Tag: Back To School

When You Have a Less Than Perfect Summer


You probably saw this meme (or some version of it) pop up in your news feed. All moms start out excited for the laid back summer months and with wide eyed optimism declare that this will be the BEST summer ever! We make “summer bucket lists” and plan big magical vacations. We hit the ground running with so much enthusiasm that if it were a ball it would choke a horse. Then we run out of crafts, take all the trips, the kids eat all the good snacks and we lose every ounce of patience. That’s when the count down to school drop off begins again.

I had a very simple (perfect) plan for this summer. The girls would attend a summer program for six weeks. And in that six weeks I would complete every neglected home project, automate my blog posts, organize all my meals and buy all the school supplies. I’d be so far ahead of the game come September I’d be taking time off for massages and pedicures! All those perfect plans came to a screeching halt when I got the call the night before our summer program was scheduled to begin that it is cancelled. Also cancelled are my hopes and dreams. I do not have a plan B. There is no plan B when you already have a perfect plan A. All the slots for other camps are either taken or we cannot afford them. As a result I am left scrambling. I quickly realize I got this, I’ll just keep doing what we do every summer. I schlep, the kids whine. It’s how we do.

Except this summer. 




This summer I decided to embrace this less than perfect plan. Not because I am #blessed with one more summer with my kids. Not because I am going to turn this around and still make it the #bestsummerever. I decided to embrace the chaos this summer because I am tired. Just so darned tired of holding us all together. Holding my household together and holding my blogging life together. I’m just plain tired. And ya know what? So are my kids. They are tired of my drill sergeant antics pushing them out the door to be perfectly on time for activities. They are tired of getting in the car every single morning to venture off to someplace they did not pick, or to go do a craft they could care less about. None of these activities are for them. They are for me.

I chose to be a stay at home mom nearly 7 years ago (it was supposed to be only 1 year. Another plan that didn’t go accordingly). It has taken nearly all 7 years to discover my kids and I are different people. I just sort of assumed we are a package deal. We spend so much of our waking hours (sometimes our sleeping hours) together that we call ourselves, “the three amigas!” It never occurred to me until this summer that we are nothing alike. We have much in common, but we are so completely different. I am extroverted and I need people. My kids are introverts and they need to be home. Staying home too long can drive me crazy. And so I plan things to do outside the house and force my kids into all kinds of activities. I scream. They cry. We all cry. Rinse, lather, repeat.



It’s now August. I’ve embraced this chaos for a month which feels like much longer. As a result I made zero blog posts for July. I have made zero business contacts and I have only completed 0.02% of my home projects. We haven’t done very many crafts and we skipped taking a summer vacation. But we have a (bitty) pool and a new basket ball hoop. I’ve read two books and I took an overnight getaway to the beach with a friend. The kids are happier picking out their own daily activities which typically includes playing in the back yard, pool time and playing video games or watching TV. The biggest ventures away from the house have been berry picking, visiting our library and meeting friends at the park.

My memories of summer include TV watching, making up my own things to do and spending time with my friends. My childhood is probably the last time I had any unstructured down time. Kids grow up fast. They won’t remember all the museums we visit, or all the hotels we stay in. But they will remember the tranquil feeling of swinging for hours under their favorite tree in the back yard.

I am enjoying watching them play and reading for myself again. For my extrovert time I escape to dinners with friends, or I invite friends over for dinner more and I make completely un-necessary Target runs. No camps. No travels. No big events. Just “the three amigas” enjoying being their own less than perfect people. Maybe this is the perfect summer after all.


The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 


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Back to School Prep: Homeschool vs. Traditional School

Back To School Prep

When our oldest daughter was wrestling with some emotional struggles half way through third grade, my husband and I decided that homeschooling might be a better fit for her. We finished out the year at home and happily witnessed a jump in her self-confidence and enjoyment in learning. Yes! We knew we made the right choice for her.

But what about her little sister? Kids’ personalities and needs at different stages are so unique, and choices about their education have to be unique, too. We’ve found that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for any family. As a social butterfly with a teacher she adores and a need to have some space from her overshadowing big sister, public school is where our middle kid is headed for first grade.

This untypical situation leaves us with a back-to-school prep season unlike any we’ve experienced before. Some things have stayed the same: the thrill of starting something new, an eagerness to get back to routine, wanting to pull my hair out from nonstop sibling bickering and “I’m bored” complaints. But the school year preparations – those are very different.

Where The Dough Goes

We’ve spent more money on books than clothes for our homeschooler. We’re just not as concerned about switching out her faded, well-loved summer grubs for a shiny new look. Instead, most of the back-to-school budget goes towards carefully chosen curriculum that fits our daughter’s interests, subject level and learning style. We’ll fill in the wardrobe gaps as needed with the changing seasons (and probably pay less doing it), but for now, her grass-stained knees are welcomed in class.  Our younger daughter, however, will look a little more polished come September.

Home school curriculum  sara hm school4

It should be noted that there’s a wide variety of teaching methods and philosophies when it comes to homeschooling. Many parents choose to piece together their own unit studies or lessons using mostly free resources (libraries and the internet are godsends), field trips, projects and more.  That has been my own approach in the past, but this year I’m hoping to scale back my lesson-planning time and embrace a little more structure. So while our family’s back-to-school budget needs to accommodate curriculum supplies, many homeschooling parents spend next to nothing this time of year.

Supply Checklists

Pencils and erasers can be found on both of our kids’ lists this year, but that’s about where the similarity ends.  Instead of traditional items like crayons, folders and tissues, our homeschooled fourth grader will get a re-stash of craft and science experiment supplies, along with copy paper for the printer.  No need for a new backpack and lunchbox, but a magnifying glass and some graduated cylinders? Yes, please!

Planning and Organizing

This is where the biggest difference lies. There’s not much to it with a traditional student: make sure their hair is neat, fill their backpacks and then get them to the bus stop on time (although that is admittedly a challenge in itself). But as part of the legal requirements of homeschooling, every student needs a plan of instruction for the year. That means that the bulk of my back to school prep isn’t revolved around spending, but planning. What does my kid need and want to learn this year? How will I teach each subject? Should we join local classes or meet-ups? What field trips should we plan? All of these questions and more run are on my mind while I piece together a yearly plan and a daily/weekly routine that works for everyone.

 sara hm school sara hm school1

I also look back on the past year to make note of what worked and what didn’t, and then make changes accordingly. For example, this year we’re setting up a dedicated workspace for those times when my daughter needs a retreat from her two-year-old, wanna-be-rockstar brother to give an assignment her full focus. We’re also going to try a four-day schedule, leaving a full weekday open for field trips, projects, cooking and other hands-on fun.

sarah hm school3 sara hm school2

Just like a teacher spends time setting up their classroom in the days before their students walk in, I’ll be working on getting everything organized to make the transition out of summer vacation as smooth as possible. A little effort now will make a big difference in our daily routines. As a work-at-home mom and teach-at-home mom, organization is essential.

Despite the work involved, I’m excited to get the ball rolling! Homeschooling is just one of those things in life that isn’t always a walk in the park, but ultimately worth every bit of time and effort it takes. I’m looking forward to a fun year of learning for all of my kids!


Sara HVM EditSarah Coppola is a wife, mom of three, Hudson Valley native and adventure-seeker. She founded Family Friendly Hudson Valley to discover and share all the great stuff for families found in our own backyard.

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