A mom’s agenda for all out of school time is to get them occupied with open-ended activities that grow skills. The key ones are:
Musical instruments of all sorts:
Practicing on an instrument can use up hours, gaining a lifetime skill and developing the brain, the body, and the character at the same time. The better they become, the more they practice voluntarily, because the enjoyment starts giving back to them. Start with just having them work through a simple beginner book. Instrument possibilities include recorder flutes, the ukelele, harmonica (a high-end one), marimba, and (of course) piano. Stay away from guitars and drums, which can lead to bands with questionable characters and self ego puffing by emulating rock stars—a dead end. There is simply nothing to equal piano playing for a beginning musician, for brain development and raising IQ because it works both hemispheres of the brain. I require it for every child, right up there with math and history. Aim for having a child become accomplished only on the level of the EZ play books, which are super simple but are still a challenge. (For more on choosing a musical instrument, see our booklet or e-book by that title.)
Work at increasing their distance, speed and strength against their personal best in aerobic and strength training. Also: large ball exercises—the kind you can sit on.
Put up charts for each child and increase their personal best numbers/time/capacity DAILY—in actual scores written on their charts.
A serious reading program:
Read for at least a half hour a day, progressing through deep content-rich books: biographies, creation books, missionary stories, self-help books, histories, etc. Get them started at making a list in a 3-ring notebook of every book they read for the rest of their lives. This should eventually number in the thousands. As the old adage goes, “We become what we are through the people we meet and the books we read.” They need to log it in. For book recommendations, see Melanie’s favorite books list.
Get them hearing those quarters clink in a piggy bank every day but one. Some part of the day must be spent in earning money: jobs for the neighbors and jobs for you. Invent them. if you need to. There is no end of small landscaping projects, such as lining up the rocks along this path, etc. Again, get your children in the practice of logging their money earned and money spent into a little book—just like Benjamin Franklin did. (For much more on this, read our Sure Financial Steps for Beginners.)
Meal planning and other regular domestic responsibilities of each person’s daily life:
Each child becomes responsible for planning, buying and executing one meal a week. Perhaps it’s a noon meal or breakfast to start with. Likewise, doing their own laundry. Set up each child with his/her own laundry basket, which that child oversees on their own time at the washing machine and then hanging out their own laundry outside, using a clothesline or a rack. Avoid using the dryer if you can; the manual effort creates more work for them, and it makes their clothes last longer and be far fresher. Do you get the gist of everything we’re doing here? We’re preparing them to take over the house chores completely, thereby becoming skilled at running their own home someday. (For ideas for you and for them, see What? I have to fix dinner again?!)
Arts and crafts:
Ideas include kits for building model airplanes, cars, etc. The gluing takes up enormous quantities of time. Knitting, sewing, tailoring, landscape drawing, portrait drawing…all self-taught from books borrowed from the library.