Planning for summer

| education, life, planning

J-‘s now on her summer break. We’ve been thinking of ways to help her use her summer well. There’ll be time for unstructured play and for hanging out with friends, of course, but it’s also good to help her develop initiative and life skills, fighting the temptations of video games along the way.

Both W- and I are working through summer because we’re saving our vacation days for Kathy’s upcoming wedding, so J- will need to be self-driven. She’s pretty good at dealing with the inevitable what-do-I-do-now moments (and we all get those, if we’re lucky). She often practises piano or ukulele, reads a book, or hangs out with friends. We can help by setting some challenges, nudging her to work on mastery or life skills, and giving her feedback on how she’s doing (such as for writing or math exercises).

Overall plans for the summer:

  • Read
  • Practise music
  • Hang out with friends
  • Prepare for next school year
  • Work on life skills

It’s often easier to pick from a list than to think of something to do in the moment, so here are some ideas for things to do:


  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Exercising
  • Running, playing in the park


  • Reading a book (critical reading – maybe discussion at dinner?)
  • Working on reading exercises
  • Working on math exercises
  • Going to the library


  • Drawing (comics, sketches, etc.) – maybe put together a sketchbook or comic book
  • Writing notes, stories, and so on
  • Playing the piano or the ukulele
  • Visiting the AGO, the ROM, the science centre, etc.
  • Taking pictures
  • Exploring arts and crafts (ex: collage, sculpting)

Life skills

  • Learning how to cook
  • Making life better: cleaning, tidying, looking for ways to improve, etc.
  • Volunteering (Free Geek?)
  • Learning life skills: taking public transit, biking, etc.
  • Negotiating/persuading


  • Hang out with friends
  • Play video games (time-limited?)
  • Play board games

We’ll encourage her to add to this list, too.

We like the way her school uses rubrics to make it clear what excellence looks like. We’re not planning to use one to grade J- for her summer work – grading summer! what a thought – but it might be useful to work out one with her so that she can self-evaluate how she’s spending her time and so that she can motivate herself to push her limits. W- and I thought about the process first so that we can guide her through planning her own. Here’s the draft W- and I came up with:

Category 1 2 3 4
Physical Sat on couch all day / stayed indoors Basic calisthenics Extended physical activity Stretching your limits
Mental Played video games all day / watched TV all day 1 unit of work 2 units of work 3 units of work
Creative No creative output Drew / wrote / practised piano/ukulele / etc. Memorized part of a song / New story/comic/drawing to share Discussion of work
Life skills Mess Cleaned up after self Cleaned up after cats Made life better / cleaned up after others
Technology Played video games or surfed the Internet all day Practised IT skills (typing, presentations, etc.) Created something using technology and shared it with us or others Learned something on your own / experimented with tools

Thinking of ways to build scaffolds for J-‘s learning through these lists of ideas and rubrics for self-evaluation inspires me to make some of these for myself, too.

What would my discretionary-time activities look like?


  • Biking
  • Exercising
  • Gardening


  • Reading a book, maybe blogging notse
  • Improving development skills


  • Drawing – sketches, presentations, etc.
  • Writing notes, stories, blog posts
  • Playing the piano
  • Visiting the AGO, the ROM, the science centre, etc.
  • Taking pictures

Life skills

  • Preparing a new recipe or experimenting with a familiar one
  • Making life better: cleaning, tidying, looking for ways to improve, etc.
  • Learning how to drive

What would a rubric for myself look like?

Category 1 – minimal 2 – acceptable 3 – good 4 – awesome
Physical Sat and worked all day / stayed indoors Worked at standing desk / did some gardening Turned the compost / exercised Exercised for hours
Mental Did OK at work Solved new problems or built new functionality at work Read one or more books Worked on learning a new skill / Shared what I was learning
Creative No creative output Blogged / practised piano Created and shared pictures or sketches Learned a new technique / memorized part of a song
Life skills Mess Cleaned up after self Cleaned up after others Made life better
You can comment with Disqus or you can e-mail me at