Thoughts of lemonade, the smell of the charcoal grill, and endless watermelon.
The fireflies that dance across the sky, and children running around through sprinklers.
These images fill my head as summer approaches.
My absolute favorite season, I love the reckless start to our days, and feeling the heat of the sun on my back. As a homeschooling mom, I look forward to putting down the checklists, and the tight schedules, and adopting a more relaxed environment. I pass the spatula of long days of homemade stews and big dinners to my husband as he flips burgers, steaks, and grilled chicken on a grill. I trade in a bookbag with curriculum and answer keys for one filled with sunscreen, sunglasses, fun reading, mixed nuts, and an EpiPen.
Everything slows down. The van sits parked for long periods of time. We spend less time indoors and more time outside. Our time together and without commitments increases, and our activities become more intentional.
Summer becomes a time of reflection for me. I look back over the past school year and see where the “holes” in my parenting are. What bad habits have I allowed to occur for too long? Do we have virtues that are lacking? Are one or more kiddos struggling with self-esteem or need extra care? How do I make the most of our time together as a family?
After some time with the Lord, I usually have a few activities that I would like us to conquer as a family, as well as some one-on-one time activities. In the past, we have taken up family walks to encounter more neighbors and spent less time in front of the TV. We have created reading challenges in which the children earn gift cards to encourage more independent reading. We have given up treats and snacks to purchase donations for a local food pantry to encourage generosity of heart. We have taken on daily Mass as a family to give the Lord the first part of our day and to learn how to prioritize our time.
We have also enjoyed private talks and walks with each of our children. At different times, we invite them to accompany us as we run errands and grab treats. We take the time to chat privately about what is going on in their lives and allow them to share their hearts with us.
One of our favorite pre-summer activities is to construct a summer “bucket” list. It’s a treasured family activity where we try to meet everyone’s needs and gather excitement over the pending summer. We look to include activities that require little planning/little cash and activities that require some planning/little more cash reserves. Each of the children comes to the evening with a set of activities that focuses on their interests. We try to make sure that we have something exciting for everyone.
The “possibilities” of the summer are only limited to a lack of imagination or time.
I love the past “bucket list” memories of watching my kiddos surf the waves at the beach, and selling muffins to our neighbors. We have hit waterparks and watched double-features at the drive-in. We have held movie marathons with ice cream sundaes, and given out food to the homeless.
My children’s favorite bucket list item is “Kids’ In Charge Day.” It’s a family holiday where the children have $100 to plan whatever fun thing they want to do for the day. In the past, they have hit up Groupon and scored discount tickets to the local bounce gym. Our local YMCA is free since we are members, so they have also spent the day at the pool with Chick-fil-A and ice cream for dinner. This day always invites great leadership from the big kids, and teamwork as they work together to make sure everyone is happy with their choices. Dad usually benefits the most with a nap while I, somehow, end up making some sugar-laden breakfast of their choice.
Bucket lists are also a great way of learning more about the interests of your children. You quickly discover which children are motivated by challenges and contests, and which children “live for adventure.”
As we look ahead to this planning time for our family, I wanted to invite you to begin this tradition in your home as well. Maybe God is calling you to be a little more intentional in your planning this summer. Take some time to reflect on what you think will benefit your family the most and create pockets of time to work on that.
Click here to download your own copy of our blank Family Summer Bucket List here.
Here are summer suggestions to help fill your own summer bucket list:
- Visit a local park
- Plan a picnic lunch and go to a lake
- Have a cooking competition
- Visit a nursing home and play games with the residents
- Visit the zoo
- Create a nature scavenger hunt and go hiking to find all the items
- Play in the sprinklers and cool off with snow cones
- Write and put on a play
- Invite a family over for a water balloon fight
- Go strawberry picking and then make homemade ice cream
- Buy groceries for a local food pantry and then deliver them
- Go paddleboarding
- Go kayaking
- Go roller-skating
- Visit a local drive-in theater
- Go on a family walk
- Try a new recipe
- Make smores over a campfire
- Attend a live music concert
- Take a road trip
- Go white water rafting
- Try a new food truck
- Go to a farmer’s market
- Run a lemonade stand
- Go night swimming
- Have an all-night movie marathon
- “Make your own pizza” night
- Flashlight Tag at Night
- Take a trip to the beach
- Go stargazing
- Go see waterfalls
- Go fishing
- Go crabbing
- Take a family bike ride
- Go tubing
- Go rock-climbing
- Take a tour of several ice cream shops
- Ride a Ferris wheel
- Go horseback riding
- Make a birdfeeder
- Take a painting class
- Have a pajama day
- Host a watermelon eating contest
- Visit a pet store
- Plant some flowers
- Go to a parade
- Watch the sunset/sunrise
- Camp in the backyard
- Dance in the rain
- Have a spa day
- Have a watergun fight
- Have a bake sale for charity
- Visit an aquarium
- Play mini-golf
- Visit a farm
- Try an escape room
- Go garage sailing
- Go ziplining
- Do a jigsaw puzzle
- Visit the tourist sites in your town
- Host a bbq
- Visit a historical landmark
- Purchase and play a new board game