First of all, thanks to everyone who has visited and taken time to comment on the Momentum Optimization Project. I’m absolutely gobsmacked by the response–I guess all my friends who saw our List on the kitchen wall and commented that I really ought to share it were on to something.
Enough readers were wondering what I was planning for the summer to put a fire under my ass to make a summer plan. Summer is a really busy time for me, work wise, as the books I work on tend to go into production in the spring and they’re always late by May, which means I spend much of June and July trying to catch up. It’s also my favorite time of year to be not working–my little sleepy neighborhood comes to life in the summer, with the beach and the seasonal restaurants and music and tons of events. So my goal in the summer is just to get the entire work day done as early as possible–I get up in the wee, wee hours, around 4:30, and work until lunchtime. And then I have the afternoon to enjoy with the kids at the beach, or to work in the yard, or whatever.
To clarify: I do not do any summer camp stuff–the kids are on their own, but I’m in the house. My office is in the basement, which is also where the other computers live. Because I don’t have to get the kids up/dressed/out, I can work straight through the morning. As a result, I’m way more productive than I am during the same hours in the school year, when my morning is disrupted by the school launch pattern (after all, I have as much, if not more, of a momentum issue as they do). My goal is to keep them out of my hair during those work hours, and at 11 and 14 years of age, I think that is a pretty reasonable expectation. And in fact, it pretty much worked out last summer without any plan at all. But they did make a mess of the place while I was working. I’m trying to break that pattern this year.
So here’s what I do, and I’m quite certain it won’t work for everyone.
In the summer, I just let them stay up pretty much as late as they want, and then sleep as late as they want in the morning. Yes, that means they spend a lot of the nighttime hours in front of screens, and after my husband and I have gone to bed. I set the limit on the computer at midnight, but they can stream TV in their rooms after that if they want to. It’s summertime, after all, and when I was a kid I spent the long summer nights in front of the TV and I’m perfectly fine (at least I think so). They’ve proven themselves pretty responsible about Internet use, and the older one does a solid job of policing the younger one online (although the younger is more of a night owl and at least once last summer I woke at 4:30 to find her still sitting awake, watching Futurama reruns on Netflix). Clearly, this is not an option for every family, but I feel ok about letting my kids have some free range, both online and in the real world.
My general rule is: Sunshine = no computers (rainy days are another matter). I don’t specifically say “no computers in the morning,” but since all the computers are in our basement, where the “room of requirement” and my office share a large, open area, the kids are basically banned from the basement, and thus the computers, during my work hours. They can watch some TV upstairs in the morning, as long as they’ve done The List. And the summertime List is different from the school year List. Or at least it will be, since this will be the first official summer of the Momentum Optimization Project.
Here’s the revised List for this summer:
The big change here are that they now have several chores that they are both expected to complete each day (including cleaning the bathroom), in addition to the old “your room is tidy” rule and spending just a little time on summer school work. These chores will be permanent–they’ll be expected to keep them up during the school year as well.
The old list had a “pick a chore” rule, and a separate chore chart. That’s been replaced with a set of index cards, strung on a binder ring, with a different assigned chore for each day. I started with a short version a few weeks ago:
This index card method works better than an assigned schedule (this on Monday, that on Tuesday), I think, because it’s more flexible. If we are not home for a day, or just slack off (and we do slack off
sometimes often), we’re not waiting an extra week to, say, have the bathroom cleaned, just an extra day. And I can easily tweak the schedule as we go, by adding/subtracting/reshuffling the cards.
So, now we’ve got a 14-day cycle, with a mix of big/small chores; each day, they are assigned one task in addition to the “daily chores” on The List, Here’s the current rotation:
- Purging boogie (find 3-5 things that you don’t want/don’t fit/can’t use and put them in the trash or donate box)
- Clean out the van
- Help plan and make dinner (my husband suggested this one; he wants them to figure out what to cook, do (or help with) the shopping, and help prepare a meal)
- Bathroom: Weekly clean (this comes up twice a cycle; I assign the upstairs to the elder and downstairs one week, and reverse it the other, since upstaris generally gets messier than downstairs)
- Straighten up the room of requirement
- Clear and dust your desk
- Clear your dressers/shelves and dust them off
- Dust everything else in your room (trophies, books, headboard, poster frames, windows, ceiling fan)
- Purge/organize one drawer in your room
- Sweep floors downstairs (granted, this needs to be done every day, but it’s not something I’ve ever relied on them to do. So, we’ll make them do it once a cycle and see how it goes).
And finally, I’ve added in what I think of as a late afternoon re-boot, to force them to get involved in end-of-day household recovery as well:
I’m already realizing that I need to add another bullet: Evening pickup (i.e., go around the first floor and pick up anything you’ve left in the living room, dining room, etc. and put it away–it’s mostly shoes and books).
This might seem to leave a lot of room for computer time, and it does, but not to a degree that I think is problematic. After all, in the evening that “free” computer time is competing with evening card games, bbqs, pool parties, and other face-to-face family and friend time. So while they might sit for six hours one night glued to Minecraft or one or another Steam game, there’s plenty of nights where they don’t have time to even look at the computer until 10 or 11 pm.
So that’s the plan for this summer. And to paraphrase Dwight D. Eisenhower, planning may be useless, but planning is everything. We’ll see how it works and tweak as we go, and report back here. I encourage anyone who’s trying their own list to report back as well.