The Best Summer Ever

Getting Ready for Summer

summer

Is it Friday yet? It's been a long week around here, and it's only Wednesday. I'm not just ready for Friday, I'm ready for the school year to be over. I'm ready for the lazy days of summer. I'm ready to get my kids home so I can work on building them up and regaining some of the joy this school year has sucked out of them.

It's May 1, so that means it's time to start planning for summer in our house. Many of you know that we usually do a big summer adventure in our house each year. I choose a theme, we invite a couple of the girls' friends to join us, and we have a lot of fun learning about how God wants us to act in certain situations. You can find the plans for one of our past summer adventures for free here.

I'm super excited about this summer's adventure because it's something that you can join us in doing. I'll have more details for you later in the month, so keep an eye out. We'd love to have you join us.

But today's post is about choosing to use the summer months as a time to be intentional in teaching your kids and having fun with them. Whether you send your kids to school or you homeschool, summer is a time that you can use to jump outside your routine and teach your kids in a new way. With the academic stuff out of the way, you can truly focus on character and family.

Too many times, summer can fly by without us ever being truly intentional with our kids. Proverbs 21:5 says "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." While that verse is talking about money, it also applies to our time. If we have a plan going into the summer, we're more likely to follow it and our families will profit from it.

You may not have the time or the energy to create your own themed summer adventure, and that's OK. You can be intentional with your kids in other ways. You can simply commit to grabbing the teachable moments that God provides. You can decide on a character quality you want to work on and make intentional strides toward teaching that character quality to your kids. You can turn a trip to the zoo into a discussion about God's creation.

All it takes is a little planning. Last May, I wrote a series on planning your summer called The Best Summer Ever. I'm not going to repeat it here, but I encourage you to check it out. You'll find all the advice and free printables you need to get started planning your summer. Just click on The Best Summer Ever icon in the sidebar.

I want to encourage you to start thinking and planning your summer now. That way when the final school bell rings, you'll have a plan in place. This summer won't slip by without you taking advantage of the extra moments with your kids.

How to Cure the Mid-Summer Blues

It's the middle of summer. My kids are getting tired of each other and tired of me. They are finding it more and more difficult to entertain themselves. This is the time of the summer when I often start looking longingly at the calendar, wondering when school starts. Everyone's patience is thin and growing thinner by the day.

But we've got nearly half the summer left. And as those days stretch out before us, I know that I want to use them well. I want to enjoy the time with my daughters. I want them to enjoy the time with me. So we need to find a way to kick these mid-summer blues.

If your household is stuck in the throes of the mid-summer blues, as well, try some of these ideas to shake them loose and make the most of the time you have left.

Shake up the schedule. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut. We go to the pool every Wednesday afternoon. We do chores and reading time every morning. We go to the library every Friday. Because everyone knows exactly what to expect, the excitement of the summer is gone. Regain some of that excitement by switching up the schedule. Have breakfast for dinner. Skip doing chores for the day. Let the kids stay up late and chase fireflies.

Do something silly. Get everyone laughing. Declare a wig day where everyone wears funny wigs. Have a dance-off in the kitchen. Eat ice cream for lunch. Enjoy the time you have with your kids. Laughter is a great way to shake off the mid-summer boredom and remind everyone of why they love spending time together. Proverbs 17:22 says "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Create joyful hearts in your home with some silliness.

Plan something special. Have a party for no reason. Go on a day trip to see something you've never seen before. Have a cookout with some friends. For a quick, fun idea, check out this Teddy Bear Picnic from Kristen at Celebrate Every Day With Me. With a little planning and not much money, you can plan something special that will have your kids counting the days until the event. Having something to look forward to always makes the time go faster and gives kids something to anticipate.

Have a theme day. Make a favorite book or movie come alive or choose a favorite account from the Bible and make it your theme for the day. Fix food that comes from that time period. Dress like people would have dressed in the book, movie or Bible account. Act out your favorite scenes. Read the book or watch the movie together. Make up games to go along with your theme.

Have an opposite day. Wear your clothes backwards. Start the day with dinner and end with breakfast. Make yes mean no and no mean yes for the day. Lots of laughter and hilarity will ensue when people get confused. Make the kids walk backwards in the house.

Just because it's the middle of the summer, it doesn't mean you have to get stuck in the mid-summer blues. Shake things up at your house and get back to enjoying your time with your kids.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Making the Most of History

I grew up in the suburbs of Boston. History surrounded us. The American Revolution started on the greens of Concord and Lexington, just a few miles from my house. Sam Adams, John Hancock and John Adams walked the streets of Boston. Paul Revere's house is still there. The events surrounding the founding of our country came alive because we could see and touch it.

Here in Kansas, there's a different kind of history. Settlers going west in covered wagons in search of a better life, stepped off on their trip in nearby Independence, Missouri. Bloody battles were fought between slave state Missouri and free state Kansas. Just down the road is the only original stagecoach stop still in existence.

Understanding historical events is not just an important part of our kids' education. It's an opportunity to help them separate fact from fiction. When we take our kids to visit historical sites and learn about the men and women who came before us, we teach our kids to appreciate the past. We teach them to appreciate the comforts they now have. And we can use it to teach them that faith is enduring and the events of the Bible are as real as the American Revolution or the Westward Migration.

When you visit a historical site with your kids, do so with an eye toward teaching them not just history but how to distinguish reality from fiction.

Do your homework. Before going to visit a historical site near you, find out what you can about it beforehand. Be prepared to answer questions. See if you can find an account of a person of faith who lived nearby or did something amazing either at the site or during the historical time period.

Prepare your kids. Before you go, read about the place you're going to visit with your kids or read a fiction book set in the time period of the historical site. Talk about the difference between historical fact and historical fiction. Ask them what they think the Bible is. Talk about how the Bible is not just a story like a fiction book but is a factual account of things that actually happened.

Ask your kids questions. As you view the historical site, ask your kids questions about the event that happened there. Ask them how we know that those things happened. Talk about the evidence that lets us know what happened. It may be letters from someone who was there or other first-person accounts. It may be that archaeologists found the evidence. Talk with your kids about how the same evidence exists for the events in the Bible.

Have an ABC scavenger hunt. Give each child one of the ABC scavenger hunt printables. Ask them to write down facts about the historical site that start with each letter. You'll have your kids hunting for signs to read and learning without even trying. On your way home, have everyone share their facts. Ask your kids why we should care about those facts. Talk about how understanding what happened in the past can encourage us through hardships now and help us to understand how to avoid mistakes in the future. Talk about how the events of the Bible help us to do the same thing.

Visiting an historical site with your kids can be a fun learning experience and part of The Best Summer Ever. We want to remember the past so that we can learn from it. Over and over again in the Bible, God tells us to not forget what happened before. Psalm 77:11 says "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago." We can use a fun trip to a historical site to help our kids understand the importance of remembering what God did in the past.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows and Denise in Bloom.

The Best Summer Ever: A Trip to the Pool

One of our favorite things to do in the summer is to spend lazy afternoons at the pool. It's cool and refreshing in the middle of a hot and humid Kansas summer. Because we have pool passes, it's also cheap. The perfect combination.

We go to the pool so often that the trip often becomes ordinary. It's not an adventure. It's not a learning experience. It's often just a way to kill time and cool off.

But it doesn't have to be. Trips to the pool can be a great opportunity to focus our kids' attention on Jesus. Throughout the Bible, water plays a role in several miracles. God parted the Red Sea. Jesus turned water into wine. Jesus even compared himself to water drawn from a well.

We can turn a simple trip to the pool into an extraordinary opportunity for our kids to learn about God:

Get in the pool with your kids and ask them to make a path through the water. Explain that you want them to pile up the water on either side of you so that you are standing on dry ground. No matter how hard your kids try, the water will just fill back in. Talk about how amazing it must have been for the Israelites to see, not a pool full of water, but the entire Red Sea pushed back on either side. Talk with your kids about how God has power over His creation. He can do anything.

When you get to the pool, tell your kids you want them to walk across the top of the water, without getting anything wet but the bottoms of their feet. After they sink a few times, talk about how Jesus walked on the water. Talk about how Peter jumped out of the boat and walked on the water, too. Explain that He only sank when He became more worried about the wind and the waves than He was about keeping His eyes on Jesus. Explain that when God asks us to do difficult things as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can do it. When we take our eyes off Jesus is when things get difficult.

On the way home, ask your kids if they swallowed any pool water. Talk about the fact that drinking pool water isn't good for you because of the chemicals. Explain that our bodies need clean drinking water to survive. We can go without food longer than we can go without water. Talk about how Jesus compared himself to drinking water. He said that He is "living water" that offers eternal life. When we follow Jesus, it's like drinking good water. It fills us up and lets us do the things God wants us to do.

There are many more accounts that include water in the Bible. Jesus turned water into wine. Abraham's servant met Rachel at the well. The Israelites crossed the Jordan River. God used water to flood the world. You can find a printable list of many of these accounts along with their references here. You can use a trip to the pool to focus on each of these.

Turn your summertime trips to the pool into extraordinary opportunities to teach your kids about God. It will make your pool trips a time of refreshment for both your bodies and your souls.

 

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows and Denise in Bloom.

Resetting Summer

Today is the official first day of summer. Around here, it's been hot since mid-May, and we've already been on a trip, been to camp, had Vacation Bible School and hosted our annual family reunion. This month has been crazy. We have one more trip to go at the end of the month. I'm really looking forward to July.

I knew that this month would be ridiculously crazy. Our company left yesterday, and we had the first lazy day of the summer. Other than doing a little cleaning and a couple loads of laundry, we didn't really do much. The kids played with some of the neighbors, and I mostly just hung out.

Even with the lazy day, my kids were cooked by the end of the day. Three weeks of constant activity had caught up with them. My oldest was in bed asleep by 8 p.m., and my youngest cried herself to sleep last night, a combination of being overtired and missing her cousins.

As I look at our month so far (which has been so busy that I haven't even managed to flip the calendar page), I remember all the good intentions I had for the summer. The chore system that was going to work, the educational stuff we were going to do, the books we were going to read together, the exercise I was going to get, and I realize that this month has been a loss for most of those things.

We have two months of summer left. My kids go back to school on August 15. As I look at the months before us on this day the calendar tells me is the first official day of summer, I'm hitting the reset button on our summer. Today, I'm pulling out my The Best Summer Ever calendar and putting some intentional things on it. But I'm also scheduling some days to do nothing. If anything, this past month has shown us that not having a break results in tired, cranky children and a really stressed-out mommy.

If your summer hasn't started out the way you wanted, take a minute today and hit the reset button. Pray over what remains of your summer and ask God how He wants you to spend it. God is big on second chances. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us that His mercies are new every morning. He is always ready to offer us a second chance, so if you feel like you've missed the boat on being intentional with your kids this summer, declare a do-over. And get started making the rest of this summer The Best Summer Ever.

Celebrate the first day of summer with free ice cream. Maggie Moo's and Marble Slab Creamery are giving away 1,000 free ice cream cones. Check out their Facebook page at 10 a.m. EST today to grab your coupon. And the winner of our 101 Days to Knowing God devotional card drawing is Andrea Cartwright.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

The Best Summer Ever: A Trip to the Zoo

My younger daughter and I are off to the zoo today. Even though I often feel as though I already live in a zoo, I love to go to the zoo.

A trip to the zoo is always a fun summertime activity, but we can take that trip to the zoo and turn it into an amazing lesson about God's creation. Each animal can become an example of the variety and creativity inherent in God's creation.

 So, take a little time to get ready for your next zoo trip and make it a day of fun and laughter that includes opportunities to thank God for His creation.

  • Look up some facts about your kids’ favorite animals. Use these facts to point out the differences between the animals and the diversity of God’s creation. For example, somewhere in my life I learned that elephants actually walk on their tiptoes. When we go to the zoo, I remind my children of this fact, and we always spend a moment in awe of how God made such a huge creature, and yet it balances itself on the toe bones of its foot.
  • Create a scavenger hunt for your kids or use the free printable here. Give them different challenges as you go through the zoo. Have them find three animals with wings or three animals with long noses. Have them look for the animal with the longest neck or the smallest animal at the zoo. Use the scavenger hunt to direct your kids’ attention to how each animal is different and God made them that way so they could best feed themselves or protect themselves. Talk about how God made different animals to eat different things, so that there would be enough food for everyone.
  • The zoo is a great time to talk about the story of Noah’s ark. Ask your kids what they think life on Noah’s ark was like. Remind them that the story of Noah reminds us that God always keeps His promises. You can also remind them that Noah and his family were saved from the flood because they obeyed God even when it seemed like it was a crazy thing to do. Imagine how many of Noah’s neighbors and friends thought he was crazy.
  • Use these verses to talk to your kids while you’re at the zoo.
    • Genesis 1:21 — So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
    • Psalm 104:24-25 — How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.
  • Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the day with plenty of laughter and joy.

 

Day 14: Don't Forget to Rest (and a giveaway)

Today is the last day of The Best Summer Ever Series. Hopefully, you have a binder full of great ideas for your summer. You've planned places to go, things to teach, character qualities to emphasize and projects to do. All of those things are important, but don't forget something that's equally important this summer -- rest.

Our kids have been busy all year -- whether you have toddlers or teenagers. Their minds and their bodies need time to rest. Rest is biblical. Even God rested: "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work" (Genesis 2:2).

Our children need time to simply be kids. They need time to play outside with nothing more than a stick and their imaginations. They need time to sleep in. They need time to just hang out with their friends.

Summer is a time for cold glasses of lemonade, camping out in the backyard, sleeping past the sunrise and staying up late. It's a time for going to the pool and making forts under the tree in the backyard. It's a time for long walks and long talks.

Don't fill your summer so full of activities that you forget to give your kids some time to rest. Leave room in your schedule for unscheduled fun -- pick-up basketball games on the driveway, read-alouds before bedtime, s'mores over the fire pit. These are the moments your kids will remember.

They'll remember the day you got up and took them for donuts. They'll remember the lazy afternoons at the pool where you got in and played with them. They'll remember lemonade stands and homemade ice cream. They'll remember water balloon fights and evening bike rides.

Make time to rest. Leave unstructured time in your summer days. It will help make this The Best Summer Ever.

Don't miss our giveaway to wrap up The Best Summer Ever Series. We're giving away a $15 gift card to Cold Stone Creamery so our lucky winner can make a memory with her family this summer. Enter to win below. I'll announce the winner on Tuesday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Linking up today with Beholding Glory and Your Thriving Family.

Day 13: Keep Learning

Today marks the first day of summer break here. Bedtime went out the window last night. There's no need for my girls to get up this morning. Let the lazy days of summer begin.

While summer offers freedom from the structure of the school day, it doesn't mean my girls stop learning. An entire summer without polishing their math and reading skills means a tough month when school starts back up in the fall. That's why it's so important to keep the learning going.

Proverbs 1:5 says "let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance." We want our lives and the lives of our kids to be ones of continual learning. But learning doesn't have to be diagramming sentences, writing papers and doing math worksheets. With a little creativity, summer learning can be something your kids look forward to. Try out some of these ideas to keep learning fresh and fun at your home this summer.

Reading

Start your own reading club. Check out today's free printable for reading tokens you can give out to your kids every time they finish a book. Come up with a rewards system that allows your kids to spend their tokens. The rewards can be anything from an extra helping of dessert to a movie outing to a Silly String war (a favorite in our house).

Read together. Set aside some time every day for read aloud. When your kids get tired or it's too hot to play outside, spend half an hour reading. It gives everyone a break and stretches imaginations.

Be intentional with the books you choose. Summer is a time when our kids don't have to read books dictated by school. Find books that fit with your summer theme and encourage your kids to read those or use them as read alouds.

Math

Play math games. Check out Cool Math, which offers tons of great math games on the computer. Grab a deck of cards and give everyone cards numbered from 2 to 10. Take turns rolling a pair of dice. Add, subtract, multiply or divide to make the numbers on your cards. When you get a number, flip the card over. First person to flip over all their cards wins.

Create active math problems. Send your kids into the backyard to count trees or flowers or even weeds. Count the number of stairs in your house, then ask your kids how many stairs you would have if you had 12 houses. Get your kids moving while they do math.

Cook with your kids. A great way to review fractions is to break out the cookbook. Kids get practical application, and you end up with something yummy to eat.

History

Take field trips. Every area has some local history. Take your kids to visit some of the sites in your area. Learn about the people who lived in your town before you. Take a trip to a living history site where your kids can step back in time and learn about history in a way that makes it come alive.

Science

Do some simple experiments. Make a baking soda volcano. Drop Mentos in a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke. Play with magnets. Mix corn starch and water and make goop. Get dirty and have fun learning about the world around you.

Summer learning doesn't have to be a chore. It can be something your kids look forward to. Keep it fun and interesting, and your kids won't even know they're learning. With a little creativity, this can be The Best (and most educational) Summer Ever.

Don't miss the conclusion of The Best Summer Ever Series tomorrow. We'll have another giveaway and a few more suggestions for making this The Best Summer Ever.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows and Denise in Bloom.

Day 12: Start Summer with a Celebration

I looked up and there she was on a 8-foot screen. My firstborn baby girl -- no hair and a few teeth, dressed in her Christmas best. Almost before I could blink, she was replaced by a picture of a young woman, one I barely recognize as my baby.

My daughter's fifth grade celebration was last night. Today, is her last day of elementary school. As last night's slide show projected photo after photo of every kid in her grade as a baby, then as they are now, we remembered the big moments and the small ones that have gotten us to this point. It seems like only yesterday we sent them off to kindergarten, and here they are on their way to middle school.

Last night, we celebrated their accomplishments. We celebrated their growth. And we celebrated even the tough moments. There's a blank spot on the wall where the kids leave their handprints at our school for the classmate who died last year. There were awards to celebrate the kids social studies accomplishments. And there were notes from a teacher at the school celebrating every child in the grade.

Summer starts tomorrow, but last night we celebrated what the kids accomplished in the past six school years. Whether your child is finishing preschool or high school, end your school year with a celebration. Remember the high points and the low points of the year. Celebrate the fun and the silly and the sad and the amazing. Mark this moment in time because it won't come again.

Today, I'll walk home with six little (and not so little anymore) girls. We'll hang out at our house, eat some pizza and celebrate the important moments of the year. We'll spend a little time reflecting on the big moments and the little ones. And we'll spend some time thanking God for another year, our friends and our accomplishments.

God wants us to celebrate the moments. All through the Old Testament, the Israelites made altars to remind them of the things that God had done. They piled up some stones that said, "In this place, God did something good." In Psalm 145:7, we're told "They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness." Use the start of summer to create some altars of your own. Celebrate God's goodness.

Plan a celebration. It doesn't have to be big -- a special lunch or an ice cream sundae will do. Simply make time to celebrate what has happened this year. Don't forget to keep a record of what you're celebrating. Start a tradition. Use the Celebration worksheet to record what your kids consider to be their biggest accomplishments, their toughest moments and the moments where they saw God at work. Take a moment to reflect on the year just past before you jump into summer.

Before you start The Best Summer Ever, celebrate the year that got you here.

Want to get Everyday Truth in your inbox? Subscribe to the blog. Enter your email in the box on the right, and Everyday Truth will come to you every morning.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Day 11: Dealing with Words

Every summer, my girls and I spend a lot of time together. During the school year, the girls are gone most of the day. Our afternoons and evenings are often filled with activities and sports. The time we spend at home during the school year is pretty small compared with the time we spend at home together during the summer.

Inevitably, my girls have trouble adjusting to spending so much time with each other. They squabble and fight until they get it figured out. But the biggest trouble we have adjusting to our summer schedule comes in controlling our words.

And I don't know about you, but I get tired of listening to them bicker. I cringe when I hear the words they sling at each other without a thought. This summer, we're placing a focus on choosing our words wisely. I've already informed my girls that talk that tears each other down isn't allowed in our house. If I catch them slinging hurtful words at each other, then they will have to go sit outside because those words aren't allowed in the house. Besides the fact that we live in Kansas where summer days are hot and humid, this lets them know that hurtful words are not OK.

I'm also placing visible reminders of what our words should look like around our house. Check out today's free printable poster for your own visible reminder. These reminders help my girls think about their words before they say them. It forces them to ask these questions: Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it encouraging? Does it build up rather than tear down? Is it appropriate? Will it make the situation better or worse? Does it benefit those who listen?

Our words need to measure up to the standard of Ephesians 4:29, which says "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." A visible reminder helps your kids measure their words before they say them.

When your kids' words don't meet the standards of Ephesians 4:29 either sit down with them and talk about which of the criteria their words didn't meet or let them fill out a What's Wrong with My Words sheet. While they're sitting outside, they can identify what was wrong with their words and how they can change their behavior next time.

Don't spend the summer listening to your kids bicker. Get a handle on those tongues and make this The Best (and most peaceful) Summer Ever.

Just getting started on planning your summer, check out the start of our The Best Summer Ever series. Have friends who want in on the fun? Don't forget to share the series with them.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.

Day 10: Have a Summer Adventure

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.

Don't forget to download your copy of our first summer adventure, Passport to the World. If you've missed any of our free downloads, you can find them here.

Day 9: Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

We're big racing fans in our house -- well, three of us are. My oldest daughter would rather do just about anything other than go to the race track and watch cars go around in circles. Once a year we make her go with us to the Indy 500.

If you asked the three of us who like racing about the 500, we'll give you a glowing account of the racing, the pit stops, the crashes and who won. If you ask my older daughter about the race, she's most likely to tell you about the pre-race ceremonies and the people she saw in the crowd. What she gets out of the event has a lot to do with her perspective going in.

The same is true of our summertime excursions. We can take our kids to the zoo, a museum, mini golfing or to the pool. If our perspective is that this will be a fun outing, then that's all it will be. But if our perspective is that this outing is an opportunity to teach our kids something, then the trip takes on a whole new meaning.

We can take the everyday things we do in the summer and turn them into meaningful moments that teach our kids about God. There's nothing wrong with an outing that's simply fun, but when we take those fun moments and use them to teach our kids, then those outings become life-changing moments.

A trip to the pool becomes a chance to talk about Jesus as living water. A trip to an art museum becomes a time to talk about how your child is a masterpiece made by God. A trip to the zoo becomes a lesson in God's amazing creation.

When we take the time to plan ahead and be intentional in how we structure our summertime outings, we can fill our kids' hearts with knowledge of God. We can teach our kids to look for Him in everything. God is everywhere. Psalm 139:7-10 says "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."

Nearly any activity can be turned into an opportunity to teach our kids about God. Check out today's printable for a list of common summertime outings for ideas on how to turn an ordinary outing with your kids into an extraordinary one that teaches them about God. It's all part of making this The Best Summer Ever.

Be sure to join me on Monday as I take you through the steps of planning a summer adventure. And don't miss Monday's printable -- a copy of our very first summer adventure, a "trip" around the world. If you haven't followed our summer adventures in the past, you can check out the beginning of last year's here.

Linking up today with Beholding Glory and Your Thriving Family.

Day 8: Make a Compromise Bucket

I lost it last night. It had been a long day. I had a migraine. My kids had bickered almost from the moment they stepped in the door. No one was paying any attention to what I told them to do. I was frustrated.

As my husband walked in the door, he saw me standing at the kitchen counter with a knife in my hand, preparing dinner and yelling at my younger daughter. He walked over, removed the knife and said, "Why don't you go for a walk?" It was the mommy equivalent of being sent to time out.

As I walked, I realized that at that moment, I was dreading summer. We have four and a half days of school left. The closer we get to the end of the year, the more my girls seem to fight. I know they're tired. I know my older daughter is excited about the end of elementary school but nervous about the start of middle school. But for my sanity, I need my girls to get along. I don't want to spend the entire summer breaking up fights and scolding children.

Including my girls, we have six girls in our neighborhood. Since the weather has been nice, they've been playing outside together. Nearly every time they play together, at least one child stomps off mad because they don't want to play what the other kids are playing or they think what's going on is not fair. It's going to be a really long summer if they don't figure out how to play well together.

God doesn't want us to be angry with one another. He wants us to get along and cooperate. Anger is one of those emotions that can cause us to sin, to do and say things we don't mean. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,and do not give the devil a foothold." Being angry with others gives Satan an opportunity to stick his nose into our lives and steer us astray. The more we can do to teach our kids to solve conflict without anger, the more pleasing their actions will be to God.

This summer, each of the girls on our block are getting a "compromise bucket." I've discovered most of their issues arise from not being able to decide what to play. The compromise bucket is a simple sand pail. Inside the pail is a kitchen timer, Post-it notes, pens, a fake coin and a dry-erase board or a compromise chart. The girls can write on the Post-it notes the thing they want to play. They throw all the slips in the bucket and draw them out one by one. They write names on the dry erase board in the order the slips are drawn and set a time limit for each activity (the same time limit for each). They set the timer and play each child's game or activity for that amount of time, then move on to the next child. If they run out of time (someone has to go in or it gets dark), they start with the next person on the list the next time they play.

The fake coin is for the inevitable disagreements that don't fall under the "what should we play" banner. When they reach an impasse, they flip a coin to break it. It's fair and everyone has an equal chance to win.

You can grab your own compromise chart printable and make your own compromise bucket to help make this most conflict-free summer ever.

I'm hopeful the compromise bucket will eliminate some of the squabbles we encounter and make their friendships stronger. It will teach them compromise and the value of working out their problems. With six girls, two sets of sisters each, conflict is inevitable, but finding ways to teach them to resolve their conflicts not only helps make this The Best Summer Ever, it gives them a life skill that will serve them well in the future. And it just might keep me from needing a few more mommy timeouts.

The winner of the $10 Target gift card is Ami Swisher. Don't miss tomorrow's post where we talk about taking an everyday outing and turning it into a teaching opportunity. If you missed the beginning of The Best Summer Ever series, check it out here.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows.

Day 7: The Challenge of Chores

Summer mornings usually mean sleeping in and lazing around. Most mornings we have no set schedule or deadline to be somewhere. Without a schedule, my girls' tend to get lax on doing their chores. Around here, the girls have chores they have to do because they're part of the family and chores they do to get paid. During the school year, those chores simply become a matter of routine. They have certain times of the day that they do their chores, but when summer rolls around all that structure goes out the window and somehow chores get lost in the process.

Chores are important for our kids. They teach them responsiblity. They teach them life skills. They help them understand what it is to be part of a family. Cleaning up the house becomes a manageable chore when everyone does their part. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor." Chores help our kids work with the rest of the family to accomplish something good.

So, how do we keep getting the chores done without a lot of nagging and scolding in the summer? The last thing I want to do every day in the summer is harp on my kids to do their chores. This summer, we're going to be working on a token system. My girls will earn a token for every day they complete their chore list. The tokens will be good for TV, video games or computer time. No chores, no electronics. And if chores aren't completed by a certain time, it will cost them a token.

Most kids are motivated by rewards. If electronics time doesn't motivate your kids, figure out what will -- an extra helping of dessert, an extra 15 minutes of family read-aloud, a trip to the park. Tie your tokens to those things. You could even have a rewards list where they are saving up their tokens to earn different rewards.

It's a rule in our house that chores must be done without grumbling or complaining. If complaints are heard, then the child doesn't get a token and doesn't get paid. Philippians 2:14-16 says "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.'Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life." Make this verse the mantra of doing chores. No grumbling or complaining. It teaches your kids that unpleasant things are part of life and grumbling and complaining about them doesn't make the task any easier and just makes them feel worse.

Print off your chore list and tokens and get the chore monster under control in your home this summer. It will go a long way toward making this The Best Summer Ever.

Download your own chore list and chore tokens on our free printables page. And it's not too late to enter the drawing for the $10 Target gift card to help you bust the summer boredom blues.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Day 5: Choose a Theme Verse

My older daughter heads off to middle school next year. She has 7 1/2 days left in elementary school. As I pondered and prayed about our goals for the summer, this fact never left my brain. I wondered what is the most important thing she's going to need to know going into middle school. The word that God kept bringing to mind was courage.

She's going to need to know it's OK to stand up for herself. She's going to have to make decisions on her own. She's going to have to navigate the tricky waters of middle school girl friendships. And she's going to need courage for all of it. Based on that, one of our goals for the summer is to focus on what it means to be courageous.

Whenever we teach our kids something, we want to be sure that we're teaching them what the Bible has to say. The Word of God is a much greater authority than the voice of a parent. When we back up what we have to say with scripture, it makes a much greater impact on our kids than if we just tell them what we think.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." I want my kids to be thoroughly equipped for every good work. I want my older daughter to have the courage to do what's right in middle school. I want my younger daughter to have the courage not to follow the crowd when she knows it's wrong.

To help my girls understand what courage is and why it's important this summer, I've chosen a verse to be the theme for our summer. Our verse is Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” I plan for my girls to see and hear this verse so much this summer that they'll have no choice but to remember it.

What goals do you have for the summer? Can you narrow them down into a single concept that you want to focus on over the course of the summer? Maybe you have a couple of goals. That works, too. Today, I encourage you to find a "theme verse" for your summer -- a verse that you can use to teach your kids, so at the end of the summer, they'll have hidden that verse in their hearts.

Check out today's free printables for a list of possible verses to go with some common topics. You'll also find a nifty printable sign for each verse on the list that you can print off and hang somewhere that your kids can see it every day.  The more they see and hear the scripture, the more likely they are to remember it.

If you don't see your topic on the list, head over to Bible Gateway and search for a relevant verse. Then type it up, print it out and hang it up somewhere your kids will see it every day.

Use your theme verse frequently this summer. Use it to remind your kids of the kind of character God wants them to have. Use it to correct behavior. Use it to start a discussion of what God wants us to be like. Use it to make this The Best Summer Ever.

Don't miss tomorrow's post with ideas for fighting the "I'm bored" monster. If you missed the beginning of The Best Summer Ever Series, you can see all the posts here.

Linking up today with Graceful and The Better Mom.

Day 4: Make a Schedule and a Budget

Summer should be a time of lazy days and laughter, water fights and bike rides, movie nights and vacations. Summer is a time to make memories and share experiences. It's a time to learn new things and revel in the wonder of an amazing God.

But, too often, we start the season off with big plans, then get to the end of the summer and wonder where those big plans went. We had such good intentions, but daily life got in the way. We never had that cookout with the neighbors. We didn't take that trip to the amusement park. We missed out on having a summer adventure.

The one sure way I've found to avoid missing out on the good stuff of summer is to schedule the big stuff. I've learned that if it's not on the calendar at the beginning of the season, it's probably not going to happen. So, today's the day to use your prayer worksheet, your summer goals list and your summer wish list and put some of those things on your Summer Calendar, which you can print off here.

Take the lists you've made this week and decide which things you want to do. Then, put them on your calendar. The best things to do are the ones that your kids are excited about and that meet some of your summer goals. Go ahead and give those things a date. Be purposeful in planning your summer. Spread the big stuff out over the months, leaving plenty of open dates for spontaneous activities and lazy days at the pool. I usually try to give us one really big thing (a trip or a more expensive outing) about once a month. Then, once a week, I'll schedule a smaller outing that doesn't cost as much.

Speaking of cost, that brings us to another important and less fun topic: the budget. Don't plan your summer without one. The Best Summer Ever should not be followed by The Most Broke Fall Ever. Make a summer budget and stick to it. You can use the simple Summer Budget worksheet to get started. Do your best to create a realistic budget. You can budget the whole summer or do it monthly, whichever works best for you. If something is too expensive for this year, tuck it away and work toward doing it next year. Don't go into debt or end up stressed about money just to do something with your kids. Most kids will be perfectly happy with a cheaper option if the big one doesn't fit your budget.

Remember, your summer is about making memories. It's not about keeping up with the Joneses. My advice is to not do anything that's going to send you into debt, and it's God's advice, too. Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender." Don't let summer make you a slave to anyone. If a big cross-country trip isn't in the budget, take a smaller one, closer to home. If multiple trips to the movies are out of the question, go to one matinee of the most-anticipated movie for your family, then have family movie night with a $1 Red Box movie at home.

A schedule and a budget will make your summer less stressful and a whole lot more fun. You won't be struggling to find activities for your kids or wondering where the money is going to come from. So, start scheduling and budgeting today to make this The Best Summer Ever.

Thanks for joining me on this journey to The Best Summer Ever. Don't miss next week where we start getting into the details of some fun activities, dealing with chores and teaching our kids about God through our summer activities. If you want to be sure not to miss a post, get Everyday Truth in your inbox each day by signing up under the Subscribe by email header on the right.

Linking up today with Beholding Glory.

Day 3: Get the Kids Involved

Have you ever planned something you thought your kids would love and had it turn out to be a dismal failure? For whatever reason, your kids didn't think it was nearly as much fun as you thought they would?

I remember planning an elaborate birthday party for my older daughter when she turned 6. I love to throw parties with lots of people, so we invited lots of her friends. I spent the evening watching her stand apart from most of her friends. That was when I realized that we had planned a party I would enjoy, not one that she would enjoy. My older daughter is much happier with just a few friends around. I realized I had never asked her how many kids she wanted to have. I had just told her the number, and she felt obligated to fill it. Now, we plan parties with much fewer kids, and my daughter is much happier.

The point of telling that story is that you can plan an entire summer of fun activities, and your kids might hate it. The way to avoid that? Ask your kids what they want to do. Proverbs 15:22 says "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." They are, after all, the experts on what they want to do this summer. You're planning these summer activities for your kids, so let your kids be the advisers in this situation. 

There are a couple of reasons that letting your kids help plan the summer is a good idea. First, it lets you know where their interests lie. Sometimes, we think we know what's going on inside our kids' heads only to find out they're thinking exactly the opposite. Second, kids have great ideas. They may think of something that you would never come up with. Third, it gives them a measure of control and lets them get excited about the stuff you're planning.

So how do we involve the kids? How much control do we give them? It depends on the age of your kids. With preschoolers, simply asking a few simple questions like "What would you like to do this summer?" or giving them a few options like "Would you rather go to the pool, the zoo or the park?"

With older kids, set aside a planning time. Use today's printable Summer Wish List to get the conversation started. You can give each child a copy or write down everyone's thoughts on one copy. The first question "Things we'd like to do if money was no object" is designed to find out what your kids dream about doing. Throwing money out of the equation lets your kids tell you what they'd love to do with their summer. You might not be able to afford it, but it might be something to work toward in the future. You can also use that question to plan smaller scale activities that still address those interests. For example, say your child wants to go to NASA mission control in Houston. You might not be able to afford a trip to Houston, but a local museum might have some space artifacts or you can have a "space day" at home where you do space-themed activities.

The other questions on the Summer Wish List will help you gauge your kids' interest in trips to attractions close to your home, new things they'd like to learn and free stuff they'd like to do. Summer activities don't have to be expensive to meet your child's wishes and interests. For example, I asked my older daughter what she wanted to do this summer, and her response was, "Have lots of cookouts with the neighbors." Inexpensive and fun.

Get your kids excited about summer by letting them get in on the planning of The Best Summer Ever.

Don't miss tomorrow's post where we get started putting things on our calendars. And don't forget to tell your friends about The Best Summer Ever series. You can use the button in the sidebar or click the Facebook or Twitter share buttons at the top of this post. Hop on over to the Everyday Truth Facebook page and share your goals for the summer or leave a comment here telling us about the goals you came up with from yesterday's post.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows and Our Simple Country Life.

Day 2: Setting Summer Goals

One of the first things my girls learned when they started playing soccer and hockey was to keep their heads up. You see, a person's natural tendency is to look at their feet when they are learning to dribble a ball or stickhandle a puck, but when you put your head down, you can't see where you are going. And when you can't see where you're going, you can run into something you didn't intend to run into -- like another person or the boards. The kids get so focused on what they are doing, that they end up off course from the goal.

We want to be careful not to lose sight of our goals for our summers, and to do that, we have to set goals. You spent yesterday praying about what God wanted you to do with your kids. You asked Him to direct the way you spend your time this summer. Today, it's time to set some goals.

While we need to let God direct our path, we need to define for ourselves what God wants to accomplish in our kids' lives this summer. The danger of planning our summers without setting some goals, is a lot like the danger of playing soccer or hockey with our heads down. We might have a lot of fun, but we will probably end up in a different place than we wanted to be.

While God wants us to give our plans to Him and let Him set them, it doesn't absolve us of the responsibility of mapping out a plan to reach the goals He's given us. Proverbs 21:5 says "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." Setting some goals based on what God has revealed to us and making some plans will allow us to have a profitable summer with our kids.

So, how do we go about setting goals for the summer? Guess what? There's a great printable worksheet just waiting for you to fill it out and put it in your binder. There are five areas on your worksheet -- physical, spiritual, relational, educational and fun. And, yes, you need goals in all five. Let's take a closer look at what each section is about.

Physical

Physical goals are just that. What do you want to accomplish with your kids as far as their bodies are concerned? This can be anything from improving soccer skills to exercising as a family to talking with your kids about puberty or personal hygiene.

Spiritual

Spiritual goals are what you want your kids to learn about God this summer. Our summers are usually spent working on a character quality or two, but yours can be learning about the character of God or simply focusing on the fact that God loves us. Use what God revealed to you in your prayer time to fill this out.

Relational

Relational goals are what you want your kids to learn about dealing with relationships. This can be anything from being kind to others to learning to resolve conflict.

Educational

Educational goals are just that, educational. You may want to work with your kids over the summer to refresh some skills they learned in school this year. Your child might need an extra boost in a certain subject. Or you might want to nurture an interest that isn't given much time in school.

Fun

Last, set some fun goals. If you want to go on a trip or learn something new with your kids this summer, this is the place to list that.

After you've listed all your goals for the summer, take a minute to pray over them. Ask God to show you if you've added too many things or if you've missed something important. As we start adding activities to our summer plan, these goals will become important because we'll want to choose activities that help us reach these goals.

Keeping our heads up and our eyes on the goal will help us have The Best Summer Ever.

Click here to get today's printable. If you missed the beginning of The Best Summer Ever series, check it out here. Do you blog and want to share The Best Summer Ever series with your readers? Check out the button in the sidebar. And don't forget to head over to the Facebook page to share your goals with and encourage other readers.

Day 1: Start with Prayer

My younger daughter went with my husband to Take Your Child to Work Day a couple of weeks ago. While she was there, she did an activity to find out what types of jobs she might like. Nearly all of her interests ended up being active things. She got a zero in the types of jobs that require lots of thoughts and analysis.

My younger daughter is like a lot of us. She's a doer. She wants to jump right in and get her hands dirty. She doesn't like waiting for directions, and she rarely stops to think before she jumps into an activity with both feet.

I tell you this because I know many of you are ready to jump into planning for your summer with both feet. You want to do something. You want to fill your binder with pages of things to do with your kids this summer. And what I'm going to ask you to do today is going to go against that nature. Because today I want you to simply be still and talk to God.

Now, don't panic. All of you who printed off your pretty cover and made your binder yesterday will still get a printable to go in it. But the focus of today is going to be talking with God. The worksheet is just there to help you do that.

You can have a successful summer without starting with prayer. You and your kids can do fun activities, you can grow and learn, and you can get to the end of the summer feeling pretty good about what you've accomplished. But if we cover our summer in prayer before we get started, we get all those things plus we know that we're on the path that God wants us to be on.

Right now, you may be reading this thinking that you know exactly what you and your kids need to work on this summer. You've noticed behaviors that need to change and interests that need to be nurtured. But when we lay all those things at God's feet, we may find that God has different ideas of what our kids need to learn.

Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans." We want God to be the leader this summer. We want to go down the paths that He wants us to walk.

So, today, spend some time in prayer over your summer. Ask God to show you what He wants you to do with your kids. Ask Him to help you make the most of the time you have, whether it's all day or simply time together in the evenings and on the weekends. Then, listen for His direction.

For all you doers out there, you'll find a printable for your binder here that will help you collect your thoughts and help you hear what God is saying. Write down your prayers. Pray for each child. Then write down what God says and how He wants you to respond.

Starting our summers with prayer, sets us up for success. It lets us discover what God has planned for our families before we start making plans. Turn your summer over to God today. It's the best way to get started on The Best Summer Ever.

If you missed yesterday, be sure to check out the beginning of our The Best Summer Ever series. And don't forget to head over to the Facebook page to join in the discussion.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.

Let's Have the Best Summer Ever

The calendar says summer starts on June 20, but around here, May 24 marks the day. As far as my kids are concerned, it's the first day of sleeping in, trips to the pool, playing outside with friends and having fun.

As a parent, it's easy to view summer as a long stretch of days with no structure. Some parents I know dread summer. The thought of filling all those days with activity is daunting. I think Phineas and Ferb said it best, There's 104 days of summer vacation and school comes along just to end it, but the annual problem for our generation is finding a good way to spend it.

I won't lie and say that I look forward to every moment of summer. We have our share of grumpy days, fighting children and moments when I'd love to throw up my hands, walk out the door and let someone else deal with the kids. But, when my youngest started school four years ago, I realized that summer was my best chance to pour into my kids. It's a time when they aren't focused on anything else. School is out. Activities have slowed to a trickle. It's a great time to get their attention.

So, I decided to be deliberate about how we spend our time during the summers. I decided to use at least some of that time to fill them up with the things that God thinks are important. Oh, I don't sit them down and preach at them, but we find fun ways to learn important life lessons. We read. We spend time with friends. We play games. And we have summer adventures -- all with an eye toward growing kids who love God and love others.

All of that doesn't just happen. It requires planning, and this is usually the time of the year when I start planning out our summer. Being intentional with our summers has created some great memories. It has meant the time seems to fly by. And it means my kids are learning the things that God thinks are important.

Last week, I promised that we would be starting a series on planning for your summer. Today is the first day. I'm calling it The Best Summer Ever. I hope you'll join us every day as we start planning for the summer. During this series, you'll find helpful tips for living out Deuteronomy 6:6-9 across the summer months. It doesn't matter if you're a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, the mom of teens or the mom of preschoolers, any mom can use the principles you'll learn.

You'll make your own The Best Summer Ever planning binder. We'll have plenty of free printables, some giveaways and hopefully, a whole lot of fun. If you miss a day, all of the good stuff, including any posts you missed, can be found under The Best Summer Ever tab in the menu bar above that cute picture of me and my girls.

Today, simply grab a binder and print off The Best Summer Ever cover. Let me know you're joining me on this summer planning adventure by leaving a comment here or on the Everyday Truth Facebook page. Share this blog with your friends, and let's get started.

With a little thought, a lot of prayer and a bit of planning, you can make this a summer where you live out the words of Proverbs 22:6 and "start your children off on the way they should go." Get ready for The Best Summer Ever.

Linking up today with Graceful and The Better Mom.