I started getting nervous towards the end of last April. As everyone around me began the hopeful countdown to summer, I was filled with a secret dread: I began experiencing flashbacks, sweaty palms, irregular heartbeat, and paranoia. The symptoms were clear; I was suffering from PTSD—Post Two Kids Out of School Disorder.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m crazy about my kids, but every summer I’m faced with a dilemma. It only takes a couple of days before my angelic children are stricken with the dreaded I’m Bored Syndrome. Deep down, I knew that I needed to maintain some structure and a sense of routine during the summer to prevent my kids from bouncing off the walls and keep myself from going bonkers. But when I thought about structure and routine, I kept picturing myself blowing a whistle “Captain Von Trapp-style” and marching kids in lederhosen around the backyard. I knew if I tried something like that, there would be mutiny in the Mosteller house. So, after weeks of desperate brainstorming, I hit upon the solution—Summer Learning Adventures of the Mostellers, lovingly dubbed “SLAM.” It literally saved our summer; here’s how it worked for us.
For starters, the kids were thrilled to have a summer named after them. That alone was an improvement! We started doing our homework before school was out so we’d be ready to hit the ground running. Since both kids helped plan SLAM, we knew we had activities and projects they were sure to enjoy. First, we chose categories for SLAM activities, such as crafts, cooking, science, field trips, and brain bucks. The brain buck category was my sneaky way of making sure the kids stayed sharp on their academic skills. I designed some simple brain bucks on the computer and handed them out for independent reading, practicing multiplication facts, writing, etc. Brain bucks were worth twenty-five cents and could be spent at the kids’ favorite bookstore.
After we selected our categories, we searched the library and Internet for project ideas. We discovered this was almost as much fun as actually doing the projects—like window shopping for the brain! The hard part was narrowing down our huge list of things we wanted to do so we could squeeze it into one summer. We chose our favorite projects, from painting with marbles and making our own slime, to baking polvorones (yummy little Mexican treats) and taking nature hikes. We had a lot of variety in our list, and each kid got to make several choices.
We also scouted out local points of interest for fun and inexpensive field trips and ended up going places we’d never been before. We visited a nature conservatory, a butterfly show, museums, a hands-on children’s garden, and we found the perfect Tarzan tree on an impromptu nature hike. Who had time for television? There was a city to explore!
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