It's the first official week of summer vacation at my house, and I'm trying to find my groove. I've got deadlines, the kids have boundless energy, and we all WANT to have fun. I have discovered in summers past that a little bit of organization and creativity on my part can go a long way toward keeping a semblance of order around here. I believe my kids should have chores over the summer, since they are the primary culprits in messing the place up. And I believe they need to spend some time exercising their academic skills - my 4th grader in particular seems to be a "use it or lose it" type of kid.
So without further ado, I present Cafe Summer, also known as my summer 2010 sanity system!
This is the big bulletin board in our mud room, revamped for summer. As a "retired" preschool teacher, I truly enjoy putting this sort of thing together - the planning, the creative touches, the organization. It makes me happy. The checked awning is cut from a cheap-o plastic table cloth, probably from Oriental Trading. I found a bunch of them in my garage. No idea what I originally bought them for, but hey, they come in handy sometimes.
We have done bingo (thank you, Stacy Julian!) and carnival ticket incentive programs in the past, but this summer we're going with a restaurant theme. The main reasons are because I'm digging the "order" pun, and because I have a whole bunch of these restaurant order pads from Staples. There are 50 sheets per pad, so two pads will be exactly enough for 10 weeks of summer for both of my kids. I simply tore the pages off the pad, set up a file in Word, and ran them right through my printer.
The kids have a "main dish" job on their menu that changes with each day of the week, and two smaller "side dish" jobs that stay the same every day. They also have "drinks of knowledge", which include at least 20 minutes of reading time each day, and one "refill" of their choice: math flash cards, a word search or activity sheet, or writing in their journal or reading log.
I noticed that the back of our order sheets say "Thank You", with a bunch of lines for writing - perfect for tipping Mom with a "graditudity" each day. The kids will check off their tasks as they complete them, and then write one thing they are grateful for on the back. They put their name & the date on the bottom portion and turn in the order sheet to me. I tear off the stub and give it to them, and they can exchange that for an hour of "screen time" - TV, Wii, or computer games. Planned movie time or family TV time (like when we all gather to watch a new iCarly episode) doesn't count against their screen time, and neither does Nintendo DS that they bring along to keep busy when we're out and about.
We're keeping it super simple this year - no crazy long list of reward options. The screen time is what they want the most, so that's the only reward. Plus, they have to have their order sheet turned in before we go do fun stuff.
I also included a calendar for our weekly activities, so they can see what they have to look forward to, and what errands we need to get done. They made lists last week of things they hope to do over the summer, and their ideas will be incorporated whenever possible. The yellow activities are the everyday fun stuff like the pool, beach, or organized crafts. The orange are "have to" activities - errands, lessons, appointments. And the blue are special adventures, like birthday parties, day trips, and family get-togethers.
The calendar is from a pad I ordered AGES ago from Pottery Barn, and they don't sell them anymore. As I started getting low on sheets, I panicked that I was going to run out and quit writing on them. Now we just reuse the same sheet and pin stuff to it.
So there you have it - my version of keeping order while having fun this summer!
And speaking of fun, I have to include this video clip, because the whole time I was working on my "Order, please" diner theme, I couldn't stop thinking, "Betty, please!". This is possibly my favorite Laverne and Shirley episode EVER.