July is actually here!!! Wow, it is as if someone flung open the door of summer and said, if there was any doubt before, "It is THAT time!!" In this past week's newsletter* I reflected on our family's stay-cationing practises during my children's formative years. Staying home for vacation was an integral part of their upbringing, mostly out of necessity and partly out of a mother's adventurous spirit needing some sort of break in the mundane. Stay-cationing wasn't even a term back then but we had nailed the concept.
During those years, we ran our own fledgling business. We were committed to me being a stay-at-home mom and were therefore willing to make the sacrifices it would require with 4 children to feed and clothe and school. It meant living paycheck to paycheck and holding our breath for miracles in emergencies. Yet, in the midst of it all, I was determined my kids would never feel strapped, resentful, or deprived. No. I was adamant they learn to value the simple things; know how to entertain themselves with nothing but a box and some markers, appreciate the variations of leafing trees, and grow in a sense of adventure for the sheer simplicity of the great outdoors without bells and whistles (well, except for those we used to scare away bears on hikes!)
Summer was no exception.
As a matter of fact, summer was the perfect time to exercise our adventurous spirit right.where.we.were with little to no money. In reflection, I thought of a list which might help the budding adventurists out there. I would love to hear if you have more to add to it!! For now, this is what came to mind:
How to adventure right.where.you.are
.... aka "An introductory guide to stay-cationing all summer long"!
#1 - Put on an adventurous spirit
I will admit, not everyone is born with a desire to adventure. Me: my family says I am part Gypsy... it's in my blood. I go stir crazy without some adventure! Colossians 3:1-17 has a GREAT synopsis on putting on and while Paul is talking about Spiritual issues, the concept can be applied here too. CHOOSE to adventure, put on a curious and idealistic spirit. Pursue to see God at work, even in the little things. Marvel at the world around you, whether it is the concrete of the city and the power of God in the minds of men to build on such a scale.... or the work of an ant and it's remarkable God-ordained attributes to toil as it does.
#2 - Start small if adventuring intimidates you
Start with planning adventure just one day a week. I hear a lot of homeschoolers call these "field trips"... I called them "adventures". More on that in a minute. Don't feel like this Summer stay-cation stuff has to fill every corner of every day. You aren't the activities director in charge of packing full an itinerary for a week-long resort stay! Pick a day each week that fits your family's schedule and make that "Adventure Day". Also, don't feel like you need to plan something HUGE... it can be as simple as a nature walk or a movie in the park or a bike ride.
#3 - Build the mind-set and excitement
I don't know about you and your family, but for us, part of the excitement of a traveling vacation is knowing it is coming, making plans, talking about it and having special things that only go with vacation (like carry-on bags or magazines or travel snacks) So here is the subset:
- Name it. As mentioned, I call ours "adventures". I would build everyone's excitement and anticipation by saying things like, "We are going to have an adventure on Friday." or, in reflection, "Wasn't that a great adventure?!", or, "I wonder what we will see/learn on our adventure today." And if someone asked where we were going, my reply: "On an adventure!" You get the idea. You may opt to call yours something else. I like "adventure" because it gives a sense of mystery and excitement!
- Have special go-alongs. On beach days, we had a beach bag... only used for that excursion. We also had an insulated snack bag that only accompanied our "adventures". We had special snacks like trying fun trail mix recipes, granola bars or gummy snacks (dentist horror stories on these made them a once-in-a-while special treat). I would also get special 'travel' beverages like juice boxes which were only used for our 'adventures'. Toys, magazines, coloring books and other such paraphernalia set aside just for local travel and outings give that same sense of "something fun and special is happening today", like major traveling would elicit.
- GET EXCITED!! Your kids will take their lead from you. If you talk about upcoming 'adventures' or wake them up with a "SURPRISE, we are having an adventure today", they will get excited and, back to #1, if you are having a hard time getting into it, 'putting on' the excitement for them will build it in yourself.
Maybe you are queen of spontaneity... go for it! For me, when my kids were growing up, I wanted to be spontaneous but packing a diaper bag and local travel paraphernalia required some forward thinking on my part. We couldn't afford to buy meals out so packing potential meals and snacks had to be factored in as well.
To plan, check local periodicals and websites for summertime family-friendly events. Look into your local library's summer schedule... most have incentivized reading programs for kids 0-18 and other great craft and learning activities. Museums and zoos often have free and discount days, and local pools will sometimes do events providing discounted or free entry. Check for community fairs, farmer's markets, and parks and recreation activities. Many cities are starting to offer free movies in local parks now... talk about a fun outdoorsy experience!! Speaking of movies, some cinemas will do children discount days during the summer allowing your whole family to see a flick if you have a couple extra dollars to roll around.
I started a routine at the onset of every summer where I collected local periodicals and visited websites to see listings of events happening throughout the summer. Most events also listed if there was a fee, which I would assess on the affordability scale. Any that did not express these details, I called to verify cost. Naturally, I leaned towards the FREE and low cost events in my scouting.
Next, I printed out calendars for the summer months and proceeded to enter in the various events and their details on the appropriate dates. Some events had directions I needed or detailed schedules... I tore those out of their periodicals or printed online resource info and tucked them in my planner. These compiled 'events calendars' gave me a birds-eye-view of all the activities which pertained to us. I posted my spiffy calendar in a central location so everyone could see, although, admittedly, I was usually the only one that looked!
Finally, each week I would assess our regular schedule, the weather, and any other variables and then make our plans accordingly using the events calendars. We had weekly adventures everyone anticipated throughout the summer like "Picnic in the Park" which occurred every Wednesday at lunchtime. The kids always looked forward to the picnic blanket, special packed lunch, and live music with room for kids to run around and dance. Library reading programs and accompanying craft activities were a weekly plus as well. We filled in empty days alternately with swimming, hiking, stay-home chilling, crafts and the special events like Powwows, parades and community fairs, etc.
This has not been an exhaustive list, rather, hopefully, something to get you thinking in a direction. When I look back on my kids' growing up, I think I miss summer the most. We didn't pack in EVERY single day with high-octane "to-dos", but we kept a buzz going about the place so that they rarely said, "I'm bored" and they always had something fun and relateable to talk about. We took their friends when we could and left plenty of margins so the kids could choose activities to-go or to-stay. Screen time was rationed so they had plenty of incentive to not be couch potatoes!
I hope this helps!! If you have ideas or questions, please be sure to leave a comment or email me. More coming in this "Summertime" series including: backyard beach/pool parties without a big fancy beach or pool, summer crafting, fun at farmer's markets and more! If you have any suggestions for summer themes you'd like to see me expound on, please let me know. All participants in our "Summertime" 'conversation' get entered for a super mystery summer drawing!
Remember... you don't need a ton of money or piles of vacation days to make summertime memorable for you and your family. You just need to put on a little bit of adventure and away you can go!
For more summer vacation ideas, check out this article, "Setting Summer in Motion: How to have a GREAT summer break!"
By the way.....
*Are you subscribed to my newsletter? You might want to be. Plans are in the works for some GREAT bonus material to be included starting soon! Not to mention the articles on Faith, Home, and Homeschooling you won't even find on the blog! It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter"? Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). Entering your email will do 2 awesome things:
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