The kids are basically home on their own this summer. Nana is there to keep them out of my hair three days a week, but apart from that, they're on their own to figure out what they're going to do all day, be it outside or playing games indoors. But this undirected summer "activity" selection more often than not ends up with the kids on the couch staring at the screen, with or without a game controller in hand.
This summer, we wanted to give them something to focus on, maybe attract their attention and learn something. We wanted to provide them a direction for discovery, and not necessarily some mandatory activities to try to force them to enjoy. Obviously, there are chores to complete. And there are some activities that are mandatory for this discovery, but I think we've worked out a good plan.
Every week, we choose a topic. On Monday, Berta or I write up a bunch of questions, then later in the day the kids go to the library and research those questions. The intent of the questions isn't necessarily to obtain answers, but to get the kids looking into things that they wouldn't necessarily look into themselves while at the library. To pique their curiosity.
Then, each day of the rest of the week, they do something we've selected that is related to the topic and to the things they uncover in their research. All of this culminates in a weekend trip to somewhere fun (and educational) related to the work they've done all week.
The first two weeks of their summer have been about producing video. I sent them to the library with some questions about lighting and some terms that they wouldn't know. They looked up some things and checked out some books. We now how a green screen in our basement, made of some cloth from Walmart and pinned to the wall in front of some lamps to cut out the shadows. Abby's been using Sony's Movie Studio on her computer to assemble all of the clips and photos that they've been taking into some coherent video that they'll post online to mark their video "week".
The video segment was cut up a bit by some trips to the beach (which supplanted my weekend plans for a trip to the QVC studio or WHYY), so many of the photos and video they have to work with will include the bay/ocean. If they are able, they'll produce a video each week of what they did that week during the summer, keeping a kind of video log of the whole summer's progress.
This week is food week. The kids did a great job researching Berta's questions yesterday, and spent some time today sampling and comparing some of the spices and herbs from our cabinets. Berta left out two loaves of banana bread last night - one using a Food Network recipe, the other using a Martha Stewart recipe. The kids have been comparing. Tonight's "homework" is to think of how to use the broccoli from our raised-bed garden in a dinner.
I've got designs for a physics week which would hopefully involve some amusement park science. There's an art week on Berta's schedule, where the kids will sample a bunch of different media for producing art. (I'm personally anxious for clay.) I'd really like to do a games week, where the kids play a bunch of different kinds of games - board, card, dice, role-playing - and then design their own game in the end.
All of this intermingles with their regular camp and grandparent visits. There are only 13 weeks in summer, and we're going to have enough ideas that the kids will never say "Dad, I'm bored". So far, so good. I'm looking forward to the rest of the summer activities.