Ah! Summertime! As a homeschool mom, this is the time of year when I can "just" be a mom...and not the mean teacher. Instead of cramming my kids' days with schoolwork, I can fill my kids' weeks with fun things to do. Oh, we still have chores to get done, projects to complete around the house, and I have schooling to plan for next year. But, among my top priorities is spending these months having fun with my children.
This year, my three oldest are usually absent during our daytime excursions as they are working. This fact, along with the fact that the two oldest have now graduated and my third child will begin the dual-enrollment program at the local college this year causes me to face the reality that these years are passing quickly. I could fill my summers with gardening, housework, household projects, canning, etc., or I can fill my summers making good memories with my children before my nest is empty.
Today, I am giving you some ideas to make the most of these days. It doesn't have to cost you a fortune to make memories...just some time, gas, planning, and a whole of of smiles.
First, plan in advance, especially if your activity will take you away from home for much of the day. After being out in the sun and/or playing all day long, the last thing you want to do is come home to spend another hour or two fixing dinner. Plan an easy meal such as wraps, subs, a quick pasta dish for that evening. Don't forget that CrockPots are great for summertime meals as well. I also make sure our home is tidied before we go anywhere. Often, being gone for a few hours makes every one just a tad cranky; walking into a messy house that needs to be cleaned or having unfinished chores that need completing will make for a potentially miserable home-coming. Let the kids know the night before what your plans are, what time you intend to leave, and that their chores are expected to be finished by that time. My kids are all old enough to help pack lunches, if need be, and get whatever items together that we need for the day.
Local friends: Hamlin Beach is large and each family has quite a bit of space to spread out. However, this year we have taken the drive and have had a new adventure at Kershaw Park in Canandaigua. There is more grass area than beach to spread out your blanket and your neighbors are a bit closer, but the water is extremely clear, warmer than Lake Ontario and the boats and hills around you make for a fantastic view all day long.
BOWLING: This is the first year we have participated in the Kids Bowl Free summertime offer. Follow the link, find a participating bowling center in your area and sign up your children - at no cost! Each week, you will receive your coupons with which to redeem your free games. At my local bowling alley (I go to Oak Orchard Bowl in Albion, NY), my kids can bowl two free games three times a week, if we wanted! For a one-time fee, I also can enjoy discounted bowling. All we need to pay for is shoe rental which is only $2.00/pair. So, something that would normally cost me $40-plus, only costs me $10. Not a bad deal and a great thing to do on those hot or rainy days. If you get other friends involved, you can all go together. I have one friend whom I cannot wait to bowl against!
NATURE TRAILS AND PARKS: This year, I am trying to find new parks for us to explore. Most of my children are growing out of the playground stage, so I need to be a bit more creative.
Somehow, I have lived in this area my whole life, yet I have just heard of two parks just this year. One we have already gone to and loved and the other is on our summer bucket list!
Last week, the kids and I went for the first time to a place called Corbetts Glen. This is a short nature trail with a stream winding alongside and small waterfalls. As the water is not deep nor the current fast, the kids are allowed to wade and splash a bit. What a hidden treasure we found this place to be. We will surely be returning with a picnic lunch before the summer ends.
My husband and I enjoyed a beautiful day in Watkins Glen State Park last fall for our anniversary. While it is a couple of hours away, it is my hope to spend a day there with my children this summer, or even a Saturday this Fall while Daddy is spending long hours harvesting. It would be great to take the kids to the Glen Curtiss Museum on our way, as well.
Chimney Bluffs State Park is a very cool place that I also just learned about this year. This, too, will be an all-day trip as it is almost 90-minutes from my house, but I know the kids will love this geological wonder.
Pineway Ponds Park: While most of my kids are "too old" for spray parks, my three youngest still enjoy going to the one nearby on hot days when we just don't have the time for a full beach day.
Wherever you live, talk to friends, run a Google search to find some new place to explore in your area that you have never heard of before.
LIBRARY DAY: Most libraries in our area have summer reading contests. I have a love-hate relationship with these things. It is difficult to keep track of how long each of my children reads and some of them would read inside all day long, if I let them. We don't get a lot of warm sunny days up here in the North, so I often have to kick some of my kids outdoors. However, when we have a quiet day at home, if it is raining or extremely hot, or when it is time to wind down, having a good book to read from the library is essential.
Most weeks, we get to the library one day for a couple of hours. The kids turn in their hours/book titles from the last week and pick up a new contest form for the coming week. They select new books, read, and get some computer time. (Yes, I am one of those bad moms who allows their children to play games on the computer at the library. Due to the lovely weather of the season, this computer time is usually all they get as they are expected to be playing outdoors at home.)
We tend to go to three different libraries regularly so we don't get bored with the same one time after time.
COUNTY FAIR: Nothing screams "Americana" like the good old county fair. We have several in our area each summer, but we usually are able to make it to just one. The one we choose, the Orleans County Fair, just happens to be this week. We will probably head over there sometime this week, pay the $5.00 for the carload and walk around to see the farm animals (because, apparently, we don't do that enough at home!), eat some junk food, and drive home. If we decide to go Friday evening, we'll watch the fireworks and the greased pole competition. You laugh, but it's intense and a whole lot of fun! In years past, we have paid for them to have all-day passes for rides, but I think we'll skip that this year in exchange for a day at the.....
AMUSEMENT PARK: I know I will probably get my citizenship and my mother card revoked after admitting this, but, we have never taken our children to an amusement park. *GASP* I know they are facing years of therapy because of this, but it's true.
Frankly, amusement parks cost way too much money for a family our size. Not to mention, spending the day in a crowded place, trying to keep track of all of the little ones, spending more money to feed them, and possibly cleaning up vomit after a ride just hasn't appealed to me. Until this year. No, I still don't want to clean up vomit, etc., but I do not think we are in danger of that any more.
After looking at the prices of all day admission to the closest (and most affordable) amusement park (Seabreeze), I found that it is only $7.00 more than the passes at the fair. Hence the reason we will not ride the 5 rides at the fair this year. To make it affordable for myself, my plan is to take my youngest three to the amusement park the one week in August when the three oldest girls are at camp and their older brother is sleeping during the day. I know I will get flack for this from my older children, but I will just remind them of the many things they have been able to do while the younger ones missed out. Because, you know, that's what moms do...make annoying points like that.
So, again, I am not a huge proponent of amusement parks for so many reasons, but it is a new adventure that is on this year's list.
ICE CREAM FOR SUPPER: I remember when I first did this. I believe I only had two children at the time and only my oldest was old enough to even eat ice cream. I can't remember if my good and godly friend and mentor, Dawn, gave me the idea or if, after feeling guilty and I admitted I had done it, she admitted she had done it several times! Either way, whenever I do this, I console myself and ease my guilt by reminding myself that Dawn has done it, too!
Anyway, giving my kids ice cream for dinner is truly a rare occurance and one that only happens if we have been gone all day and are on our way home from a fun activity. Whether they eat if for supper or not, ice cream is a great ending to a fun adventure. No, it is not economical or practical to do it every time; but once in a while, look for a fun ice cream place close to where your adventure for the day is and plan on taking the kids there. A place that is unique to the area and makes homemade ice cream is always a fantastic option.
A few of our favorites for our local friends:
Abbotts - Spencerport or the original in Charlotte
Cafe Mac - Spencerport (Hershey's ice cream. Huge sizes)
Pittsford Farms Dairy - walk on the canal, see the Sam Patch, feed the ducks
Cheshire Farms Dairy - Canandaigua (we just discovered this place last week - OH MY!)
Lugia's - (Perry's ice Cream) only because it's a Rochester tradition. We rarely go as the lines are so long
Esther's Old Thyme Market - Brockport (Turkey Hill ice cream)
While I have tried to keep this post filled with cost-efficient ideas, don't forget to set some money aside for an occasional visit to zoos, museums and mini-golf places. Annual passes are great for large families and a great thing to tell others when they are looking for Christmas gift ideas for you.
How are you spending your summer? I would love to know! And, please, give us some of your ideas for fun things to do with your children.
Right now, we're off to the bowling alley!
Right now, we're off to the bowling alley!