Monday, June 6, 2016

Why my kids are having an unstructured summer.

"What are your kids doing this summer?" the moms in my neighborhood ask each other.

In response, I hear choruses of sports camps, dance camps, music lessons, swim team, art classes, cooking classes, reading challenges and summer school, yet I'm over here like ...

"Uh, Audrey's still in piano lessons, and ... that's all!"

from WiffleGif

*awkward stares and chirping crickets*

I can't usually bring myself to tell people what my kids will REALLY be doing all summer, because Mom Guilt is real and it often prevents me from divulging any of my embarrassing secrets.

But Mom Guilt is dumb, so today, I'm here to bare my soul and help those of you in my same boat to feel a little better about yourselves.

This summer, my kids are simply doing whatever the heck they want to within the confines of this home.

For starters, it's a bazillion degrees outside, and we've got a toddler-aged non-swimmer in the family. So yeah, we might go to the pool a handful of times (at the expense of my sanity). But for the most part, we will be in this house where toys, books and other activities abound, and where my kids are mostly responsible for making their own entertainment until they go back to school on August 10.

When I was a kid, summer was about pure freedom. It meant television, video games, Disney movies, swimming, reading, coloring pictures, choreographing dances, board games, imaginative play and an endless supply of Otter Pops. Sure, we sometimes had to tag along to our little sisters' swimming lesson, or Mom would get a burst of ambition and decide to take everyone to the library, or a neighbor would invite us over for a playdate. But for the most part, we were home, and we loved every second of the non-obligatory fun we were having.

Nowadays, if you tell people you're going to hang out at your house and plan absolutely nothing -- no camps, no classes, no elaborate trips -- for the entirety of the summer, you're seen as some kind of lazy parent who has zero concern for your children's futures.

Well, I think that's silly.

My kids get plenty of structure nine months out of the year when they are in school, and also every Sunday at church. They don't need me or some other adult telling them exactly how to spend their time when they're on summer break. Emphasis on BREAK.

Plus, there are a multitude of skills to learn from unstructured play: problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, critical thinking, independence, communication and compromise, to name a few. There's even scientific research that says childhood play helps develop the brain's prefrontal cortex.

Yes, my kids will still have to get dressed, brush their teeth, make their beds and help out with any chores they're assigned (by me). But that leaves hours of blessed free time for them to just be kids. Heaven knows they don't get enough of that time during the school year.

At this point, several of you are surely thinking, "My kids are enrolled in 14 classes/camps/lessons/groups this summer, so Jenna hates me and she's judging me to be a bad mom and ..." well, that's your Mom Guilt talking, and you need to tell it to shut up because that's not what I'm saying at all.

I'm only saying that MY kids won't be in any fancy camps or classes this summer, and this is why: they don't need it. They're going to be absolutely fine if all they learn over the next two months is:

-How Harry Potter and his friends managed to get past Fluffy in The Sorcerer's Stone
-How to construct a structurally-sound tower using every MegaBlock we own
-All of the words to the Animaniacs! theme song
-The best hiding spots for Hide and Seek
-The basics of human buoyancy
-How to perfectly roast a marshmallow
-How to whomp someone at MarioKart

I'm not the least bit worried about them.

The Foote family is bringing old school summer vacation back. Bring on the Otter Pops.


  1. Amen! I just had this conversation with my mom yesterday!

    1. You could go insane scheduling stuff for your kids to do all summer! No thanks. I'm all about the laissez-faire summer!

  2. That sounds a lot like my summers as a kid! I was only envious of the kids that went on family vacations during the summer because we were usually too poor to do anything like that. I feel like once I have older kids, I'd enjoy myself if they had some kind of day camp to go to for a few weeks, haha. But I'm not there yet, so I really can't say!

    1. I think one camp is fine, but it starts to add up really fast when you've got a few kids! And they rarely all coincide, so you're just driving around all day picking kids up/dropping kids off for the whole summer. Plus, a lot of the moms I know have their kids in camps back-to-back-to-back all summer. It has to be exhausting! We sometimes go up to my husband's family cabin in California, or we'll go to Santa Barbara to see his grandma. No way I'd ever do Disney or any other theme park over summer -- WAAAAY too busy!

      Ok, basically I'm an introvert and it's really showing now! Ha.

  3. I have been a Stay at Home Mom for three summers. The first summer I took the kids on a million trips because I felt like I was making up for lost time when I worked the first eight summers of being a parent. Last summer we had a schedule. Monday was park day Tuesday Pool Day etc. This summer I decided we would just take it as it comes. We may do a sports clinic as my oldest child is starting to get more competitive in his specific sport. We are two weeks in and we did take a random trip to my mom's place a few hours north but nothing else scheduled. :)


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