Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What to do with your kids in Nashville this summer.

It's that time of year when schools are letting out and parents are faced with eight whole weeks of summer vacation. What to do with the kids?! As a homeschooler, I feel I am uniquely qualified to help you sort this out. Not only do I survive eight weeks with my kids at home, I somehow manage to survive ALL THE WEEKS.

Here's how you do it:

Step 1: Realize your kids are not just kids, they're people.

Small people, sure, but people just the same. They are not something to survive or entertain, they are people. Some kids are doers and would probably like to stay busy all summer long (hello, summer camps!). Some are not. Most are probably somewhere in between. Before you go filling the calendar, check in to see what they want to do. It's their vacation, right? Why not let them enjoy it? (And enjoy them while you're at it!)

at Camp Widjiwagan

Step 2: Accept that sometimes kids make bad decisions.

It's true. As much as I wish I could follow my kids' lead all the time, there's just no way that's gonna happen. I try to respect their wishes as much as I can but not EVERY day. That would be ridiculous. They'd be naked and gooned on screens 24/7. Like ferrel gamers. It would be fun to schedule in a "yes" day once in a while though. You might not even have to tell them. Although if you do, you'll get more credit for it later...

Step 3: Add water.

Summer is hot. And humid. And buggy. Honestly, it's probably the worst time of year to have long stretches of uninterrupted time. If your kids are like mine (i.e. they just can't in the heat), water is your new best friend. It can fix almost any situation (whining, fighting, boredom, etc.) and is readily available. I will post a few of our favorite water activities below but just remember, if all else fails, turn the hose on them.

Anderson Beach at Percy Priest Lake. I love, love, love this beach. It's close to home, cheap ($4 per car or $30 for the season), sandy, sunny (with lots of shady areas too), there are bathrooms and a playground (and picnic areas with bbq grills if you're more ambitious than I am) and...it's a beach. Not too shabby for middle Tennessee.

Renting a pontoon boat makes you instantly feel like you're on vacation. We did this a couple times last year and it was a blast. For me, boats are total memory makers. If you have friends with a boat, start hounding them NOW. If YOU have a boat, let me introduce you to your new best friends.

Splash Parks are good options for those days when the kids need to get out but you don't want to wear a swimsuit in public. We like Cumberland River Park best but have also played at Bicentennial Mall and in front of the courthouse downtown.

And if your kids don't know how to swim, NOW is the time for them to learn. Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in children (2nd only to car accidents). DON'T WAIT. Schedule lessons for your child now. (My pick? Brendan Sweetman Swimmers in Mt. Juliet.)

Step 4: Make a day of it! Nothing says summer break like leaving the house in the morning and returning much later in the day, all sun kissed and exhausted. It's easy to spend a full day at the beach or on a boat or hiking/picnicking/throwing rocks in a creek (I'm looking at you Beaman Park!), but there are other ways to do it, too.

One of our favorite all day excursions is right downtown. Start by walking across the pedestrian bridge from East Nashville to downtown, hit story time or a puppet show at the Downtown Library, grab lunch at Puckett's Grocery, stop by Robert's Western World for a Moon Pie and a little honky tonkin, then walk back across the bridge and spend the rest of the day playing at Cumberland River Park. Trust me - if you go all out once in a while, you can skate for days without anyone complaining that they're bored.

on the bridge with my sweet cousin last summer

Step 5: Use the buddy system. There is no reason to go at this thing alone. Team up with other families you like spending time with and EVERYONE has more fun. Plus, if you forget your sunscreen or don't want to be Sensai Wu again, there's a good chance someone will have you covered.

Bonus points: With other grown ups around, you might actually get to be in a picture with your kid!

Step 6: Stop trying so hard. Remember your summer vacation? Was it all incredible outings and Pinterest worthy picnics and playdates? Or were you like me and kinda bored for three months? I mean, don't get me wrong, I have lots of fond memories of summer vacation, and the boredom I remember is all nostalgic and lovely, but we didn't DO a whole heck of a lot. There were little things thrown in here and there (we picked out movies to rent every Wednesday, took swim lessons at the local pool, camped a little, and usually went to San Francisco at the end of the summer for back-to-school shopping and a Giants game), but there was also a lot of down time. I recall one year that seems to have mainly consisted of microwave cheese quesadillas and switching off between Dirty Dancing and Raising Arizona (my mom had a full time job that summer). Boredom is not the enemy. Best case scenario it leads to creativity. Worst case? Character.

Step 7: Don't reinvent the wheel. This is by no means the end-all be-all list of things to do this summer (it's not even really a list). You know why? Because there are already so many great lists! The blog Surburban Turmoil has a doozy (plus another one I got tired just reading!), all the free magazines have calendar listings and my personal fave, Ms. Cheap's Guide to Summer can be found right here

Enjoy your summer! xo

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