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Summer Plans Part 3: Contracts and Checklists

This is the final installment of our summer planning series.  We’ve already talked about dreaming big to ensure that our summer meets our goals, and we’ve made lists of all the necessary activities.  Now we need to make all that practical.

I used to write out a contract for each child.

  • First I’d list the dreams that the child was committed to spend time on, and that I was committed to support.  (For example, as much as I approve of going to Europe, I will not help make it happen this summer.)
  • Then we’d discuss the details of the necessary activities (how, when, what, how much), and list what we’d agreed upon. The children would always remind me that they didn’t need work but more free time…and of course they’d be right.
  • Occasionally we’d even have some timed ‘deliverables’ as in business.
  • Finally we’d sign and date it, and that would be our contract for the summer.

This year each of the children was doing more important things when I was working on the contracts:

  • Mr. 16 was finalizing and documenting his predictions of CPU developments by 2020.
  • Miss 13 picked more than a gallon of strawberries and then settled down to enjoy The Count of Monte Cristo.
  • Miss 11 and Miss 8 were busy with friends.  They occupied the sand pile, the pool, the trampoline, the chess board, the craft table.  The four of them even took over the kitchen to make a massive lunch of crepes.  (They were yummy despite having been mixed—literally—by hand.  Well-washed hands, but still….)
  • And poor Miss 18 staggered in after having been sick in the dairy barn.

So instead of a contract, I made a check-list for each person’s necessary tasks and left lots of space to record the dreams he or she work on each week.

These check-lists are fairly simple, but I’ll include a sample since I love seeing other people’s lists.   We store the check-lists with the dream lists.

In the above list, this particular child needs to be reminded to read the Bible daily.  There will be a short time spent on each of the three instruments.  This child needs to focus on stretching and aerobic exercise, but not on strength-building.  We’ll spend some time reviewing French vocabulary as a family, and I’ll read aloud from a series of Dutch story books.  We’ll spend about 10 minutes a day on math.  This child, like the others, keeps an ongoing reading list.  However, if too much reading is going on, we’ll ensure that the skills and projects boxes, both related to the dream lists, get ticked off.  And there’s space to write down each week’s accomplished dreams as well.

Since I did discuss and negotiate with the children, I viewed this combination of dream list and check-list as a contract, like we’d used in previous years.  Some of the children, however, are not happy with their check-list since it feels too much like schoolwork. I’m not yet sure what will happen.  I want the summer to be full of free time, and if having a checklist makes it feel like the school-year instead, well, we have a serious problem.  We may end up with our traditional summer contracts after all.

Of course, I need daily reminders as much as my children do, and perhaps even more!  So I have a checklist as well.  It includes reminders to do the special activities from the children’s dream lists.  I also need to supervise the children’s lists, and keep up with my own home-making, gardening, exercise, school prep, vacation prep, and music projects.

With our checklists in place, we can be as flexible as we want. However, we do have  a structure to ensure that we use our precious summer time thoughtfully and thankfully rather than waste it.


  1. What a great idea. I have trouble getting things done in the summer that need to be done. It seems like piano practice and other things get pushed aside when we stop our official schooling for summer break. I think I’ll try this. Thanks for the idea!

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