I am a home-school mom hoping to share the challenges, joys and disappointments in home-schooling,be an encouragement to others, seek advise and wisdom from those who have come before me and offer my insight to different curriculum by posting product reviews, etc
Over the years, my Summer Challenge has morphed and changed (based on the ages of my kids and also according to what I most want them to learn/do/accomplish that year), but the underlying theme is the same: to teach our kids to become self-motivated to be productive(which has a bonus of not "wasting" the summer away).
how it works
Basically each child is given a list of age-appropriate tasks to accomplish in order to receive a worthy award at the end. Each child has to meet his goal (from a point system) in order to receive the reward. As a parent, this reward must be enticing enough for the child, yet the parent must be willing to NOT give out the reward if the goal isn't met (ie: so NO family reunions should be used for the goal). It also works best if ALL children have to reach their goal in order to receive the reward. This promotes unity as the older children try to help the younger ones reach their goal.
The first year, my children's rewards were a specific toy, the next year the reward was a fun family vacation to Yogi Bear Campground (which they ended up NOT receiving), and the other years have been monetary rewards. Their goal is to be presented at the "unveiling" of the Super Summer Challenge. Print out a picture or make a collage of the reward to get your children excited and motivated.
I've found that it is easier to do 3 goals (one for each summer month) for the first year this Challenge is introduced — especially if the children are younger. So each child will have a set of goals to complete for the month of June, receive a reward for successful completion, then another set of goals for July and August. This method keeps everything fresh and easier to attain for short attention spans and younger children — not so overwhelming.
I try to come up with a few challenges in 4 different categories: spiritual, mental, physical and helpful. Remember to choose age-appropriate tasks and some specific challenges you want them to accomplish over the summer. Not every task should be difficult or considered "work." It's important to throw in some easy and fun things — so the Challenge becomes something the kids WANT to do. Activities like building with legos, working a puzzle, jumping rope for 50 jumps in a row, and drawing a picture are lighter activities that still require hand-eye coordination, critical thinking, promote creativity and also physical activity. See how sneaky!? I consider almost anything "productive" if it keeps my children entertained, out of my hair AND away from fighting with each other!
Each task is given a certain number of points. You'll have to base the points on what is easy/hard for your child and what you REALLY want them to accomplish. For example, if I really want Marielle to memorize some bible verses this summer, then I may make each verse worth 10 points instead of 1 point. And if I know that Josiah will play with legos with little effort, I may make it worth 1 point.
tracking the points
All points have to be approved by me. I can't have them cheating! One year, my children put a small sticker on the corresponding shape every time they completed a task. Last year, I used beads. Each child put a bead in his labeled container for every point he earned. (ie: one bible verse memorized = 10 pts. = 10 beads)
Here you will find some examples of how I've created the Challenge lists for each child. I am also including these files for you to download for your convenience. The pages for download have blank spaces for you to fill in your own personal information. Click here to download the Challenge images.
The Challenge itself can be as simple or complex as you desire. I tend to go overboard sometimes. Here are some "extras" that I've done to make the summer more exciting and fill in the gaps.
When my children were younger (ages 2-6), I started noticing some bad habits forming. I decided to zero in on one in particular: not accepting my answer or not obeying right away without fussing. I gave them each an empty small coin purse. I had a bag of beads set aside for each child (each with their own color). Every time they accepted my answer without fussing, they got a bead. Also, when I caught them being good, thoughtful or playing nice, I gave them a bead. If they argued or didn't obey with a happy heart, I took a bead away. At the end of every 7 days, we counted up the beads. Each bead was worth 10 cents. We did this for one summer and I picked it back up again over the Christmas break.
I made a "Bored Box" last summer and plan to use it again this summer as well. Basically, my kids know that they're not allowed to say they are bored (or something equivalent like complaining about what to do). If so, they have to reach into the Bored Box and pull out a chore. These chores go above and beyond what I would regularly ask them to do.
Just to add a little fun to the Super Summer Challenge, I created some coupons for each child (only to be redeemed once per summer). They're favorite coupon to redeem is "Have a slumber party with mom." So with each child (on separate nights), we fold out the basement couch, rent a movie, eat pizza, popcorn or whatever they want and we always buy some special candy or dessert. When the movie is over, we fall asleep on the couch after we've chatted for awhile. There's just something so precious about listening to my child open up about EVERYTHING there in the dark — just the two of us. I love it, and I know they will always cherish those memories. I only give them 4 coupons a summer: besides the pj party, there's "Eat Dessert Before Supper," "Go on a Date With Mom" and "Sleep all night in a fort."
I made up a list of tasks that I want my children to accomplish on a daily basis — aside from their Super Summer Challenge. After all, their "Challenge" is optional and self-motivated, but I want my kids to form good hygiene and some things are just not negotiable. So this list doesn't have very many items, mostly things like: brush teeth after breakfast, practice piano, put dishes away, brush hair, etc. I put this list on the fridge and if everything is completed in one week, they get to "Pick a Privilege." I have a whole bunch of privileges written on pieces of paper. These privileges are simple things like: pick out a pack of gum of your choice, choose dinner for one night, pick out a new toothbrush of your choice, eat lunch with daddy, stay up 30 minutes later, make an ice cream run....you get the idea. For a blank copy of my weekly task form, click here.
We always "unveil" the Super Summer Challenge on or around the last day of school. I present each child with their own task list and supplies in a box/bag/crate. In their box, they are given every item they need to complete their Challenge (plus a few other "goodies" too!) So, for example, Marielle may receive a new devotional book, a list of Bible verses to memorize, some recipe cards, books to read, a puzzle etc. And Josiah may receive a lego kit, books to read, school work books, craft item, a new jump rope, etc. I also usually stick in some candy and/or a toy. The most important item in their box is the Super Summer Challenge binder. I put their tasks, point system and goal in a binder along with the coupons and a calendar. I started filling out the calendar with pictures of activities that will take place: ie: dates of swim lessons, VBS, out of town trips, music lessons, etc. Then the kids can refer to their calendar instead of always asking me and wondering what is going on. Here is a blank calendar for you to download.
I try to always stock the kids' Activity Boxes with items I find secondhand through garage sales and thrift stores. Otherwise, it adds up! I've found some treasures that help me create the tasks for the kids! Some things I've found are: a sign language workbook, a book and cd that teaches beginning spanish, craft activities for each child, a cassette tape and workbook that teaches the Beatitudes, and of course many books, puzzles and games!
This may seem overwhelming, but like I said it's possible to just implement a couple of things and make it simpler. I'm merely providing a list of resources to get your creative juices flowing.
Hang in there! The first summer is always the hardest, because the kids aren't used to the Challenge. Every year thereafter is simply repetition with minor adjustments.
The most important thing is to provide guidance and boundaries so your children will have the freedom to enjoy the summer (and you won't be pulling out your hair)!