Browsing Tag

summer

Ease

A Case for Summer Screen Time

It’s summer vacation. Woo-hoo!

But now what?

If you are anything like our family, you awoke this morning and lounged – TV, pancakes, jammies ‘til noon. It was probably spectacular.

But now it is 1:15 pm and all the kids want to do is squabble and eat ice cream and melt their brains with the iPad. For today, we just might do that. But what about the rest of the summer? With sloth and gluttony rule the days? We wait all school year to get our kiddos back, but how do we make the most of June, July, and whatever time we are allotted in August? How do we do summer right?

I read a compelling essay last year about offering children unlimited screen time. I confess I only clicked on it to see what kind of nut-job of a parent made that decision. But the reasoning was pretty great. One mom offered her kids unlimited electronics after they completed several previously agreed-upon tasks—the usual things: reading, cleaning, and something active or creative. Her theory was that kids tend to stick with what they start with. Give them a hot glue gun at 9:30 am and chances are they’ll still be crafting when it’s time for lunch. Insist that they read for an hour and they’ll probably keep a nose in a book for two.

I was doubtful, but the kids and I brainstormed our own list and gave it a try. We decided that they could have as much television and iPad time only after:

  1. Reading
  2. Exercise
  3. Something Creative
  4. A Chore

Lots of my ideas die before I ever fully implement them—the one about not washing any clothes until the prior load is folded and put away, the one about no food in the car. But this one, the one where we made a list and ordered our summer really, really worked. Reading daily turned into more trips to the library for reinforcement books, and sunbathing sessions in the backyard with the Junie B. Jones series. Exercise meant walking the dog, biking to the beach, and neighborhood games of sharks and minnows. Creativity flowed freely every single day. The kids wrote books and made birthday cards, and Lizzie taught herself to draw a horse rearing up in a field. Katie composed music, made a radio, played the piano, and distributed homemade donuts to all her friends. In fact, the kitchen became a second playground. We made our own pizza and ice cream, lemon bread, apple sauce, strawberry jam, caramel, and crepes. We rolled our own sushi and experimented with boba tea. And even the chores got done. The kids folded clothes, made their beds, and scrubbed the bathroom with far few complaints than ever before.

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Now they were still my kids. Plenty of days they groused about the list. They still fought over the iPad and who was in charge of the remote. But they also settled into the routine. Our list provided structure – but not too much – and freedom – but not too much. Some days, we breezed through the list and watched too many episodes of Supergirl. Other days, a lot of days, we never got to any screen time at all. We rode our bikes to the pool for exercise and stayed all day. We baked and shared the results. We summered.

And this morning, over pancakes, we made a new list to try it all over again.

Join us. We would love to hear your results.

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Skool Daze

Summer Back to School

I have always loved school supplies. Notebooks right-angled and full of possibility. The gritty smell of freshly sharpened pencils. Rainbow boxes encasing crayons with all their points.

But this year, the provisions are giving me heart palpitations. I know what is coming. Gone are the lazy summer mornings. Instead, our days will begin with hurried toast, scrambles for homework and ponytail holders, and the incessant packing of those damn lunches.

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I know we can’t summer all year long. That would be like eating ice cream cones every single day. Eventually, even that cool, perfect sweetness would get tiresome. We would miss apples, broccoli, and vigor.

But there should be a way to learn from summer, to take heed of its knowledge, to pocket a little of its wonder to sprinkle on ourselves all school year long.

Here’s how we intend to summer this fall:

Slow down. There is no need to triple stack my kids’ days. They do not need to tear from school to piano to basketball practice, or awaken to a Saturday piled with three different sports. We love summer because of its pace. It allows us to possess both ease and curiosity in equal measure. We are going to get more out of this school year by scheduling less.

Go outside. My grandmother raised ten kids in Northeastern Ohio, and she made them all play outside for at least 20 minutes every day – in rain, snow, or sunshine. Even the baby. We love summer because the weather is nice. But fresh air and physical activity are even more important. Gather sticks. Kick a ball.

Eat fruits and veggies. This summer, my five-year-old and I baked a peach pie from scratch — filling, crust, all of it. My ten-year-old made homemade apple cider for the neighbors. We baked kale and tossed salads with greens straight out of our garden. But for some reason, food during the school year takes a more industrial bent. Chicken is nuggeted. Veggies are chipped. Sandwiches come de-crusted, pre-jellied, and out of a bag. I loathe packing lunches. But I am in charge of what goes in there. Good food=good little humans.

Skip school. The kids and I already have a San Francisco trip on the books for October. We might extend Thanksgiving break by a day or two to visit the Grand Canyon. My girlfriend has been after us to pop up to Seattle in the spring. One of summer’s best selling points is that there is no school. I think it’s okay to replicate this school-less-ness for family time during the school year.

Look. Laugh. Listen. Love. The kids and I laughed this summer. We talked. Not just “uh-huh” conversations when I was checking my cell phone for PTA meeting times or what new dinner I could make with chicken. But actual talk. We weren’t always running late or juggling car seats or play dates. I was more present with them. I listened to their ideas, and adjusted plans when they had ideas for how a day might go differently. Sometimes that was as simple as looking at them when they spoke. Sometimes it was making sure I hugged each of them every single day.

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This summer I was more the mother I wanted to be.

This fall, I am pocketing a little summer to continue that trend.