My kids are 12 and 14 years old now, so they are pretty self-sufficient. However, in the beginning it wasn’t easy. It was approximately 4 years ago when I first starting working from home full time. My kids were around 9 and 10 years old. They could do a lot of things on their own, but definitely still needed me. The job that I have requires me to be on the phone and computer all day. I had a somewhat flexible schedule, but my core hours are 8:00-4:00. I didn’t want to waste the money on camp or a sitter since I was home and it just didn’t make any sense. Plus, have you seen the cost of summer camp??? Also why is it that most summer camps are 9:00-3:00? Seriously, how the hell am I supposed to drop them off at 9:00 get to work, work a full day and be back there by 3:00? That is a whole other rant. The first year we decided to hire a high school girl to come in the house part time to keep the kids occupied.
She didn’t have a car so I would pick her up at noon and she would stay until I got out of work around 4:00, which was the plan anyway. Prior to even hiring her, we had her and her mother over to meet the kids. We sat down and had a long discussion regarding our expectations, her duties and the pay. I just needed her to keep the kids busy, make sure they didn’t kill each other and ensure they weren’t sitting around all summer doing nothing. She lasted for a week, if that. She was calling me and saying she was running late, she wanted to be paid early and was very unreliable. She also didn’t keep the kids occupied at all.. She would sit on her phone and not interact with them. She didn’t make suggestions on what the kids could do, so my kids were sitting around watching YouTube and Netflix. When they did go outside to ride their 4-wheeler s (we have 12 acres of land), she wouldn’t give my kids turns on it. She would hog it all to herself. We had two; one for each kid. She would take one and just ride around on it. Now I am not saying she shouldn’t have ridden it at all, but I am paying you! My kids should be getting turns! My husband and I decided that she was not doing any of the things we were paying her to do, so we fired her. She begged for her job back for weeks. NOPE!
The next year I didn’t have a plan for the kids. I figured they were 10 and 11 years old, they could do whatever they wanted. I made sure they had breakfast and lunch while I was working . After that, the rest of the day was up to them. They were wasting away the summer! All they did was sit around and play on electronics. So, I developed a summer program for them. Every day they had to do one of the following:
- A chore
- Go outside for an hour
- Build/make something
- Do something nice for someone else
It was difficult to get them motivated, to say the least. My son would take out his Legos and build a little house, that took five minutes and he would move on. Going outside was a nightmare! They would constantly poke their heads in and say, “Can we come in now?” or “Has it been an hour yet?”. For writing, they would write letters to relatives and they would be like 3 sentences.
It was a very frustrating summer. I was constantly yelling at them to do something. I would get upset when they did things half assed. This motivated me and the following year I perfected the summer plan. This is when I decided to start developing a summer points program.
Each of my kids had to earn 200 points for the day in order to use their electronics or have screen time. I also noticed that their personal hygiene goes out the window in the summer. I told them every day they have to wash their face, brush their teeth, brush their hair and get dressed along with the other activities. They had to pick one chore and the rest could be from a list of other activities. Each activity had a preset point associated with it. For example playing outside was worth 75 points, calling a relative to say hello was 15 points, doing math on a (preapproved math app) was 30 points. I even incorporated healthy eating habits, eating a piece of fruit was worth 5 points. A science experiment was 50 points and making something was 50 points.
The kids were not thrilled about the points system, but at least it was getting them to do things. My mistake was I didn’t break it up into categories. There was too much free range. They were doing all of the easy things and were choosing not to go outside. Seriously? It is summer!
Another thing I noticed was that kids are lazy. They didn’t want to look around to find projects to do or recipes to make. They didn’t want to think about what they were going to play outside. So, I perfected the program by making pre-determined lists of chores, crafts, recipes, science experiments. I bought them workbooks for math, downloaded apps on their IPad for spelling and math. So, all they had to do was look at the list every day and know what to do. It worked great!
The system has finally been perfected and I have broken the system down into 5 main categories that the kids have to pick activities from. They are:
- Learning-anything educational: reading, workbooks, educational apps, science experiments, etc.
- Go outside-play sports, go for a walk, ride a bike, go on the 4-wheeler (each activity has a time limit associated with it)
- Something nice for someone else: call a relative and have a real conversation, write a letter, bake cookies for police station, etc.
- Create or build something- bake, cook, make a Lego sculpture, do a craft, create an activity for the next day.
This system works great. I determine how many points my kids need to earn every day and then they can go about their day. I have a binder full of recipes, experiments and crafts that they can chose from. They each have educational apps on their IPad’s and all our relative’s contact information. I can work in peace and I know that my kids are rotting away on their electronics all summer.
Since this worked so well for me I wanted to share this program with other parents who are concerned about what their tweens are doing all summer. If you are interested obtaining this program you can check it out here.