* Scroll to the bottom to watch a TV interview offering a summary of this post.
After a lot of trial and error, we finally got summer right.
We always spend most of July doing family trips and family reunions but it used to be that June and August were either boring or stressful.
One year we tried just lounging at the pool and doing whatever came up. After a week or so, we were all pretty bored and frustrated and started scrambling for more playdates and day camps to join. The next year, I ran the kids around to a bunch of classes to keep them busy but I found all the classes to be mediocre at best and felt we were wasting our time and our money while stressing ourselves out with trying to get to certain places at certain times so much. Then the following year, I actually conducted classes for the kids and all their friends. Doing our own tuition-based summer school with classes of 10-12 kids was SO fun but SO much work!
So the next summer, I decided NOT to take the kids to classes all over town and NOT to invite the whole neighborhood over for classes. Instead, the kids and I came up with our own plan for the “Loosli Learning Adventures Camp” that lasted throughout June and the parts of July and August when we weren’t traveling.
Together, we brainstormed a list of things that would be good to do each day to keep our bodies and brains active and our house clean. Then we brainstormed a “bucket list” of fun activities we’d like to do together. We ended up with a good list of six “MUST-DO ACTIVITIES” that the kids agreed to complete individually each day (usually in the morning) and a list of ideas for exciting group activities (or “DAILY ADVENTURES”) that we’d chip away at (usually in the afternoon).
Our Loosli Learning Adventures Camp worked so well that we continued the same plan (with tweaks here and there) every summer until the kids got summer jobs when they were 16. And since I first wrote this post about our family summer camp back in 2009, thousands of families around the world have created their own family summer camps based on the simple but powerful ideas in this post.
Following are some details on how we did our Loosli Learning Adventures Camp every summer:
DAILY “MUST-DO” DAILY ACTIVITIES:
Each morning, we got up whenever we woke up (usually by around 7:30 or 8), had a leisurely breakfast that finished by around 8:30, and then did our individual activities for a couple hours until lunchtime (they did their stuff on their list and I got a couple hours of computer work done – with a few interruptions here and there – but they became quite self-directed after the first few days).
Here’s what we decided together would be on the kids’ required individual “must-do” daily activities list:
- READING: Read for 20 minutes (some read for longer – that’s fine!)
- WRITING: Write a page in your journal (write about whatever you want, write a story, write about what happened yesterday, or pick a writing idea from a list of writing prompts we’ve got; younger children can work on learning to write letters)
- PHYSICAL EXERCISE: Do a physical activity (can be individual or do it as a group – ride bikes or scooters, play tag, go for a walk, play at the playground, jump rope, shoot hoops)
- PRACTICING: Work towards one of your summer goals by practicing a skill for 20 minutes (piano, basketball, guitar, typing – each child has their short list of skills they want to develop)
- HOME: Do a job from the job list (we have a list of 5-10 minute household jobs that need to be completed each week – i.e. dust the living room, weed one flower bed, vacuum the stairs, wipe down the kids’ bathroom sink)
- EXTRA: From the approved list of ideas we brainstormed together, pick an extra activity to do on your own or with siblings. Examples: work on Spanish (we’re loving the simple on-line free program Coffee Break Spanish – 15 minute lessons), do online reading or math games, play a board game with siblings, do extra reading or writing, paint or draw, etc.
The kids and I created simple charts that could be printed out for each week where they had checklist of what they needed to do each day and then on Saturday, they got paid $.25 for each thing they’d accomplished that week (so they could make $1.50/day for doing their 6 things or $7.50/week for doing the 6 things each day for the 5 week days). As they got older, we increased the amounts since they needed a little more money to be motivated!
During June, we’d usually have the kids save money for a big family activity at the end of June that they chose (an amusement park, a family trip, etc – we’d have them pay a certain amount of the cost from the money they earned from their “must-do’s”).
** QUICK NOTE: If this is sounding exciting to you, keep reading – then be sure to check out our Summer Camp Kit for step-by-step instructions on all this as well as printable charts, writing-prompts, goal-setting sheets, job lists, recommended learning website links, and tons more photos and ideas.
One of our readers sent in a great idea for having specified days for different things. We used her idea to group our long “bucket list” of brainstormed activities into categories for fun family activities each day after the kids finished their “must-do’s”:
- Make-it Monday (building projects with K’nex and legos or the wood we have in the backyard for the kids to use in building forts, craft projects, art projects, a visit to the library to learn about artists and inventors and engineering – art and building and invention are big things in our family)
- Take a trip Tuesday (the park, a museum, a bike ride, a field trip to a historic place, a factory tour, a picnic, a friend’s house…We often invited other kids or other families along)
- Wet Wednesday (swim/go to a spash pad/play in the sprinklers, often with friends and neighbors)
- Thinking Thursday (research something from our “wondering list” – a list of things we’re wondering about. Last summer we had a great time finding out how to make yogurt, how cars are made, where baby carrots come from and how monster trucks work thanks to YouTube, Wikipedia and library trips)
- Friend Friday (everyone can have a friend over – nice to do it all at once and protect our family time during most of the rest of the week. Plus we always have Family Movie Night on Fridays)
One “Take a Trip Tuesday” with friends – went to the “Spiral Jetty” in the Great Salt Lake
I love being my kids’ teacher. I mean all moms are their kids’ teachers in many ways – but it’s great to do it in a little more formal way sometimes. I so admire moms who home school. While I don’t know if it would be the right thing for us long-term, I feel like summer’s the perfect time set up a special sort of summer “home school” where I can teach my kids about things I really value and love while we really enjoy each other’s company.
** To see how the Loosli Learning Camp went one year, check out Saren’s blog HERE.
If you’d like step-by-step instructions, printable charts, activity lists, photos, and more to help guide you through creating and implementing your family’s own Learning Adventures Camp, click below.