Within 3 days of the summer break, I realised I had made some rookie mistakes. So this is my guide to how NOT to manage the school holidays. Learn from me!
Don’t overload the schedule.
I was so excited to have a few days with the kids, I filled the first days with outings. But as I still had to juggle work and kids, stuffed a few child-friendly meetings in the timetable too. And…our survey says…? No. The kids nearly went on strike, not really wanting to leave the house. In spite of writing an earlier blog on crazy academic pressures and end-of-term madness, I completely forgot how doing nothing much those first few days is essential. Maybe a trip to the local park, some cooking or playing in the garden but not car trips or meetings with friends where you have to be somewhere at a certain time. Nope.
Don’t carry on but keep calm.
Following on from above, there is merit in taking a day off and lounging about with NO plans whatsoever. Your term-time routine is over, you can’t just carry on regardless. For working parents, I believe booking a day off work early on during the first week of the holidays, just to hang around the home in your PJs, reconnects you with the kids. Being self-employed I find it hard to switch off, so didn’t allow for some time doing ‘nothing’ with the kids in the schedule. We could have avoided a lot of sibling squabbles and stress if we’d reset the tone with a PJ day!
Don’t trust in tablets.
During term-time, we have a set routine for when the kids can use tablets and watch TV. So when we weren’t overloading the schedule, the kids got sucked into their screens for longer than usual. Unscientifically, I notice mood changes with my kids when they watch screens for too long. You only need to see the reaction when you decide they’ve had enough and take the screens off them or switch off the television. They put on very loud and disproportionate protests. Setting a school holiday screen ban during certain times of the day would have been sensible from the start, rather than having to react on the spot to extreme whingeing.
Don’t start by winging it.
Like many family homes, our house could do with a good declutter and tidy! We take a break from academia over the holidays to focus on different types of learning. That first week of the holidays would have been perfect for a supervised tidy-up but I missed the opportunity. My girls are at the age where they are open to helping around the house, it’s still a novelty. It’s still on the school holiday agenda BUT the mess has almost doubled, so it’s now a much bigger job (and a thankless task).
Don’t abandon chores.
One of the first things my sister, Auntie La la, does when we book to go to a holiday park, is set a swimming or slide challenge for the girls. And they love it! Which got me thinking, could have set school holiday challenges? And again, I think this would have been great to set up in the first week of the holidays – not to start it, just to decide together what we will do. If I’m honest, I’m really stuck for ideas which will suit them both.
Don’t completely cancel learning.
It’s healthy to ditch the books during summer holidays in my view. But that doesn’t mean they can’t learn. This summer break, I packed them off to Nanny & Grandad’s holiday club. I stayed one day with them before coming home for a couple of days of distraction-free working (bliss). Within one morning, my Dad had taught them to play whist with normal playing cards. To my utter surprise, with each spare moment in between meals, they picked up the cards and played together. No tablet, no TV – just 52 cards and two curious minds. Last year it was Uno, this year, the game for the summer is gonna be whist! Who’d have thunk it eh?
Don’t devote all your spare time to the kids.
Personally, I would go bonkers if I didn’t have a bit of alone time each week, which wasn’t work. The mistake I made during these first days of summer break, was devoting most of my spare hours to them. In a way, I feel responsible to pick up supporting them, where school leaves off. But we need to nourish ourselves. Next time, I’ll try to remember to diarise a couple of hours of me-time and a date night during the hols before school breaks up.
Made some rookie mistakes of your own? What do you seem to always forget about the holidays?