Give the girl some paper and tape, and she disappears for an hour and returns with this. Wings and a bird mask. Her creativity revolves around animals, but she always comes up with something that makes me smile.

We are in full-swing summer mode. We are signed up for activities and day camps and music lessons, but we're still not overly scheduled or committed. Plenty of long hours just sitting around or playing with the hose. Lily is starting the cello, Carver is continuing with his bass, and Zinabu is beginning drums. I have never met a child more predisposed to drum lessons. Though it will be loud around here for the next several years, I can't wait for Zinabu to channel all his wiggles and jiggles into a steady beat.

We've reinstituted TV tickets. I know I posted about this 2 years ago. Last summer we moved and never got around to getting very scheduled or organized (which is really just a cover-up for the fact that I needed the kids to watch TV so I could unpack the house). What we do is give each kid 20 tickets at the beginning of the week. (You can buy an enormous roll of carnival-style tickets at an office supply store.) Each ticket is worth 30 minutes of screen time: tv or computer. That averages out to an hour a day. Considering my kids are up at 6 am and are playing outside until 9pm, I'm just not that concerned about that one hour. What I really love about this system is that it teaches them to budget their time, which is a whole lot easier for Carver at 11 than Zinabu at 6. Zinabu pretty much blew through 14 hours the first 3 days and then it dawned on him he was screwed for the rest of the week. Great teaching tool, and again, so worth the excessive screen time at the outset in order for him to learn a lesson.

I love that my kids have access to music and music lessons. Every child should. We go to a local music store where the instructors rent out their services. The average price is about $15 dollars a lesson. While that adds up with three kids, it is still pretty reasonable considering what you're getting. It's hard "making" my kids practice. Sometimes they're all eager and into it and it goes well. Other times I'm reminding them all day long, "You need to practice your instrument before dinnertime." And they look at me like I'm asking them to dig a well. I know they don't see the value of practice. Most kids don't. So I try to keep encouraging them. If my kids just flat out hated playing an instrument and they were kicking and screaming about the whole ordeal, we'd call it quits. But that's not the case. Overall, it's a very positive experience and I am a firm, firm believer in the benefits of music on kids' brains and self-esteem.

We're going to the library a LOT. This feels like the "magic year" for library time. My kids know were everything is, know how to look up what they can't find, and actually prefer to pick out their own books rather than relying on me to find things for them. I still browse through the more random sections to pull out books that I think they would enjoy, and we've hit upon some favorite new topics this way. I found the greatest book about ancient Egypt and Zinabu is enthralled. The way the book is laid out and the way the illustrations are in 3-D, it's hard not to be enthralled.

I also grabbed some biographies and we're reading them aloud at the dinner table each night after we've finished eating. The chapters are VERY short, and they're written for kids ages 5 to 9, I think... which is perfect for our family. Short and sweet and packed with information. Right now we're reading about Helen Keller. Doesn't every kid love the story of Helen Keller? I know I did. Carver and Lily already know who she is, but Z did not. And I don't think Carver and Lily have had the chance to really think about her life, her accomplishments, etc. Next we'll read about Rosa Parks, and after that I think I might have the kids think about an era in history they'd like to learn more about and we'll find biographies from there.

As a mom, I've learned the hard way what NOT to do when you're planning a new activity with your kids. Do NOT announce one day, "This summer I think we should read a biography together. Every night after dinner you will sit and listen to the book I've chosen. Won't that be fun?" Uh, no. That usually blows up in my face. What I've learned to do instead is just casually pull the book out after dinner one night and say, "Hey, I've got this cool book here. How about I read a chapter before we clear the table?" And voila! Success.

If you have any summer ideas or things that work well for your family, I'd love to hear about it. I might come across as looking like I know what I'm doing, but don't let that fool you. I'm flying by the seat of my pants.


Courtney O. said...

what line of biographies are they? I would love some with short chapters that will engage my kids!

cathy said...

Courtney, they're called the "Who Was..." books. "Who Was Helen Keller?" etc. The illustration on the cover makes the character look like a bobble head. Kinda funny. Publisher is Grosset & Dunlap. Your kids would definitely dig them. The Rosa Parks book is from another publisher. I was really happy with the selection at our library for kids this age.