Each summer, I take my girls and four of their friends on a "summer adventure." We've been on a trip around the world, a journey across the United States and searched for clues about ourselves. This year, we're taking a trip through American history.
Each week, my girls and four of their friends gather around our kitchen table to learn something about themselves and a lot about how God wants our character to reflect His. Each summer adventure has a single purpose. Our trip around the world was meant to teach the girls about what life is like in other countries and how rich we truly are. Our trip across the United States taught them about character qualities. And our clue adventure gave them a better appreciation for the gifts and talents each of them has. This summer's adventure is focusing on courage and problem-solving.
We meet once a week for six to eight weeks, depending on our schedules. We're flexible. Some weeks we meet and some weeks we don't and some weeks we meet twice. The girls have to memorize a verse each week and do a little homework.
We started our summer adventures because I wanted to do some intentional teaching with my girls. I wanted to deal with some issues that I saw in our household, and I wanted to fulfill the command in Psalm 78:5-7, "He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children,so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands."
Planning a summer adventure isn't hard, but it does take some work. Here are the steps I follow each year:
Identify an issue you'd like to address with your kids. It can be anything from gratitude to courage to selfishness to beauty to kindness. Any character attribute will work. I suggest only choosing one. It makes it easier to plan.
Gather some friends. You can have a summer adventure with just your children, but it's a whole lot more fun with friends. It may take some heroic scheduling work on your part, but adding friends to the mix will make it a really special adventure.
Create or buy some curriculum. I write my own curriculum every summer because I know exactly what I want to focus on with my kids. But there's some great stuff out there that you can modify for a summer adventure. You can use Sunday School curriculum or Vacation Bible School curriculum or a short homeschool unit. Don't feel like you have to create something from scratch. To give you an idea of what we do, you can print out the instructions from our very first summer curriculum called Passport to the World. Use it, modify it or use it as a model for your own.
Meet consistently. We're starting our summer adventure on Wednesday afternoon, which is the day the girls have their last half day of school. We always get bogged down in schedules over the summer and struggle to get the last couple of meetings in. Starting early lets us get a couple of meetings under our belts before vacations and things kick in. Choose a day and do your best to stick with it.
Make it fun. Don't just teach your kids. Do crazy stuff to get your point across. We've done everything from have water gun vs. bow and arrow wars to building a sod house in our backyard. We've been ice skating and learned to tap dance. We've tried to lift a car and watched an episode of Schoolhouse Rock. It's summer. It's supposed to be fun.
Plan a big ending. We always have a big scavenger hunt of some kind that takes the kids around town to find clues. The hunt always ends at a fun place. We've been to a local arcade and to play laser tag, among other things.
Keep God at the center. Pray over your plans. Pray with the kids during your time together. Get them praying for each other. Remember the point is to teach them something about God.
Good luck planning your own summer adventure. It's a big job, but it's definitely worth it. You can follow along with us on this year's summer adventure "Journey Through Time: Learning about courage one century at a time" most Wednesdays this summer. I also blogged the last two summer adventures. You can find the beginning of each at 39 Clues to You and Journey Across America. To find the rest, just search the blog for summer fun.
A summer adventure is a great way to make this The Best Summer Ever.