Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A Happy Summer (Even with COVID-19 Around)

At the start of COVID-19 and the resulting lock-down, I thought that surely things would be back to normal by the summer. Now that school is wrapping up, though, my home state has still only barely begun to enter early phases of opening, and many of our family's favorite summer events have been cancelled. This has been a hard pill to swallow, for sure, and it's been tempting to kind of just give up on the idea of still having a fun summer. I've come to realize, though, that just giving up and postponing any kind of "real life" until things settle down is just going to lead to discouragement and depression for my family. Rather than giving in to that, my good friend over at Raising Rices and I have decided to team up and try to see how we can plan for a fun, purposeful summer even with COVID-19 still going on. Over the next few weeks, we hope to share ideas, resources, and a bit of a layout to help us all in seeking the goal of still enjoying the special season of summer! For today, I want to share some ideas and inspiration for you to start planning out a purposeful summer.
1. Process

Before we get to the practical ideas, I think we all have some processing to do. This is a very unique summer, with both incredible potential and also very real loss/grief, and before we can really put any kind of purposeful plan in place, we need to acknowledge a few things.
  • This summer could hold some disappointment and grief. There are things that we were looking forward to that are no longer going to happen. Festivals, concerts, graduations, sporting events, vacations, summer camps... Just like at the beginning of quarantine when many things were cancelled and we all felt tremendous loss and grief, I believe that's probably going to happen again for this summer. I, for one, don't like feeling grief and sadness, but I'm recognizing that trying to ignore loss doesn't do me any good. I think the best thing to do is to recognize that there is loss here, things that we wanted to do and are sad to not have, and go ahead and grieve them. Let your kids grieve, too; I'm sure they had things they were hoping for from summers past and may need to talk through not having them this year. 
  • At the same time that we grieve what we don't get to have this summer, we want to make sure that we keep the following in mind: God is in control, His plans are better, and He has unique blessings and opportunities for this specific summer. Don't let the grief of what you don't get to have blind you to the gifts and opportunities that God has for you and your family!
I really believe that both of these steps are important in order to be able to have a purposeful summer this year. We have to get through the phases of grief and come to a place of acceptance in order to have the motivation, energy, and clarity needed to move ahead. Something to consider might be to write down the things you and your kids/family are grieving and then pray over them, sharing with God the sadness you feel and then giving them over to Him and submitting to His plans and purpose for your summer. I promise you, this is a prayer He will be happy to answer.

"Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge."
~Psalm 62:8

2. Brainstorm

Once you have processed things and asked God for His direction, it's time to do some brainstorming. Maybe even have a little family meeting and try to see what kind of plan you can come up with for your summer in quarantine. Here are some questions to think through and discuss to help with your planning:

1. What are your three favorite things about summer?
2. If we could do anything this summer to make it special, what would it be?
3. What special events and activities are we the most disappointed about being cancelled this year, and what can we do instead?
4. What are some outside activities we want to do?
5. How can we learn this summer?
    ~Books to read
    ~Subjects to Explore
    ~Skills to Learn
6. Which people should we reach out to and bless?
7. What are some special things we should do that we could only do this year in quarantine? How can we make this year unique and special?
8. What special events are happening this summer, and how can we celebrate them?
9. What do we want to accomplish each day?
10. What do we want to make sure we do each week?
    ~Weekly Learning Themes

Once you've answered these questions, you probably have a pretty good idea of the things that are most important for you and your family to focus on this summer!

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." ~Proverbs 16:9

3. Scheduling

Next up, it's time to plan! I know that calendars and planners have seemed kind of pointless in this season of quarantine, but don't throw them out just yet. You can still use them to plan out what you want to do this summer, even if that means still being at home more than usual! 

Daily Routine

This is where you look at how you and your family answered the question "what do we want to accomplish each day?" and put a plan in place. Some families like to have a full-on schedule, assigning different tasks to specific times of the day, and others prefer to just have a routine in which you do the same activities in the same order, but not always at the same time. Try to see which one works for your family and write out a plan! A few things you might want to include:
  • Wake Up/Get Ready
  • Bible Time/Devotional (individual and/or family)
  • Daily Chores
  • Meals and Snacks
  • Learning Activities (reading, skill-building, summer workbooks, etc)
  • Outside Time
  • Quiet Time/Rest Time
  • Free Play
  • Exercise/Active Time
  • Family Time
  • Mommy/Daddy Time
  • Bedtime Routine/bedtime
Weekly Schedule

Here is where you answer "what do we want to do each week?" Weekly chores, recurring projects, or different skills to practice are all things you can consider. I've seen some fun summer-themed weekly schedules that switch up activities for each day of the week, too, and that can be fun! Here is one we are considering for this year:
  • Make-it-Monday: make something together! That can mean a meal or treat, or trying a new craft kit or art project!
  • Take-a-Trip Tuesday: while we may not be able to actually leave the house as much, we can still learn about new places through books, virtual field trips, movies, and new foods.
  • Water Wednesday: play in the water! Even at home there are sprinklers, water balloons, water guns...and rainy days are perfect for splashing in puddles
  • Thinking Thursday: Take the chance to learn something new. Use learning games or printables, research a new subject, or do a book report on a book you read this week
  • Foodie Friday: Cook a meal together, bake a treat, or order take-out from a new restaurant you haven't gotten to try before. You can also use this day to teach cooking skills, manners, how to set/clear the table...
  • Service Saturday: Do something to bless another person or family (we will share some ideas for this in a later post!)
  • Sabbath Sunday: Rest together as a family and learn more about God through church (even if that means streaming a service from home)
Special Events

While there have definitely been quite a few cancelled events and trips for this summer, there are still things to celebrate and enjoy that can be done within the boundaries of this new reality. 

  • Holidays: There are the more well-known ones like Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day; but did you know there are also some national days that are lesser-known but can still be celebrated? For example, did you know that the first Friday in June is National Donut Day? Or that July 30th is National Cheesecake Day? You can use this website to see what kinds of national days there are, and pick some to celebrate! https://nationaldaycalendar.com/calendar-at-a-glance/
  • Birthdays: While big parties may be out for a while still, that doesn't mean birthdays can't be celebrated this summer. There are drive-by parades, zoom parties, socially-distant meet-ups...be creative and see how you can celebrate that special person!
  • Family Vacation: That awesome Disney vacation may be out this summer, but you can still find a way to do a family trip. Take a road trip to see new sights from your car; search for "drive-thru experiences" in your state; or do a backyard camp-out. 
"Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established." ~Proverbs 16:3

I hope that as you've read this post you've felt encouraged and inspired to have a purposeful summer this year, and also that you have some ideas for how to make that happen!
In the coming weeks, Raising Rices and I hope to share three specific goals we have for this summer mostly-at-home with our families, and will include free resources to help you track these goals for yourself should you choose to join us! We hope to cover:

1. 100 Hours Outside Each Month 
  • We want to share the benefits of being outdoors (for kids and parents), the specific ways kids learn outdoors, and practical ideas and tips for adding more outdoor time to your day
2. 20 Books in Summer 2020 
  • A fun way to track reading this summer, ideas for getting a variety of genres for your kids to read, and ways to motivate reluctant readers
3. 12 Summer Service Activities
  • We want to teach our kids the importance of serving others and sharing God's love with the world, so we want to come up with different ideas or how our kids/families can find ways to do that this summer.
We hope you all will join us in the coming weeks for this fun series, and that it will help you and your families have a purposeful, fun, memorable summer even in spite of this crazy season. We pray that this summer will be one filled with God's grace, blessings, and opportunities, and that it will be one that you and your family look back on with very fond memories (and maybe as one of the very best ones!)

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