295 | Planning for Making Family Memories In Your School Year (Jessica Smartt)
Links and Resources:
- Smartter Each Day
- Jessica Smartt Instagram
- The Holiday Your Family's Missing Out On
- Memory-Making Mom: Building Traditions That Breathe Life Into Your Home
- Our Family's Bucket List for Our Elementary-Aged Kids
As homeschool parents, we are usually great at planning for the academic school year - setting goals and selecting curricula. But have you planned for family adventures in your school year? In this episode, Jessica encourages parents to remember the “why” of their choice to homeschool, and to build in opportunities to create traditions and adventure, including her favorite “Annual Family Day.”
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Hi, this is Jessica Smartt. I'm one of the hosts of the Homeschool Solutions podcast. It's good to be with you today. You can find me online on Instagram @Jessica.Smartt and my blog is Smartter Each Day. Looks misspelled, but it's not. And check out my books. Now's a great time to pick up Let Them Be Kids as well as Memory Making Mom. You can find those on Amazon or wherever books are sold. And today we're talking about making room in your planning for family adventures. As I'm recording this, we're launching into the new school season. And if you're like me, you've been doing a lot of planning, and that probably involves spreadsheets and calendars and a lot and lot of curricula on different things and setting goals. And I think that's well and good. And I spend time doing the same thing, but I also think that it's important that we consider our family atmosphere and the goals and traditions that we're trying to uphold for each year.
I don't know about you, but I didn't just begin homeschooling for academic reasons. In fact, a lot of them were more for family culture reasons. I wanted to produce a kind of environment where we could make memories and have fun together and spend quality time together. So if that's one of my main goals, it would make sense that instead of focusing solely on academics, I would also take a minute and think about the other things— making time to create memories together. And so I definitely think fall can be one of the better times to do this for homeschoolers, for the simple reason that everyone else is back at school and all the fun things have a lot less lines and crowds than they normally do.
So as you're launching your school year, one thing I wanted to talk about today was how to host a family day. And this is an idea that I learned from a good friend of mine who said they realized that their year held a lot of celebrating different things, but they didn't ever celebrate their own particular nuclear family, which is something they were so grateful for. We have birthdays and anniversaries and we celebrate moms on Mother's Day and dads on Father's Day. And of course, then all of the religious holidays or national ones. But there isn't really a day to celebrate your family and my family. And so my friend decided to create— her name is Clark, and so it was the Clark Family Day. And this is an annual tradition for them.
So I'm just going to kind of talk through what it has become to us. I followed a lot of her guidelines, and you can also see this in written form on my blog, and that link will be in the show notes. So as you're thinking about your family day, the most important thing is that you're going to want to enjoy being together, which should go without saying. But there's no reason in doing something that I've said or someone else has done; it should be particularly enjoyable to your actual family that you have. And of course that varies with all the stages and ages that we all have, and families just have different likes and dislikes. So it should suit your needs. I'll talk through some of the ideas that we've done.
When we lay it out, we always make sure that we're doing something we've never done before. And I think this is important because it creates a new element of memory making and a little bit of excitement. So some things that we've done: we rented a boat, we rented a camper, we hiked a mountain, we went to a cliff jumping park at a quarry. We've also done bowling and just some other activities that our family had never tried but since have done again. So we always have one main activity for the day. And again, the reason that this is so well-suited for the fall is because you can often get reservations at places with a lot less crowds, and it's also just not quite as hot to do some of the outdoor things. So we take a day. I know that my friend usually takes a weekday. That's not really feasible for us with my husband's job, so it's always been a Saturday. If you can take a weekday, that even makes it better and a lot of times you can get great deals. For instance, when we did rent our boat, there was actually a half price. That was the one year we did it on a weekday because it was significantly cheaper.
So anyway, we pick an activity for the bulk of the day. We always eat our very special foods. My son has food allergies and so we are really limited in the restaurants that we could go to. If he didn't have food allergies, I would definitely enjoy some quality restaurant food, even takeout or donuts or something special so that I didn't have to work and also just to make the day more special. But for us, we're making everything from scratch. So in the morning, I'll always do something that we love. You know, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, French toast, blueberry crumb cake. Something along those lines. It takes a little bit of time, and I try to prep that in advance just for less work, because there's always a lot of packing up and heading out. So we have a really yummy breakfast.
And then I also try to make— usually our lunch is packed because it coordinates with the activity we're doing. But I always try to make it a little more fun— get like some really nice sandwich meat and rolls and potato chips they're a little more interesting than I'd usually get. My family adores fruit, so I always make sure we have plenty of— maybe I'll make up an individual fruit salad for everybody with all the berries and cherries that they love. And a special dessert and drinks and stuff like that.
So usually, historically, our activities have been pretty exhausting in the morning, and then we enjoy some lowkey time in the afternoon and take the opportunity to watch a movie as a family that we've never seen before. And watching a movie together as a family— I confess I tend to be type A, productive, and sitting down to watch a movie feels sometimes like not the greatest use of time. I know that's just a preference, but that's how I run. But my kids love when we sit down and watch the movie with them. And in my book Let Them Be Kids, at the end, I have a list of movies to show your kids before they leave your home, and there's a ton of good ideas in there. One of them that we enjoyed this year was the old Parent Trap with Hayley Mills that my kids had never seen but my husband and I both watched plenty of times as kids, and they adored it. They really love it. Once you kind of get past the pixelation and it's not a high quality movie by today's standards, they really got into it and enjoyed it. So that's a great time to kind of do like a classic or something, but certainly something that all the family could enjoy. And again, we try to do one we've never seen just to make it more special.
So after we do that, we're on to our dinner. And again, it's going to be a really special dinner: steak or— one thing that we love to do— there's a restaurant around us that's called Bad Daddy's Burger Bar. I don't know if any of you are in the Southeast, it might sound familiar. But I have Bad Mommy's Burger Bar, which is kind of a funny name. And at Bad Daddy's, you check off all the things you want on your burger. So I made a menu that has all of the hilarious toppings and normal toppings, so they kind of choose. Do they want a breaded chicken sandwich, a grilled chicken sandwich, a turkey burger, a regular burger, a black bean burger—which don't hate on those because that's actually what my daughter and I always get, and they're really delicious. My black bean burgers are yummy. But anyway, then I will have like choose your side, choose your veggie, and then choose your dessert. This year we did a cookie skillet that I'd never tried before at home. So anyway, it's just a special thing.
After dinner, we always do an awards ceremony, and I have found that the kids absolutely adore this. We spend a little bit of time trying to think up things that we want to recognize in our children over the last year, and in the past, we've done things that— we've done dual awards, so each kid would get to one, emphasizing like a character trait that we've seen them have over the year. And we're very specific about where we saw that. For example, you really demonstrated patience as you learned your the guitar this year. Or we saw you demonstrate bravery as you tried a new sport or something like that. You were a great big sister to the new baby. Those kinds of things. And then one is kind of either funny or just like an outside something that we observed in them. Maybe they went to camp for the first time and we want to do an award that's memorable about that. Or they've told some funny jokes, or they learned to read this year, or just— I don't know. Those are kind of more wild card, but something more fun. But still recognizing things that we see in them. And what's really neat is noticing their little faces when my husband is the emcee of this ceremony and they just soak it in, hearing those affirmations. And of course, then I just print off a little certificate online and we fill it in like a normal award they would get.
So at the end of the day, we will play games, and we're usually pretty tired at the end of that. But it is one of our favorite traditions. And what I'd encourage you to do— it's never too late to start that, no matter how old your kids are, and they can always help you come up with the activities. You might get more buy-in if you have older kids with that, but I just also encourage you, as you're setting your goals for the year, to set goals for making family memories. And one way I like to do this is by working backwards. I had a conversation with a neighbor the other day who just married her first son off and she said, "I cannot believe that 18 years went by that quickly." He was younger. But she's like, "I can't believe that my kids are leaving the home and this is this stage is over. It goes so quickly. Take all the family vacations that you can and do all the things you can." And of course, these are things that we hear. But my oldest is now 12, and so it certainly is a little bit of a wake up call to think about how many summers you have left. I know that many of you listeners who have teens certainly understand that those years become especially more busy in the summer as they kind of develop their own lives and jobs and hobbies.
So we are looking—for my family—at a dwindling calendar. And my husband and I realized we have basically three summers left with my oldest before things get nuts. And we made a list just to kind of remind ourselves of some of the bucket list items we want to accomplish as a family. And when you put it on paper, it really helps to clarify some of the things that you may be doing that are time sucks and not serving your family's goals, whether it's competitive athletics or aggressive schedules with extracurricular or your own individual work schedules as a mom or dad. It was eye opening for my husband and I, and with those goals in mind, we are plotting out this year what we want to knock off already off of our family bucket list. And that's something I'm sharing on my blog this month. So look for notes in the show notes again for that link just to see my family's.
But such a awesome use of time just to recalibrate wherever you are. And even if you have little kids, I certainly think that it's great to think, "What do I want to do before my kids turn eight or ten?" Because there are a lot of things that may have been cool to do that—for my family—the ship has sailed a little bit as they're more in the elementary years or middle school. So I just encourage you to spend some time planning and as you're doing that, tag me on Instagram. If you've celebrated your family day, I'd love to see that. You can always use the hashtag #memorymakingmom. It's fun to see lots of you guys using that as you're making your memories. And just a reminder again that if you're interested in this topic and haven't picked up my book Memory Making Mom, it can assist you in setting some of those goals and it has tons of ideas for different traditions. So thanks for joining me today, guys. I hope you have a wonderful school year.
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