The Unscheduled Summer: Putting the Break Back in Summer

Unscheduled summer

Well hello there {dusts cobwebs off keyboard}! It’s been awhile!

I had absolutely no intention of taking a break from blogging, but as I turned the calendar to August and the last days of summer vacation stared me in the face, I found the last place I wanted to be was in front of a glowing computer screen. It was both difficult and easy at the same time.

You see, I love a good routine. I love feeling productive. I love making lists (that are realistically too long to accomplish) and grand plans (that even with the best of intentions) are doomed to be derailed. And so there I was, fresh off the plane after being gone for a month, making detailed editorial calendars for this blog, dreaming up grand posts that would require hours of writing and editing, and trying to catch up on a month’s worth of emails. It sounded so doable in my head and on paper! But then I would think about sitting down at the computer and my chest would feel tight and all of the inspiration would drain out of me. It was just one more thing to do, in a summer that – while it was fun and amazing traveling the world – was begging me to stop and slow down.

In eight years of blogging, both here and on my personal blog, I’ve never just taken an unannounced break and walked away. I stressed about it a lot in the beginning and wondered if it was an okay thing to do. And then, once I’d spent a few days away, it was easy. I didn’t fill the time with anything else remotely productive. I just took each day as it came and enjoyed whatever came out of it.

Summer Reading Kids

The same could be said of my kids. They, too, took a break this summer. Normally my love of lists and grand plans spills over into our summer as well. We can’t be too idle! And so I sign them up for a few camps. I make plans for a few road trips and visits to local museums. We sign up for two or three reading programs. I set up detailed rules for screen use.

After spending the first half of the summer away, I decided the rest of the summer would be unscheduled. No camps, no reading lists, no bridge activities, no trips, and no screen time rules. I’ll be the first to admit it wasn’t always pretty. We spent many a morning still in our pajamas with unbrushed teeth and hair at 11 a.m. The pile of books the school sent home with Eli still sits by the fireplace, unread. The house was messy, we were lazy, and we spent more than enough time watching dumb TV or playing mindless games on the iPad.

But …

The kids also played a lot. Lazy mornings more often than not turned into creative, fun-filled afternoons with friends. Not having plans or anywhere to be meant we were free to go to the pool when we wanted, play when we wanted, be bored when we wanted, and to be creative when we wanted.

In short, an unscheduled summer gave us the freedom to dream, relax and recharge. Isn’t that what a break is all about?

lazy summers

Now, I’m not saying each and every summer from here on out should operate like this one. We spent 4 weeks of one summer completely unscheduled. Any more time than that would’ve gone from wonderful to disastrous. The sibling squabbling had picked up and the bad kind of boredom was setting in. By the time school started last week we were itching for a regular routine.

But what if we took a few days or a week out of our school breaks or vacations and allow them to be exactly that: breaks. I think so often we look at blank days or weekends with a sense of guilt or shame. We should be doing something. We confuse doing nothing with wasted time. True – doing nothing does start out as an empty slot of time. But when we give the empty space time to fill on its own, we allow ourselves to be filled with things that bring us joy, inspiration, and fun. We walk away full, not depleted.

Beyond this gift, I also see the valuable lesson that unscheduled time gives ourselves and our kids. We are living in a time when we could fill every second of every day with some kind of activity or connection. We are slowly but surely losing the ability to cope with down time. We don’t know what to do when we’re not doing something! I want my kids to grow up knowing the value of free time. More importantly, I want them to make it a routine part of their lives. In order to teach that lesson, like so many important life lessons, I realize I have to model it in my own life.

And so I took a break myself. I’m relaxed and recharged and ready to dive back into The Risky Kids again.

Do you build downtime into your days, weekends or vacations? If so, what benefits have you seen? And if not, what holds you back from doing so?

 

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A Summer Bus Route Just For Kids

kids using public transportation

If only she had access to public transportation she could use on her own in our hometown.

Just on the heels of my post about unaccompanied minors, and how we might make the towns and cities we live here in the US more accessible for kids to get around without always relying on adults, I came across this:

Nashua Announces Summer Recreation Bus Route

The city of Nashua, New Hampshire is operating a pilot transportation program this summer aimed at providing free public transportation to various recreational spots around the city. Kids ages 6-18 whose parents register them for a free bus pass can ride the bus to places like the park, ball fields, the pool, the library, and the Boys and Girls Club. They can go to the skate park, meet friends at the pool, visit the library to play Dungeons and Dragons or take a soldering class. Dang, I want to be a kid in Nashua, NH!

While it specifies that children under 10 can’t ride the bus alone, they are allowed to ride with someone over 10. I’m so envious! If we had a service like this in my town, I could send Elena and Eli to the library on their own. It’s these kinds of interactions – learning how to use public transportation, learning bus/train etiquette and manners, going on errands solo and interacting with librarians, shop owners, and other adults – that build a solid foundation for knowing how to be an independent, fully-functional adult. How forward thinking of Nashua to realize that by providing a service like the recreational bus route, they are giving kids a safe, age-appropriate stepping stone to be able to handle adult responsibilities later in life. It solves a myriad of problems, such as boredom, and dependence on cars and adults to go where they want, while also empowering kids and boosting their confidence.

Nashua’s town slogan just happens to be “Dare to Begin.” How appropriate, as providing this bus service aimed at youth they seem to be saying, “Let’s dare to begin treating our kids as capable individuals, instead of keeping them in a bubble and fearing the worst.”

Would you welcome a service like this in your hometown?

(A link to the Nashua Summer Recreation Bus Route first appeared on the Free Range Kids blog. You can read Lenore’s take on the service here.)

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Playgrounds: Reinventing the Square (Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid)

From the early days of The Risky Kids, I’ve been following along the Playscapes blog. I always enjoy seeing the playgrounds they feature from around the world. I usually file the information under “Things I’d Love To (But Probably Never Will) See.” In May, Paige posted about an upcoming exhibit to be hosted by the […]

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Risky Reads: The World Traveler Edition

We’ve been home for two weeks now, and we’re still walking around in a fog. We have alternating feelings of happiness at being back home, utter disbelief that we spent an entire month traipsing about Spain, a yearning to go back, and sadness at the rapidly approaching first day of school. I’ve given up at […]

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Perfect Pop App: Summertime Snacking Made Easy

Pop secret app

    This post is sponsored by Pop Secret Popcorn. All opinions are my own.     It may be summertime, and the livin’ may very well be easy, but that doesn’t mean that the kids don’t have to lift a finger. No, much to their chagrin, I’ve been requiring a little more responsibility from […]

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3 Cultural Differences In Europe That Would Freak Out American Parents

After a long day of sightseeing in Madrid, we made our way to our apartment on the Metro. Madrid’s public transportation system is excellent and easy to use. So easy, in fact, that kids can do it on their own. Nearly every time we used the Metro, we saw kids traveling either alone or in […]

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We’re Back!

Hello friends! We are back from Spain! We had a wonderful and amazing adventure, and I have so many things I want to share with you. While I took the requisite photos of cathedrals and castles, I also took lots of photos of playgrounds and kids at play. It was fascinating to see how play […]

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DIY Geocache Kit

Make a geocache kit

Have you ever tried geocaching? If not, you definitely should! Think of it like a modern day treasure hunt. People hide “caches” in different locations. In order to find these caches, you get the coordinates of the cache’s location and use a GPS to locate it. Once you find it, there’s usually a logbook to […]

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Family Game Night: On the Road!

Best Travel Games for Families

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Games are a big part of our family life, so naturally as we’re preparing for our riskiest adventure yet, I knew we’d want to bring along some games. Of course, the name of the traveling game is packing light, so we couldn’t very well bring along the Catan board or […]

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Risky Reads: The Bonfire Edition

Mike built us a new fire pit last month, so of course we had to break it in right away and make sure it worked. We had a bench the previous owners left behind that was falling apart, so into the fire pit it went! Another neighbor brought over a dilapidated chair. Needless to say, […]

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