Charting summer vacation success

As of 2:00 p.m. this past Tuesday, my kids are out of school for the summer. Their elation is quite infectious, I must admit. Now the question comes: What will we do?

In previous years we’ve sent them to camp. The enjoy it immensely and we’re happy to be able to provide that for them. We’ve also done extra dance lessons, taken part in the local recreation department programs and more. But, this summer we’re doing things differently. This year, we’re going to “Camp Caolo.”

Our motivations are twofold. The first is financial. Camp is expensive. So much so that we don’t want to pay for it this year. But our main motivation is time.

My son is eight years old and my daughter is 10. It won’t be long before they don’t want to spend their summers with old mom and dad. Friends, both casual and romantic, will be on our doorstep soon enough. Until then, we want to be totally selfish. We want time with our kids. If this is going to be successful, we’ve got to answer one major question consistently and satisfactorily: “What is there to do?”

Enter the Chart.

The Camp Caolo Chart consists of six sections:

  1. Weekly chores. Yes, chores. I know this is supposed to be fun but everyone has to help out. You’ll notice my wife and I have assignments on there, too.
  2. Daily chores. My son’s list includes feeding the dog, clearing the dishes from the table, and picking up his stuff. My daughter must walk the dog, clear her dishes, and do some reading.
  3. The summer rules. These are pretty basic. “Be nice to everyone or be alone in your room.” “Respect others, their sleep and their stuff.” They love to wake up at 6:00 a.m. and then attempt to have a conversation with my unconscious body. Not fun. “No fun until chores are done.” My wife is not kidding about that one.
  4. A calendar of events.
  5. The Summer Wish List. We all took sticky notes and wrote down a few things we’d like to do, like visit Boston, establish a family game night, camp out in the back yard, have a movie night, swim in the lake, take a fishing tip, go mini golfing. More can be added at any time by anyone.
  6. We did it! As we complete the fun activities, the sticky note is moved to the “We Did It!” section. At the end of the summer, we’ll have a nice record of all the awesome things we’ve done.

That’s pretty cool, but there’s more. My favorite thing is The Boredom Jar. My clever wife has printed many wonderful answers to “What can I do?” onto thin strips of paper.

These will be glued onto tongue depressors and stuck inside a mason jar (there are 40 options in total). Now, when we’re asked “What can I do?” we can invite the kids to pull a stick from The Boredom Jar.

Finally, we took the kids to a craft store last week and let them select a journal/scrapbook. They’ll be adding photos, souvenirs, writings, drawings, etc. to them as our summer progresses.

This is going to be fun and I’m looking forward to it. Adding items to the wish list is great and gives all of us goals for the summer. Plus, The Boredom Jar should be a real boost to the kids’ fun and our sanity. Here’s to a successful Camp Caolo.

14 Comments for “Charting summer vacation success”

  1. posted by Hapycurls on

    I love love love this idea and your approach. I’m saving it in the ‘when I have my own kids’ folder.

  2. posted by David Caolo on

    Thanks, Hapycurls! Good luck!

  3. posted by Jenn on

    This is fantastic! I think I’ll make one for our family this week. Any resources you found helpful in making yours?

  4. posted by Lisa on

    Love this idea! Sounds like you’ll have a wonderful family summer. Can I be one of the kids? 😀 hahaha!

  5. posted by Pammyfay on

    Nice idea!

    (Can I quibble with one thing, tho? It bugs me to see “reading” listed as a “chore,” which could really have a negative connotation. Maybe “responsibilities” or “participation”? They help spread the message that the family works as a team to accomplish everything that creates family and a relaxing home.)

  6. posted by Mark Harrison on

    Pammyfay – I can’t agree enough.

    Though, I was told a long time ago that there’s an easy way to make your children read… simply get a stack of books and let them grow up watching you reading.

    Sure enough, before he could walk, my son would sit leafing through a book – not being able to read a word, obviously, but knowing that sitting, looking at them, turning pages was “how books worked.”

  7. posted by Dave on

    Pammyfay and Mark: Yeah, I see your point. While “reading” may have been mis-labeled as an activity, I can assure the kids do not see it as an undesirable chore. They’ve selected their own books and are happy to read them!

  8. posted by Margaret on

    Great idea! My kids are grown now, but I still have several “Things to Do” lists that they wrote and illustrated and posted on the wall. Some activities were unknown to me, but didn’t sound dangerous, and I let them have their fun without having to explain. None of us were ever bored, and we were free to consult each others’ lists.

  9. posted by Anthony Reynolds on

    What better time to spend with them than when they are still young. When they reach their teenage years, they will barely hangout with their folks because they will eventually have friends. Anyway, I like what your doing. Always wanted to do these things with my family too but the thing is, we lack the necessary finances.

  10. posted by Layla on

    I love the boredom jar idea. I think when I was a kid i stressed my parents out by constantly asking what i should do (then not accepting their suggestions, and asking again.)

  11. posted by Ruth on

    Great idea. I may even do it with my kids this summer as we are visiting my parents in Ireland for two weeks. Very tangible.

    Would you mind posting all fourty ideas in the boredom jar or post a link where you got all your ideas from? That jar is simply a fantastic idea.

  12. posted by Tasmanian on

    Yes PLEASE post your forty ideas!!

  13. posted by Liz on

    Some families I know (mine included) use the phrase “must dos” instead of chores. So the must-do things for a day can include chores and fun, but necessary, things like reading or math worksheets.

  14. posted by Dave on

    Yes, please post a follow-up with your boredom jar ideas! I think this is the hidden gold in your article. A separate thread would allow us, as a community, to expand on your work!


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