I’ve been homeschooling our kids for 4 years now, and every year I have these dreamy visions floating around in my head of what our summer break will be like. They weren’t ambitious ideas of cross-country road trips, or city-wide scavenger hunts that I would plan for the kids. I just wanted a relaxing summer; one that gave us time to rest and play, and one where I got to enjoy it with the kids. I’ve finally realized there are a few “pain points” that can make summer break harder to enjoy. With a little effort, those pain points can be remedied. For me, the top 3 are meal times, housework, and keeping the kids entertained.
Despite the fact that I love to cook, I don’t enjoy being a slave to the kitchen for hours at a time. Prepping, cooking, and then cleaning up can easily take 1-2 hours depending on what I’m making. To solve that issue, here’s what’s been working for me this summer:
1. Grocery Pick-Up/Delivery
I can spend an hour at the grocery store just walking the aisles looking for the items on my list. Lately, though, I’ve been taking advantage of curb-side pick up from our closest grocery store and it is a major time-saver! I even got groceries delivered one afternoon when one of the kids was sick and a grocery run just wasn’t an option.
2. Cooking recipes that are one-pot, slow cooker, or sheet pan meals.
Who wants to be chained to the stove in the middle of summer in the South? I’m keeping meal times simple this summer with easy, quick recipes that don’t require all the pots and pans in my kitchen. My go-to place for new recipes is Pinterest. Come find me over there and see all the easy meal ideas I’ve discovered.
3. Paper plates.
So that I’m not spending 30 minutes after dinner washing pans and dishes, (or running the dishwasher twice a day), paper plates are essential. I don’t bother with plastic cups, though. Someone always forgets which cup was theirs, no one can remember to write their name on the cup, and by the end of the day there are approximately 472 abandoned plastic cups around the house. At least the paper plates cut down on what has to get washed.
I don’t know why it is, but in the summer I can find a million ways to kill an entire afternoon cleaning, and everything still looks about as good as it did during the school year when I didn’t have as much free time. To keep from filling our summer break hours with chores, I’ve figured out a cleaning routine that works (well enough) and we still get to enjoy our days.
1. Run a load of laundry everyday
I always dread doing laundry, as I’ve mentioned before, but I’m always surprised how little time it actually takes to run a load and then immediately fold and put it away. It’s so much easier to stay on top of it and do a little each day, rather than doing marathon laundry sessions. I’ve made it a habit to toss in a load of laundry each morning after I finish my coffee. By lunchtime, it’s already out of the way!
2. Pick one deep cleaning chore per day
Plenty of chores around the house don’t always need to be done daily. I can dust one day, change out all the sheets/pillowcases the next, wipe down bathroom mirrors and sink the day after, etc. Everything still gets taken care of, but it doesn’t have to all happen at once.
3. Sweep before bedtime
If I sweep before dinner, I will inevitably have to do it again afterwards, too. This way, I just sweep once a day, unless there’s a spill or other mess that needs it right away, of course. Bonus: waking up to clean floors the next day.
4. Let the kids have their own chores
This one is a hard one for me because I tend to micro-manage things. Obvious control issues aside, (ahem), letting the kids handle their own chores gives them a sense of responsibility and teaches them how to clean up after themselves. For my kids, that means unloading the dishwasher, cleaning their own rooms, putting away their own laundry after it’s washed, and wiping down the sink in their bathroom. They know they have to pitch in around the house, after all, they live here, too.
Keeping the Kids Entertained
I’ve seen beautiful and elaborate “Summer Bucket Lists” floating around on Pinterest, Instagram, and in magazines. While these look like fun to me sometimes, they also fill me with a sense of pressure to make everyday of summer break the most special there ever was. In case no one has told you, you don’t have to do all the things. One of my favorite things about summer break growing up was when I didn’t have anything I had to do or any place I had to be. Maybe that’s the introvert in me, but I think there’s something to be said for letting kids find ways to entertain themselves.
Each day doesn’t have to have a grand adventure planned, but you don’t want to leave them bored all summer, either. If I left Graham to find his on entertainment all day, he would probably spend 6 hours of it playing video games.
In case you need some ideas for when the kids are bored, here are some that mine have been loving:
- fort building
- card games
- popsicle making
- sketching / watercolor tutorials for kids on YouTube
- board games
- Just Dance Kids on YouTube
- playing restaurant with felt food
- participating in a summer reading program at your local library or bookstore
What are some of your “pain points” of summer break? Any tips for working through them? I’d love to hear in the comments below!