Reflections of a Summer Well Spent

Last year I wrote a post reflecting on the positives and negatives of summer 2012.  We had just spent the summer weeks on an Aztec, Mayan and Incan adventure box.  We had a great time, but it didn’t really fill every child’s needs that summer.  Using the points I made and the changing needs I could see in both the children and myself, we devised a plan.  And I have to say it was near perfect for us.  In fact, I’m not sure I’m ever going to come close to replicating its success.

The children have had a marvellous summer learning many new skills, from 1800’s cooking to hand sewing; from wood work to knot making in addition to doing the laundry 1800’s style!  It has been great fun and we are sad it has come to a close.

I asked the children to sum up how they felt their summer of Prairie Living had been.  Here are their replies in their own words:

L10: ‘Wonderful, real learning, best summer ever, cooking-new experiences of 1800s cooking. painting. so much fun. I’ve never experienced anything like it before.  Inside the little house was very hot in summer.  I would have liked to have done daily cooking as I feel there was a lot more to learn, and also I prefer to be busy and therefore would have liked the activities to have continued right up to the end rather than slowing down towards the end.’

C10:  ‘Amazing! I really enjoyed this summer, although I didn’t enjoy the painting of the house after the first coat!  My favourite part was watching the costumes flourish and come to life.  So fun making all the items for the house.  Best summer I’ve ever had!  Thank you mummy!  I really enjoyed learning how to hand sew properly, hopefully it will be the sewing machine next!  It was the perfect summer for me, primarily because we were learning so many skills.’

T11: ‘I really enjoyed the whole summer.  In particular I enjoyed learning the survival skills and hands on aspect.  There was definitely too much painting!  Bit samey.  I feel like I’ve come away from the summer with more skills.  Would have preferred to have kept up the momentum towards the end, as I like to be fully occupied and have busy days.  In general this was a very successful summer, far better than last summer.’

A5: ‘I enjoyed playing in the finished little house the most, all dressed up!’

B2:  ‘My mummy!’ (said cuddling my leg.)

So, things that have worked

  1. Themed based learning
  2. Skill based learning
  3. Book based learning
  4. Keeping busy
  5. Having me involved and teaching them skills, at the same time as them having lots of play time to enjoy the fruit of their labour
  6. Having a beginning and an end.  Especially having the party at the end, signalled an absolute finish to the project (although I have me some plans……)
  7. Having the sheer variety of activities we had prevented any signs of boredom.
  8. Having Daddy so involved was fantastic especially for T11

Things that haven’t worked so well

  1. The children’s blog.  I was so excited about this, and really thought they would go for it.  And you know?  I was right.  They did enjoy the newness of ‘writing’ a blog, but they soon found out that writing was still writing and typing takes much longer than writing and ‘mummy, where is the apostrophe again?’  They did really well to keep it updated until week 7, but after that it all fell by the way side.  Had it been actual school work I would have insisted they finished it, but I had already decided beforehand that if they lost interest, I wouldn’t be nagging them to keep on task.  I wanted this summer to be a fun learning experiment and I wanted to be mummy not teacher for a change.
  2. We have one car which Gary uses for work.  This limits the opportunities to get out and about over the summer.  Although we have a fantastic public transport near to us, traveling with five children (one a little unpredictable) just doesn’t float my boat.  So I don’t.  This has meant that yet again the children have not had many opportunities to meet up with friends and so forth.  This was an issue last summer, and was a much smaller issue this summer, with T11 mentioning it only in the last couple of weeks of the summer.  They are used to going to various clubs over the week but during the summer the clubs cease to run.  As long as the children are busy it is not a problem, hence a couple of them mentioning that they wished the momentum had been kept up towards the end.  They had time on their hands and started to miss being with their friends.  This is something I again must address for next summer, ensuring we are getting out or having people round a couple of times each week.
  3. Towards the end of the ten weeks, I started up my school planning for 2012-2013 school year.  This is essential work I had to do, but it took me away from the project and the children.  Whilst in the main they kept themselves happily entertained with their little house playing, I could tell, especially the last week or so, that they were getting restless.  I’m not sure what the answer is here, because I do need to put in the work for the upcoming school year, but like last year, the children enjoy having Mummy (and Daddy) being part of their learning.  Any ideas?? (I already make the most of my insomnia by school planning until 2am most mornings so working anymore at night is not a possibility)

All in all this was a huge success and one I shall struggle to better.  I have a couple of ideas on the back burner, but both require a second mortgage to do properly.  So not very, very realistic then!  Sigh…..back to the drawing board.


  1. I’d say your Little House project has been very successful, so congratulations to everyone for having completed such a wonderful job. It’s difficult to pull all of it together and you’ve done it so well, therefore you really must give yourself more credit, Claire. 🙂

    Tiger also enjoys learning more when I am doing it with him, but he is often quite happily occupied with studying things that he doesn’t get to do in his time with me (if that’s even possible) but I wonder whether limited transportation (hence vareity of activities) might be the cause of some boredom in children over the summer. Having said that, I remember one summer when we didn’t go anywhere and just spent most days taking very long walks. When indoors that summer, we spent some time watching documentaries and used those as jump off points to extend our learning. I’m sharing my experience with only one child and it’s obvious that things are different when you have multiple children. Maybe mums with multiple children can jump in with better advice?

    1. I have only noticed the summers being an issue since B2 has been around. She loves to walk, hates being in the push chair and will happily go for long one hour walks which we all enjoy. But bless her heart she has little short stubby legs and doesn’t walk very fast! The older ones like to go for a hike and she just slows them Dow n. I think each year will improve simply because she will grow bigger each year!!

  2. I stand in constant amazement at what you achieve… insomnia or not. And as I only have one child an we pretty much take it as it comes because of our extra special needs considerations and daily therapies… planning doesn’t feature TOO much in my life. hey…I can’t even make regular blogposts hehehe. I have no advice or sage words. Just complete admiration for you and yours!

    1. LOL!
      If I could change one thing about me it would be to sleep. I wish so much I could sleep more than a couple of hours. I’d be like super woman on speed! As it is I am almost permanently tired. I try to make the most of it by using the time profitably but sometimes I wish I could just SLEEP!

  3. I have been amazed by your wonderful summer project. It was beyond perfect and delightful. I thought you all did so many amazing things.
    blessings, Dawn

  4. This was a very interesting post. I enjoyed hearing your insights. Your teaching style is absolutely wonderful, and it was also nice to hear about the difficulties or drawbacks, because we all have them. I know I have said it many times before, but I am learning SO much from you.

  5. That last dilemma is a tough one. I belonged to a group of moms that took three full days (and nights) to get together and brainstorm and plan their entire school year. We did it one week in early summer in order to be prepared by fall to begin the year. There were a couple of pre-planning nights before that big week, but that three days afforded us the time we needed to cram all of our ideas and work into planning.

    Moms utilize family to keep the kids overnight or have husbands take a day or two off to stay with the kids. It helps if you have a family member who can watch kids overnight, so you can have uninterrupted time to think for a few days.

    1. It’s always a struggle between planning for the type of school experience I want my children to have, pitched against the time it takes to achieve it. I definitely want to decrease the amount of work I’m doing this year!

  6. It sounds to me like your family had as close to perfect a summer as possible. There will always be issues with something. This or that could have been done better or differently. But if the issues you listed are all there is wrong then I think that your summer was a complete success!

  7. You’ve certainly all educated and entertained ME this summer – thank you! Your children are VERY lucky to have such a creative and energetic mummy!

    As for next summer… how about getting your older three to brainstorm and then prepare either one big project for next year or a series of individually-planned group projects? They could source books, materials etc, plan everyone’s role depending on their individual preferences and goals.. I bet they’d love it! They have nine months to prepare. They certainly have a wonderful role model 🙂

  8. Funny you should suggest that because I was thinking along the same lines of giving them a blank canvass linked to a topic and brainstorming all they would like to know. I have dreams and plans, they are just a little extravagant at the moment and need ( a lot ) of modifying!

  9. Following your Little House journey has been so much fun! I have had the children look at what you are doing, also. We have read those books over and over and over and we never tire of them. Why didn’t I think of doing what you did? You are very creative and your children are fortunate to have such a dedicated mother….and daddy. I am excited to see what is next!
    Finding time to plan. That is hard. I try to do little bits here and there.
    May God bless you all.

  10. It’s been so great to be able to follow along with your summer – the energy you put into your schooling and activities, with 5 kids(!!) always leaves me in awe.

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