I am officially declaring it – I am not planning or organizing summer this year! No activity lists! No detailed planned excursions! I am planner and organizer for our family all year-long, and I need a break. I know my family could use one too. After writing my last post, Simple Summer Joys, I realized that I want my kiddos to enjoy their own version of those this summer, and if I’m planning our days from sun up to sun down, that’s not going to happen. I always try to take a laid back approach to school vacations, because I know the boys need to decompress and have that all important freedom to just be, but I usually have a few things up my sleeve that guide our days along and fit in some extra learning. Well, not this summer. This summer we’re going to fly by the seat of our pants, and see what happens.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking,
Alli, you can’t possibly not have anything planned at all. This is YOU we’re talking about after all.”
And you’re not completely wrong. I know there will be things we’ll want to plan for this summer, like a trip or two to the lake, or maybe a day trip to a nearby area we’ve never been too. But if I’m honest, even some of those trips tend to be rather spur of the moment. I keep my Day Trip checklist handy so we can quickly pull together what we need at a moment’s notice, so I’ve got that covered. As for the rest, well instead of making lists and buying supplies I’m going to rely on items we have on hand and activities we already normally do. Maybe add in a couple new things but for the most part, the structure of our days will be meal times, that’s it. The time in between is open to whatever we decide to do.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to let the boys laze around the house watching tv all day. Nope, not happening! It also doesn’t mean that they get to skip out on chores. It just means that I’m not going to be the one dictating what we do and when. Rather than planning our days, I’ve created guidelines for our days.
- chores must be completed one hour before bed time – this gives the boys all day to get them done. I’m prepared to remind them for the first few weeks.
- tv watching time will have a time limit each day – I’m flexible, but there is more to life than what you can find on the screen
- video game time will also have a limit – see reason above. With a couple of exceptions but I’ll get to those in a minute.
- snack and meal times happen when I say so – none of this grazing through the fridge and pantry all day long and then not wanting to eat your dinner
- everyone must spend some time outside every day – because let’s face it, who wants to be cooped up anyway.
I didn’t have to work very hard to create these guidelines, they’re our year round guidelines.
As for activities to keep the boys busy and occupied, well I was feeling kind of lost. I’m not one of those Moms who tells her kids what to do all the time, I believe boredom is good for the soul. Boredom is the pause our brains take to fill up our creativity reservoirs – or at least that’s my opinion on the matter. I also believe summer is a great time to fit in a little extra learning, work on strengthening skills here and there, in small ways, not like holding your own summer homeschool or anything. I admit I was kind of stuck trying to figure out how to balance everything without really planning it, and then my friend Sheila from Brain Power Boy wrote this great article about 10 Ways to Support Your Boy’s Learning This Summer and it made everything so much clearer. Instead of having a plan, I’m just going to make sure we have things available that can be used or not in the way our boy’s want too.
- A blank journal ready to be filled with drawings or writings about how summer is going, or for jotting down ideas of things they want to do, or books they want to read.
- Paints, crayons, chalk and other art supplies for spur of the moment creativity
- Blankets and sheet for forts
- Weekly trips to the library – which is a whole lot of fun in one trip since our library is close to two play grounds and bike trails, we can have an adventure and check out books all at the same time.
** Liam was gifted with a free subscription to TypeKids so that we could test it out and review it for you. As always opinions are 100% my own, or Liam’s (in this case) and I only share products we love, use or want to use in our own home. For more information please see my dislosure policy.**
I’ve also tried to come up with some new stuff for the boys to try. The most recent addition to my summer fun arsenal is this fabulous online program called TypeKids. They’re goal is to teach kids touch typing in a fun way. It looked like it would be a great blending of building on a much needed skill and having fun. Sure it’s one more thing to do in front of a screen, but I thought it would be a great way to breakup the video games and add in a little learning too. Liam on the other hand, was rather skeptical.
See, they’re learning to type at school and he’s not enjoying it at all.
That’s what he said, and he wasn’t too excited to practice typing at home. He perked up a little bit when I told him he could use my computer to play with the program, and I took the opportunity to fold and put away laundry while he started to explore. Pretty soon I was hearing comments like “neat” and “I like the graphics” and “I get to earn stuff, cool!”. Before I knew it, I was long forgotten as he was busy working on his typing skills so he could earn some coins for a reward.
So What is Type Kids?
As I mentioned above TypeKids is an online typing program whose aim is to make learning a tedious skill like typing fun for kids. And I have to say, from what I’ve seen so far, they’re doing a great job. Liam has had a ton of fun with this program and even better, he asks to get on almost daily. The course is set up in such a way that it is easy for the kiddos to use and has a wonderful balance in their content between learning and fun. Here are a few highlights, from my point of view.
- It’s a web-based program so it works on all OS’s as long as you have flash.
- The Intro to the course gives children and parents a good overview of what to expect throughout the course, how to use it, and highlights the fun parts.
- Instructions are easy to understand and delivered in a verbal format with visual components that support and demonstrate what is being said.
- They’ve woven entertaining stories and fun mini games through the course to break up the typing work and add some fun to an otherwise boring task
- The mini games interspersed between the lessons reinforce the typing skills just learned, but in a way that’s fun and less ‘work’ like
- They’ve taken learning to type beyond the keyboard with instructions on how to sit properly and maintain good body posture while typing, as well as where you should have your keyboard set up. These early lessons in keyboard ergonomics are really important to help our children develop good skills.
- The detailed reports at the end of the lessons that show you what keys your child needs more work on and the progress reports that they email out are a great way to track improvement and work on what needs to extra help
- Kids can earn coins as they go through the lessons and use them to play some of the mini games, which I think is fantastic because it gives them something to work for.
As I parent, I greatly appreciate what TypeKids has put together. While I think printing and cursive are important skills, in our current world typing is just as valuable. We know that skills learned in our early years stick with us and grow with us, so introducing kids to proper typing skills in a way that teaches but it still entertaining is a great way to build that skill. At least it is in my book.
Liam has really been enjoying the program. He asks to log-in every few days, and usually stays at it for a half hour, and has been known to whine when I tell him time is up. When I asked him what he thought of the program he told me it was “super-duper” and his favourite, of course, are the games. Though he doesn’t like having to spend his coins to play them. When asked about his least favourite part, this is what he had to say:
The L’s being upside down. It’s my least favourite part because it annoys me. It makes me think it is a different letter or in a different language.”
The L’s are not actually upside down, it’s just the way they were designed in the font, and we haven’t reached the capital letter lessons yet.
All in all, I’m really happy with this not planning summer thing. We’ve got a learning program to use at our leisure throughout the summer and other tools and supplies on hand for spontaneous fun and creative play, and I’m really happy to leave it at that. With no plans to follow we’re free to do whatever catches our fancy. (Someone might have to remind me that I said this come the middle of July, because it could all back fire on me. 🙂 )
What are your plans or unplans for this summer?
Do you know of a great program or app that makes learning a skill fun for kids? I’d love to hear you suggestions in the comments below.