The Joys of Summer Structure

I find that summer break with 4 children is much different than summer break with only 1 child.  I've known this for a few summers now, but I'm finally starting to understand how to work within the new construct.  Before our family's population explosion I did my chores and errands when SugarBear was in camp, but that isn't the case any longer.

When we had only SugarBear he was in a different camp almost every week to keep him from getting bored during the summer and to keep him from turning into a couch potato.  With the addition of LoveBug, HoneyBunny and JellyBean to our group the financial weight for a camp each week times 4 was a bit more than I was willing to bear since it is equal to the amount paid for some cars!  Thus, they are home for the summer and seem very happy with the idea.  They have camp options, but we have only had 1 taker so far.

A short history ...

The first summer we were still getting to know one another and that probably says enough.  It was full of learning limits, enforcing time-outs and finding rare moments when everyone was getting along to celebrate and enforce desired behaviors.  Our second summer was much, much better.

It was this second summer together that we realized we needed a bigger back yard with cooler temperatures.  We found ourselves at the park or neighborhood pool most days until the blistering days of summer settled in and the kids came in to enjoy the air conditioning.  With them all in the house again - the fights started again.  The only good news here was that for the first time I witnessed true bonding among our family and the striking of alliances.  It was also this summer when we received the green light regarding our adoption and realized that we had been holding back to protect our hearts a bit.

Our third summer was spent at our new home in the mountains.  Living in the mountains is much like anything else you do for the first time ... you just have to roll with it and see what happens.  With acres to spread out and temperatures rarely above 85 degrees the kids were outside most of the time.  Little by little we picked on the local things to do like going to the Farmer's Market and attending the Lake Concerts.  The summer passed with an acceptable number of sibling squabbles.  It wasn't until it was time to go back to school that I realized the error in our ways ... the boys had gotten a bit "accustomed" to sleeping late, eating whenever and playing most of the time with no responsibilities outside of their normal chores.  It sounds like a dream summer and it was in some respects, but a nightmare of a school return.

This is our fourth summer together and I'm hoping for a bit more balance and we have definitely increased the structure this time around the block.  We are still outside playing most days.  The boys are still staying up late, but only on the day that they decide to have quite time in the afternoon.  Otherwise the bedtime still stands.  Meal times are always flexible around our house since I usually have a plan, but there is window for dinner rather than a set time to be at the table.

As for our "agenda" here it is:
Daily:  Worksheets and reading (daily is a goal, 3 times a week is the reality).
Monday:  Cleaning - dust, vacuum, mop, toilets weekly (and then all the extra once a month stuff) and bathe 1 of the dogs.
Tuesday:  Farmer's Market and Laundry (they bring it down and I wash it, then they put it away).  We usually do some type of craft too in between loads of laundry
Wednesday:  Hike in one of our local parks, Evening Concert
Thursday:  Grocery Store and/or Costco
Friday:  Special Stuff (aquarium, zoo, slide, lake, etc)
Saturday:  Chores with Dad and evening church
Sunday:  Designated "Lazy Day" when if everything has been done all week they get the day off.

It seems to be working so far and they are not turning into couch potatoes too quickly.  There is also the added benefit that they are seeing what it is that Mom does while they are in school (of course they think I watch TV the whole time - those of you that know me will be laughing at this point)  I has been good together time so far.  In fact I have HoneyBunny behind me now writing in his journal instead of watching TV with his brothers.  He needed a little Mommy Time.

What does your summer look like this year?  How do you keep the kids busy and still let them have the vacation they have earned.