kids are suggesting some of their own goals for the summer. The oldest has some ambitious and specific plans for a writing project. The middle one to take over the lawn-mowing, all by himself (motivated not so much by a sense of duty as by the potential for cold, hard cash). The younger one…well, I think he just pretty much wants to eat popsicles. It’s a fine goal, come to think of it.

(What about you? What projects are you tackling with the kids this summer?)

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