Posts tagged summer slide
How to have the best summer with your kids: The Summer Explorers

Do you know how many school days there are left for your children?

I do–19.

I would describe my feelings about 19 days left as a lively mixture of anticipation, excitement, and . . . dread. Summer has all sorts of blissful expectations (particularly in this part of the world where good weather shines on us a few months a year), and I so want it to be a fun, low-key, fabulous time for my three children AND me. The ten-week summer is also a ton of time together–potentially getting on each other nerves, saying "I'm bored" too often, and falling back on electronic devices for each of us.

But I'm not going to let my fledgling fears get in the way of a great summer. So, here's what I'm doing, and I really hope you'll join in, too.

We're going to approach our summer with a spirit of curiosity. Curiosity builds to creativity and diverse ways to view the world and the people who inhabit it. 

So we begin with this - what do you want to learn this summer? And we pursue their ideas. Secondly, we make our days colorful, messy, loud, and smelly. Many of the wonderful crafts and kitchen experiments that you may remember from childhood can be used to teach real learning, scientific concepts, art history, and so much more. There are also easy and high-quality projects you can do together with your kids that will make the summer weeks memorable and full.

I want to equip me and you with the best tools and possibilities to make this summer awesome. I’ve studied art to discover that possibilities are limitless, and I’ve studied education to learn how to share this knowledge with children. Bundling my experience with our need and desire to make this a wonderful June, July and August, let's be:



While it's been quiet here on the blog, I've been working on a book project that I'm transforming into weeks of fabulous information and projects for you and your kids!!! I'm so delighted to offer full, detailed weeks of ideas with printables, instructions, links, and how tos you can use right away (in 19 days!!).

You can select a la carte and receive a specific topic week, or you can invest in the whole summer and move ideas around to fit your schedule. These downloads will save you all the searching on Pinterest and Googling, eliminate the midday ponderings of what to do next, and they'll equip you with fun facts to make all the creating together a rich learning experience, too.


I want to offer you a built-in back up - a community of smart and involved moms who want to enjoy their summer, too!! With my pal, Amy Christie of This Heart of Mine, we're putting our heads together to form THE STRESS LESS MAMA. This group will be your pep squad, your tutor, your wicked smart best friend, and your spot to share all the hilarious that comes up. Amy and I are delighted to get to know and to help moms be more present and more themselves through tips, ideas, strategies, and the secret sauce (well, really, there's no secret sauce, but we'll dream together, m'kay?)

Please click over to see all of the bells and whistles I want to send your way!! Let's make this a wonderful summer for us AND our kids.


Summer Reading Printable
Make summer reading goals fun! Use this gumball machine printable to set goals and show progress. Printing now!

Make summer reading goals fun! Use this gumball machine printable to set goals and show progress. Printing now!

The best part of summer is . . .

We'd all fill in the blank just a little differently, right? For me and my oldest daughter, summer reading would be right at the top of the list. The freedom to select any book, the great expanse of time (at least in childhood) to immerse yourself in the story, spending lazy afternoons in a hammock with your favorite characters!! So good.

Our local library does a wonderful job of incentivizing time spent reading, encouraging children to track every 10 minutes spent reading or listening to someone read to them. For every 10 minutes, they color in a bubble on a big sheet to keep track of how much reading they're doing. Once they build up to 250 minutes, they receive a fun pack of restaurant coupons and stickers. The 10-minute increment feels like just enough for my 5-year old, and my 8- and 10-year olds can't wait to rack up bubbles. I like that it's time spent reading and not number of books or pages because those often move all of us to speed read or breeze over some of the best books!

Is reading a favorite part of your summer? Try this to help your children adopt the same interest! Free printable.

Is reading a favorite part of your summer? Try this to help your children adopt the same interest! Free printable.

Inspired by the good work of our local library, we created our own goal this summer - a family goal. How much time will all five of us (parents included!) spend reading? Knowing that the girls that spent 24 and 27 hours in reading last summer, we went big and bold with 100 hours as a family!

We're already digging in.

Set a family reading goal this summer! Let your children know that reading is important to you, too.

Set a family reading goal this summer! Let your children know that reading is important to you, too.

To track our family progress, we created this poster-sized gumball machine printable. For every ten minutes any of us reads, we get to stamp on a gumball. We have a ton of the dot markers from preschool days so we're using those as the gumballs, but colored circles or dot stickers would work just as well.

We've only just begun, but it's already fun to see all that we can accomplish together. And from previous summers I know that the joy of filling in a bubble or stamping a gumball quickly transitions into the delight of a good plot and the joy of moving the bookmark.

I created a letter-sized printable for your children to track their goal and work to reach it! Post the gumball machine somewhere that everyone can cheer along (and make sure it's cheer only and not criticism). You can, of course, do individual tracking with this free printable or subscribe to the newsletter and get a free printable poster to track family goals.



We haven't pinned down what our final goal will obtain - maybe a trip to the bookstore with a book for everyone? Or a field trip into the library in Chicago? Undetermined but I love that none of us are too worried about it. It's the reading in between that brings the most fun.

If you're joining us in the 18 Summers Challenge and are wondering what's up for tomorrow, we're making the most of strawberry season with an easy strawberry shortcake that you and the kids can create together. Or you can make it all for yourself because strawberries are good for you, right?

xoxo, MJ

Let Endless Summer begin!

Welcome to it, my friends!! A new series launching today and coming to you every Wednesday this summer. I've teamed up with some of my favorite mommas in the blogosphere to bring you fun and to keep your kiddos engaged in fabulous projects.

Let me introduce you to the gorgeous gals collaborating with me on Endless Summer:

This is going to be an amazing summer thanks to these ladies. We are showing you parties and recipes, backyard fun and art projects, and a few charmed surprises that will make you wish on an evening star for a few more days of childhood. So tell your friends and pull on some play clothes!

Melissa is starting us off with a great mosaic project. My kids are going to love this one!! How about yours?

xoxo, MJ

PS. Come on back tomorrow for a thoughtful way to capture this year's school memories for your children. I promise, it's a really good one.


Prepping for Mommy and Daddy School


In my worklife, I have the grand opportunity to attend many lectures and conferences on the latest trends and research in education. As I've mentioned before, my husband and I are both trained educators with fond remembrances of the rich habitat of a classroom, and I enjoy dipping back into these forums whenever I get the chance.


While attending a panel discussion yesterday on the state of science and math education, I was intrigued by new-to-me concepts of making science come alive and relate to children of all levels and backgrounds. And as a brilliant scholar narrowed the conversation to a single thread, I was struck by his question:

Where is the possibility to pursue your curiosity?

He argued (well) that science should be, foremost, a pursuit of our curiosities - a way for each of us to make sense of the physical world around us.

Fast forward ----> This brings me to another new summer feature here on Pars Caeli, Mommy & Daddy School. Because my husband and I are both teachers by formation, it's just in our blood to want to "teach" our children. Of course this happens all the time during the school year. Parents are the first and primary educators of their children. But, in the summertime, we take it to a different level and run our beloved Mommy & Daddy School.

Research has proven that children learn best when the learning is continuous. Don't we all?

I want my children to be lifelong, everyday learners, curious and inquisitive about the world to which they contribute. I also want them to know and feel that knowledge is powerful.

And so as June approaches, furniture and traffic patterns change. Our cozy red, mission-inspired dining room is converted into a space for curiosity. And these multipurpose 9-cubes from Target find their way up from our playroom and are prepped to house projects, books, folders, and anything else that catches our fancy. Note: this is them before. Soon you'll no longer be able to tell they're white because we cover them with labels and "really interesting stuff."

I have three little people with whose amazing minds I get to work - ages 7, 5, and 2, and I want to make sure that each feels honored and encouraged in the space.


And so that means along with these lovely white spaces ready to be filled, we also have lots of these...because little L's loudest wish on the big summer list was to build lots of legos. So you better believe that we have lots of legos and a lego table in here for him (and because he has two older sisters, there's a lot of pink legos, too).

I believe children need open space in which to explore their questions, a structure on which to organize their answers, and a gallery in which to share it with the world. What does this mean practically? A large table, individual storage space, lots of writing and creating materials.


We're just starting up our learning, and I love to begin by asking them what they want to learn this summer because these ideas are our primary curriculum! I'm always surprised by what they offer. Here's where we stand:

M: learn to use a sewing machine
C: learn to go all the way across the monkey bars by myself
L: learn to ride bike without training wheels (this is gonna be a tough one at two, but we'll definitely work towards it)

We also start off by measuring each other and making a great big growth chart on which we also measure other important items (like special blankets and toys) to learn how other objects compare to us in size.

All of these artifacts get posted in the "red room" for us to look at all summer long.

I love being surrounded by my children's accomplishments and dreams. It's a room of such energy.

Follow along every Wednesday as we explore some of the fun activities and projects taking place in Mommy & Daddy school. We'll be reading, crafting, exploring nature, taking on great IPad apps, praying, exercising, experimenting and more! Phew, and taking naps.

How do you nurture your curiosity? Is there a space in your home for you or your children to do so? I'd love to hear!

Thanks so much for popping over! Happy Wednesday.


PS. Here are some great ideas from education experts on simple ways you can keep learning together this summer.