This is the time of year when people start planning their summer gardens. For me, it's the time of year when I start making wildly unrealistic plans for our summer learning activities. I suppose we're all itching to plant some seeds in early spring. It's just that mine are a bit less literal.
Spring triggers a storm of ideas for summer in my head. This is better than my wintery thoughts of the obsessively anxious variety, so I'm going to run with it. It helps that I've finally stopped dreading summer as a high-pressure, never-ending stretch of unstructured time. Finally! All it took was for BOTH boys to be in school full-time. Now I'm itching to get them back with me and embrace my inner homeschooler tendencies. Luckily, they love doing this sort of thing with me (after I convince them to turn off the screens.)
I have a bunch of ideas bubbling away in my brain right now. I'm sure we can't do everything, but wouldn't it be fun if we could? Here they are, in no particular order.
1. They're always happier when we limit screen time, but it's also nice to have more time for video games and movie days in the summer. We always struggle to balance these two ideas. I was thinking that maybe we'd try PAYING them to unplug. Yes, it seems like a bad idea at first glance, but hear me out. Tommy doesn't particularly care about screen time, but Charlie is passionate about it. However, Charlie loves money more than video games. Why not take advantage of that? Instead of giving them an allowance, I was thinking of letting them earn money for each day that they choose to spend unplugged. Family movie nights and learning-related screen time would be exempt. Once every two weeks we would have an Unlimited Screen Day for all four of us, but the other 13 days of the two weeks would be opportunities to earn a bit of money for relaxing screen-free. I suppose I could just make that pattern the rule, but paying Charlie a dollar a day would sugar coat the pill a bit.
2. The Epp Gazette! Charlie wants to be an investigative reporter when he grows up. Tommy wants to be a writer or perhaps a cartoonists. We could focus those interests by publishing a newspaper! Charlie can interview people and search out the answers to questions, and I can type up his stories for him. Tommy can draw a weekly comic strip, use his birthday camera to take pictures and write longer stories. They could both learn about layout and using a computer to put out a product. Each issue could have a book review, science project instructions, a cross-word puzzle, a recipe column. The possibilities are endless! We could do one issue every two weeks. That would give us six issues. We could give out (and mail out) the first issue for free and then sell subscriptions for the remaining five issues. That would make it a business learning activity too! We could call for contributions from guest writers! This is the sort of idea that I always take too far. The boys are really excited about it though, so we just might do it.
3. Science Club! I've been pretty disappointed with the amount of science instruction they get in school. It seems like they have the most time for it in Kindergarten, and get steadily less time each year after. The boys always want to do science projects and experiments at home, but I don't always have time to research appropriate activities. What if we joined together with 3 or 4 other families and took turns doing half-day science camps? How fun would that be?! We could do it on the weekends so the dads can participate and combine it with a chance to socialize. I can totally imagine David doing simple-machines activities on our day or other friends' parents doing simple chemistry, physics or biology activities on their days, and then all of us hanging out together the rest of the evening while the host grills hot dogs for dinner and the kids play. Anybody interested?
4. We really must resume our Country-of-the-Week activities this summer. We all missed it last summer. Plus, Charlie is the same age now that Tommy was the first time we did it, which opens the door for all sorts of things he was too young to do the first two summers. The last time we went out for Thai food the boys wanted to find Thailand on the map and read look up pictures of Thailand on the computer after dinner. It reminded that this is the sort of thing I do really, really well.
5. Reading, reading, reading. Charlie's finally old enough to really enjoy listening to me read aloud chapter books. We haven't had a lot of time for that during this school year. Tommy's certainly not too old, so now is the time. Last summer was all about reading classic picture books together. This summer can be about reading classic chapter books together. Yay!
6. A few friends have mentioned that they miss our summer park play dates. Does anyone else feel this way? Last summer we did more one-on-one play dates instead, and that was fun for the boys, but as a parent I really missed the ease of our weekly park play dates. Eh. It takes a lot of effort for me to make sure the boys spend time with their school friends during the summer. We have so much fun just the three of us, that's it's easy to forget to make time for others. The park play dates certainly made that easier, but sometimes it felt like too much of comittment. Maybe we should just do it a few times over the summer instead of weekly. I'll have to think about it a bit more.
I know. This is probably too much of a pie-in-the-sky list, but it's still early in the spring. I still have three months to decide which seeds to plant, so we'll see what sort of learning garden we end up with. I'm excited already.