The Weekly Spark: prepare for your Summer of Intentionality

photo by Denise Beall

It is that time again.  What time, you wonder.  Time to start working on my summer plans.  I call this project my Summer of Intentionality and it was born from something a friend’s family did while he was growing up.

Here’s the story:

For many summers, I worked at a holistic residential summer enrichment program for high school students called Love of Learning.  The program always began with a very intense, often emotional staff retreat to help us form bonds and make plans that would enrich our work.  Usually, the retreat started with the writing of personal mission statements.  I LOVED writing my mission statement and hearing everyone else’s.  One of my closest co-workers was a dear friend who was a year behind me in school.  One year, he include part of Rudyard Kipling’s If in his mission statement, adding the words from the top of his head as he and I worked in the corner with some candy between us.

“Dude, how did you know that?”  I asked, impressed.

And that’s when he shared about the coolest parenting strategy I’ve ever heard.

Every summer that he was growing up, his parents sat him down and said, “what all do you want to do this summer?”  And he would come up with this super list:  go to the local amusement park, check out a pro or semi-pro baseball game, have a friend spend the night, camp out, go to the beach, you know the stuff every kid wants to do in the summer.

They then said, “what do you want to learn or experience this summer” and that list would read like: learn how to throw a football spiral, identify 5 insects, write grandma three times, read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, etc. Then his parents would add their own things to the learn or experience list like “Memorize Rudyard Kipling’s If”, “volunteer”, etc.

Next, they’d line up reward with experience.  Write your grandma three times, you can go camping, etc.  Memorize Kipling’s If and you get to go to a baseball game.   Those lists hit the refrigerator and then it was up to my friend, by being intentional about how he spent his time, to make things happen.  If he did what was on the “to experience” list, he earned what was on the ”to do” list.  Hence, more than a decade later, he still had If (a great poem for a kid to know) in his head.  Does it come as NO surprise that this friend is the one whose parents let him fall asleep reading? 

So, a few years ago, I drew upon this memory and started my own version of what his parents did that I call Summer of Intentionality.  At that point, it was just a list of things that I wanted us to do as a family.  Last year, when Happy was three, we did give him a challenge that linked what he did/experienced with a fun item.  Because Happy was fixated on reading the same books over and over again, we encouraged him to let us read him 100 different books in exchange for a surprise.  Happy was super motivated and we read 100 different books in about 3 weeks and his surprise was an afternoon at the movies.  He asked if we could do it again with another 100 books so we did (and we went to the movies again!).  We will try to step it up a bit more this summer with Happy earning some fun things to do through SoI but we will also just have some fun things on our list just because.

When I have my list put together, I’ll share it here and then update you over the summer with how it is going.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you.  Could you see Summer of Intentionality working in some way or form at your house?  What would you put on your list for you?  How about for your family members?

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