We teachers sometimes have a hard time taking off our teacher hats in the summer. And for those of us with kids, transitioning from full-time teacher to full-time parent isn't easy. We spend most of our days around other people's children, and the unfortunate side effect is that our own children sometimes feel like our students rather than our kids.
Further Reading: Career-Boosting Summer Activities for Teachers
Summer vacation is the perfect time for us to turn our attention back to and reconnect with our kids. Balance is hard to find during the school year, and it takes a conscious effort to achieve it during the summer, too. Here are four tips to help you make the most of summer vacation with your kids.
1. Don't Be Their Teacher
School has been difficult for my youngest son. He's only in elementary school, but he's struggling with reading, he's behind in math, and his handwriting makes me cringe.
This broke my heart as his mom, but as a teacher, I felt ashamed. I thought that teachers' kids would have an easy time in school, and I felt guilty that I hadn't worked with him more. So last summer I decided to make up for lost time. I planned daily lessons and scheduled an hour every morning for the two of us to "do school." I downloaded Epic! and Raz-Kids; I thought they might make for a fun and productive learning experience.
Boy, was I wrong.
My son hated it and cried almost every day. Eventually, I cried, too. I wasn't helping him improve. I was ruining his summer—both our summers. After a few miserable weeks, I abandoned my plan.
It's hard to come home after a day of teaching and help your own kids with their schoolwork. We feel guilty about not having the time or the energy, but trying to overcompensate by becoming our own child's teacher in the summer isn't the answer.
Summer is your opportunity to not be a teacher. Enjoy this time to just be a parent.
2. Don't Spend Every Waking Second with Them
One of the best things about being a teacher is not having to find or pay for childcare in the summer, right? But hear me out: you should do it anyway.
Being with your kids all the time isn't fun for you or them. Spending every minute of summer with your kids won't afford you the time to recharge for another school year. And if you spend all of your time with your kids, then none of that time is quality time. So find opportunities to pawn your kids off on grandparents, friends, or babysitters. Or enroll them in summer activities that will keep them occupied and allow you to cheer from the sidelines while getting a break.
I know two teachers who are married and have children together. They could easily save some money over the summer and keep their kids home with them every day. But they send their kids to daycare twice a week so that they can enjoy afternoon golf dates and lunches, or just some quiet time to themselves. When the whole family is together, everyone is excited for some quality time.
By giving yourself some actual child-free time in the summer, you'll appreciate the time you spend with your children more—and be more ready to deal with other people's kids again in the fall.
3. Don't Over- or Underschedule
I tend to start the summer by decluttering neglected closets, starting home improvement projects, and planning at least one daily activity—and I end the summer so unproductive that I can hardly finish making dinner or folding the laundry.
Summer is a tricky thing. We're accustomed to such a brisk school-year schedule that it takes a while to decompress once summer vacation comes around. Absent that schedule, it's hard to stay productive and make time for activities with the kids.
You might be tempted to stick with your mercilessly paced school-year schedule during the summertime. Or you might be tempted to rebel against it—to throw out bedtimes, to disregard mealtimes, and to obliterate all routines. Split the difference: keeping a schedule, but keeping it open. A modified schedule will help keep you and your kids better regulated and productive—while enjoying a more leisurely summer pace together.
4. Don't Miss Out on Teacher Discounts
I've missed out on chaperoning my kids' school field trips, and that's always been a big source of teacher guilt. Summer break is when I try to make it up to them—and luckily many places offer discounts for teachers.
Check the websites of your local museums, zoos, or attractions—or contact them directly—to see if they offer teacher discounts. The website teacher.org lists discounts on national attractions such as Universal Studios, Legoland, and Graceland, and it's a great reference for summer activities. If you're planning to travel with your children over the summer, be sure to look for teacher deals on sites such as Teacher Travel Discounts or Westgate Resorts.
Further Reading: 3 Ways to Score Discounted Summer Travel for Teachers
Teachers don't have to become superparents in the summer to compensate for how busy they are during the school year. Savor the slower pace by balancing fun with your kids and relaxing solo time this summer.