Homemade Summers

By Dianne Dibb Forbis

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    Try out 21 suggestions, long on imagination and short on expense, to make summer a success for your family.

    Summer’s here—so don’t let the most exciting happenings be cycles of sunburn and melting ice cubes! Why not plan a happy summer for the entire family? One or two brainstorming sessions could produce plans on how to best utilize available time, talent, and money to create both personal and family projects. These ideas suggest how some families can create some happy happenings for this summer.

    HAVE A SCHOOL TURNABOUT. Have Mom and Dad be students during a special summer school, and the children be the teachers for an hour or an entire afternoon a week. Preschoolers can share what they are learning in Sunday School. More ambitious and older youngsters could dig into reference material and construct their own curriculum—including homework!

    COMPILE A FAMILY HISTORY. Buy a blank-paged, hard-cover bound journal and take turns working on a family history. The book can perhaps change hands every other day. Children can record either their own experiences or the stories of parents and grandparents, while preschoolers can illustrate events, with Mom and Dad and others supplying details. “No, Julie, don’t draw any glasses on Daddy. When we got married he didn’t wear glasses.”

    THINK ABOUT CHRISTMAS IN JULY. Get a head start. Originate some unique ideas for making Christmas cards, wrapping paper, ornaments, and gifts—and even start to work on them.

    DO SERVICE PROJECTS. Commit yourselves to accomplish at least one summer service project as a family. Paint a widow’s house. Mow and trim all the lawns on your block. (That would be a happy shock for some neighbors!) Clean up a recreation area, with the approval of local authorities.

    FORM SOME PECULIAR PAIRINGS. Does your 15-year-old son really know what makes up and goes on in the world of his three-year-old sister? It might be interesting to pair off family members into unlikely groupings for a few days of official companionship. Dad might find himself helping 12-year-old Bonnie choose some good books to read at the library. Teenager Gary could be sailing down the slippery slide in the park for the first time in years. But one family member should not be expected to trail after the other the whole time. Take turns sharing in each other’s activities.

    SPONSOR A RECYCLING CONTEST. Make something useful out of throw-away items. (Preschoolers have a natural talent for this sort of thing.) At the end of the summer you could exhibit the items you’ve made and someone outside the family could judge the “best-in-show,” “funniest-looking,” etc.

    VISIT ANOTHER COUNTRY BY MAIL. With the help of returned missionaries or military personnel, contact a member of the Church overseas or in a remote corner of your own country by mail. Take each other on guided tours of your home towns.

    SPRUCE UP THE HOUSE. Is your environment everything it could be? Does the decor of your home reflect positive, happy moods? Consider your living quarters critically. What do you like and dislike about each room? What improvements could be made? Could creative thinking substitute for money? Let everyone swap ideas. Ten-year-old Mary might have the winning idea of what should go on 17-year-old Lucy’s wall.

    MAKE IT FROM SCRATCH MIXINGS. Each week experiment with making something from scratch: soap, soup, noodles, and so on. Let each member of the family help. Getting information is part of the fun—in addition to books and other printed material, consult knowledgeable and experienced individuals in the ward or community. You may make a new friend in the process!

    DECIDE ON A READING PROJECT. The purpose of this project is to check on reading material quality by keeping a comprehensive record of everything read by everyone in the family. Hang a long blank sheet of paper in the hall, give everyone a different colored marking pen, and let all family members mark what they’re reading every time they read anything during the day. After three or four weeks, evaluate the list. How many times did anyone write down one of the Church magazines? One of the standard works? Comic books? Encyclopedias? Cookbooks?

    INITIATE A GARDEN PROJECT. Involve the whole family in the garden by giving everyone stewardship over one or two rows or a section. Plant some mystery seeds just for fun.

    ORGANIZE MEMORABILIA. Sort through that boxful of sentimental items you’ve been harboring on the top shelf of the closet, and discard those items no longer valuable or meaningful to a family member. Then, for precious souvenirs, try a new display place. Bring your scrapbooks up to date, and put them within easy reach for everyone in the family. Make an interesting wall hanging from memorabilia for one of the bedrooms by using a little glue and a sturdy backing. More elaborate presentations could be put into a frame. Or, make a collage from parts of all the items in one category. For instance, a “Christmas 1971” collage could consist of a shiny corner from each Christmas card, arranged into an interesting design on posterboard or on an empty cereal box. Acrylic polymer medium can be used both as glue and as a coating.

    SPONSOR TV FORUMS. Have all family members look over the TV schedule for the coming week. Decide which programs the family should watch, allowing for individual preferences. Then watch only those programs the family selected. Have each family member make an effort to see at least part of each program so Dad will get an idea of what’s happening with the cartoon heroes, and the preschooler will get some exposure to football rules.

    One member of the family might have second thoughts about his favorite program. If nobody else finds it worthwhile, is it really that good? Have some TV forum time. Discuss which programs were enjoyable, which were disappointing, and which should probably not be viewed again. Try to pinpoint quality of the programs, not just personal preference.

    REVITALIZE YOUR SCRIPTURE STUDY PROGRAM. Summer is an ideal time to reinvest some thought in scripture study. Add some appealing features. Make it a family affair; maybe the family members could read in the cool of early morning on the patio or under evening stars by flashlight. Add special snacks and treats from time to time.

    HAVE A SPORTS PANORAMA. Devote each week during the summer to polishing up skills in a different sport or game. Some libraries have sports equipment that the family can check out. Family favorites, as well as new skills, could be part of the overall program. In 12 weeks you could cover everything from bike riding to Monopoly.

    REDISCOVER YOUR TOWN. How well do you know your own town? Have everyone draw a simple map of the major landmarks in town. Then take some family walks through some of the different areas, and find out something about their history.

    CREATE ADVENTURES IN EATING. Since more potential kitchen helpers are available during the summer, try to spend more time planning and preparing unique meals. Try some fancy recipes, or serve a French dish on one day and a German meal on another. Let different people cook. Work out some original family recipes, and then name them: croaking frog cookies, take-a-walk sandwich, pink rowboat soup. How about creating some new recipes using storage staples?

    LEARN A NEW SKILL. Let members of the family set individual goals to learn a new skill by the end of the summer. Have family members decide they want to be able to swim the length of the city pool, to complete one knitted item to wear, to know the alphabet. Have each person keep a record and check up on himself in midsummer. If work toward the goal isn’t progressing well, discuss together whether the goal is realistic. If not, alter it, select a new one, or have the person start pushing himself.

    HAVE A VACATION FOR A WEEK. Give each member of the family a special week sometime during the summer when he can be free from regular household chores. Make the week enjoyable for him—perhaps his favorite foods could be served during his “vacation.” If finances allow, each member could choose a favorite away-from-home activity that particularly appeals to him to participate in during his week. Maybe Jim chooses a ball game or Alice wants Mom to shop with her for school clothes one day.

    CATCH PICNIC MANIA. If your family likes picnics, go all out. Have plenty of reruns of the old standby, but try some new kinds: bring-a-friend picnic, progressive picnic, yellow-and-red picnic (all yellow and red foods), breakfast picnic, dessert picnic, treasure hunt picnic.

    PREPARE FOR A TRIP. If your summer includes a trip, spend a family home evening or other family-together time discussing possible itineraries. By joint agreement or by individual assignment, take care of all related matters. How much money could or should be spent on food? How many picnic lunches and restaurant stops does that make? Decide what clothing and personal items need to be packed. Then scratch everything that is not an absolute necessity off the list. Maybe each person could even be assigned a packing space. Don’t forget some en route activities—especially for young children.

    But most of all, get your imaginations working. Your family can probably come up with great elaborations on any of these ideas, or a whole set of new ideas tailor-made for you. One caution: don’t overschedule your summer. Leave some “lazy-and-alone” time. And remember that spur-of-the-moment ideas can be some of the best you’ll ever have.

    Illustrated by Phyllis Luch

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    • Sister Forbis, a homemaker and writer, serves as visiting teacher and mother training class teacher in Fairfield Second Ward Relief Society, Napa California Stake.