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Parenting Tip of the Month
By Heather Totten

Bridging the Summer Gap

Schools are almost out and for some it is all ready out. For those of you with school age children you are getting ready to re-acclimate them back into your Monday through Friday routine and sometime they don't really want re-acclimated. Remember they are used to waking up early, getting ready for school and then being at school in a very structured environment. Staying at home is not the same - at all. So, how do you make this transition easy on every one? I am newer at this transition, but I have a few tips that have helped me last summer and I have all ready planned them for this summer as well. It is that delicate balance of keeping the reading and math skills up while not forcing a sit down. It is encouraging to keep exploring science, but without him realizing it.

The first thing I do is sign my kids up for 1 or 2 weekly camps. I have Alex and Maria signed up for a Bible camp that is a half day every day of the week. Then Alex is going to my parent's house for his 'alone' week (aka being spoiled by the grandparents with no parents or other siblings around) and during that time he chose a sports camp to attend all week again for a half day. Maria is old enough to do an alone week and the camp she choose is art, a favorite of hers. She will also go half day all week long. Then as far as camps go, that is it. There are so many good ones out there, but I hesitate to do too many. But a couple camps break up the summer and give the kids each individually something to look forward to.

The second thing I do is sign them up for the summer reading program at the Library. For those that read they get to choose 10 books and read them to me. After they accomplish the reading list, they get a prize from the library. The kids that don't read get to pick out 10 picture books and have me read to them. The great thing is they can all be the same books. So Maria, Sydney, and Isabella read 10 books with me and get a prize. Try to get into the habit of going to the library on a certain day and at a certain time. It will also give them something to look forward to. If your library does not have a reading program, you can design one of your own.

Those are the only two structured things I plan for the summer. The other things I try to do are to take short trips like to the zoo, the parks, and the children's museum. It is kind of like little field trips. I try not to stress about any of those trips. We stay as long as the kids stand to stay, then we go home whether or not we saw the entire thing.

Some families take summer vacations. They are fantastic opportunities to teach, and yet not appear to be teaching. Research the destination spot with your kids online. Have them pick things that they find interesting and that they can look forward to visiting. Teach them the history about the city; show them monuments, or memorials. Then you can have them write a letter to their grandparents or friends about where they are. They can explain a little of what they learned. This way they are doing somewhat of a book report, but in disguise.

Then you have your every day things like laundry, the grocery, cooking, cleaning, and other household chores. Get the kids involved. Choose things that they enjoy doing. No one likes cleaning, but maybe dusting with a neat new dusting brush is something they would like to do to help you. Maybe they are big enough to try the vacumm out. This way they learn responsibility and being part of a family. When they are in school, it comes first, homework is second, and then they have play and chores. During the summer they have much more time to explore the family side of everything. Get them involved and have them be a part of it all.

Finally, PLAY. I love play. It is my favorite thing to do. Bob for apples. Skip rope. Paint rocks in the back yard. Play Frisbee. Get out bubbles, a sprinkler, a slip and slide. Ride bikes, play pretend. And my children's favorite - watch the sun set and catch lightening bugs. They are already begging to do that. Have a picnic in the backyard. Make homemade popsicles. Plant a tomato plant and watch it grow. Put up the tent and play 'camping' with marshmallows and all. But most importantly, have fun. Remember what it was like to be out for the summer. Help foster those same delightful memories for your children. Give them some structure in reading, let them learn from a teacher at a camp, take them on mini trips, go on vacation if you have the time, and involve the school child in the every day activities at home - especially play.

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And remember, don't be a 'super mom'. Just a few of these things spread out through the summer is simple to incorporate and usually keeps a happy troop. Too much and you have a bunch of unhappy, over scheduled kids (and mom for that matter). Too little and you find them nesting in front of the TV saying they are bored. You'll find the right balance. Just have fun.

Heather Totten is a stay-at-home mom with four children and a busy husband. She is incredibly organized, and shares her sense of family, parenting, and organization with us in her monthly parenting tips column. Read what's new with her family in Heather's Parenting Journal.

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