It was a decision I thought long and hard about. On great days with my three year old I looked forward to having her all to myself all summer. On the not-so-good days, I couldn’t believe I was going to have my daughter ALL to myself ALL summer. On the last day of school, I literally felt it difficult to breathe as us moms stood outside the classroom door chatting.
“Are you doing camp?” One asked. The others all nodded enthusiastically with comments, like, “There’s no way I could have _____ home all summer.” They even mostly signed up for the extra week between school and camp because they didn’t know what else they would do for those 5 long days. Believe me, I’m not speaking badly of these moms…I too didn’t know what the he** I was going to do.
Thankfully I left the building that day and met up with a friend who had made the same (insane?) decision. She got me breathing again with one simple thought: “We are lucky to be able to spend all summer with these guys.” We happened to be pushing the girls on the swings at our beautiful park at that moment, they were laughing, and I realized this was a moment I never wanted to forget. Pretty soon we won’t be the center of our kids lives, and they will rather spend time with their friends than us. So, I decided to try to grab every minute, filling our summer with fun (and also some education).
We are in week 2 now, and it’s actually nice not having to get up and out every single morning…the rush through breakfast, pressure of getting to school/camp on time, trying to get as much done as I can before having to pick her up again, and having her need my constant attention for the remainder of the day. I’m actually finding she is less needy of my time now. We play for awhile, and then I can tell her I have some work to do, and she will happily play by herself for awhile. I’m really enjoying running around the playground with her, encouraging her to try things she hasn’t before, and screaming with pride when she does.
I want to share some specific things we’re doing, both for fun and educationally.
- Summertime Learning Workbook. I have the Preparing for Pre-K book, and we love it. It is designed specifically for the 8 week summer vacation, and has a reading and math activity for each day. For my daughter’s age, we are talking activities like finishing the pattern, finding and circling all the letters they see on a page, and a few items I think are advanced, like actually writing numbers. We’re using this as mostly something fun to work on together, but it’s a bonus if it helps her with pre-k skills. When kids finish a page, they put a sticker on a sun at the top of the page.
- Remember when you were a school-aged kid and the library or your school gave you a chart to record your summer reading progress? They have this now for younger kids too. My library gave me a chart where we put a sticker each time we read for 20 minutes, or read a new book, or attend a library program, or various other activities. We can bring the chart in at various stages for a special prize. We’ve been checking out a lot of books and attending a lot of programs. Check out your local library. I believe Barnes and Noble has a similar program where you can get free books also.
- An extra thing I’ve been doing is helping my daughter become an active reader. A little bit by accident, I put my teacher hat on, and have begun reading comprehension skills. I stop reading at times and ask my daughter what she thinks will happen next (making predictions), or ask her to look at a picture and tell me how that person is feeling and why. A lot of times she’ll ask me that question, and I’ll read (or reread) that passage and ask her to find the answer herself. I’ll ask her if she’s ever felt that way, or had that experience (making connections) which has actually helped her vocalize her own feelings.
- My paid for items. I limited my paid-for options to just 3 but there are many more, with varying degrees of giving you free time:
- Ballet class
- Swim class
- Bronx zoo membership
- Taking the learning outside. I love nature and have been trying to spend a lot of time outside. We stop and listen to birds, go on treasure hunts, and do lots of other corny things. My daughter can now spot a butterfly before I can. I think I’m teaching her an appreciation for nature, but also how to look carefully and really see things. I’ve been surprised how much opportunity for learning there has also been…discussing the differences between ponds, rivers, seas, learning about different types of insects, finding birds nests, watching an ant carry more than its own weight on its back…and also at the playground, teaching my daughter to be strong, how to climb various things, maneuvering around social situations (what to do when someone pushes or takes her turn.) I’m also making play dates, and encouraging her to play with other kids when we see them at the park. On the swings, we count down from 3 and blast off. I ask my daughter what she sees. Sometimes she jokes and says “the playground,” but more often she smiles knowingly and tells me she sees the sun, stars, moon, and then begins to name the planets. The possibilities for learning are endless with a small child who has so much they can learn.
I also have the crazy goal of getting my almost 4 year old to finally kick her thumb-sucking habit. I’m taking the chart we got from the library as a basis for making my own sticker goal chart. I can hope, can’t I?
We’re still figuring things out, but I now know I made the right decision for me (and I’ll use this post to remind me during those rough moments when I’m having second thoughts!)