I developed a lesson on these components that summer to challenge our children to spend their summer deliberately growing. I created a spreadsheet with ten areas for each day, divided between the four categories. Each night the kids (ages 9-17) would choose activities to satisfy the requirements of those areas, just 20 minutes for each of the ten areas. It was fun to see how quickly they caught on, and creatively suggested a 40-minute bike ride with a friend as a way to fill in two segments, one under “nourishing” (exercising) and one under “connecting” (spending meaningful time with others). One of my sons began mowing the lawn for a neighbor with a disability. His 40-minute mowing sessions satisfied the requirements for one segment of “nourishing” (as he got necessary exercise), and one of “contributing,” (giving back to our neighbor).
Babysitting for their baby brother, writing a note to a grandparent or friend, helping with chores around the house, planning and cooking meals, reading a book, playing board games, and even occasionally playing a video game with a sibling became choices they made to meet the expectations laid out in the spreadsheet. Instead of creating lots of rules for the summer, or trying to find activities for our kids to do, or letting them default to video games and surfing the Internet, this spreadsheet became an excellent tool to raise our kids’ awareness of other meaningful activities that they should be engaging in, and gave them a lot of freedom to make their own healthy choices.
My husband and I would approve the kids’ choices the night before, or make suggestions for other activities if we determined that their choices wouldn’t work for some reason. The kids colored in the squares on their spreadsheet as they completed each task, and at the end of the day, were paid 10 cents for each completed 20-minute square. We had a separate spreadsheet to help them track their earnings, savings, and charitable giving.
It was exciting to see how our children rose to the challenge presented by the “Summer Growth Chart!” They liked the opportunity to make most of their own choices for how they would spend their time. Through the summer weeks, they got better at identifying creative ways to engage their minds, be productive, and interact with others in meaningful ways. Our family summer chore list got completed as the kids stepped through cleaning vehicles and the garage, organizing closets, helping to plan family vacations, and more! And they grew financially, not only because they earned money, but because they learned valuable lessons about tracking their income and expenses, saving, and donating to worthy causes.
The lessons learned that summer are still evident! Our son who was mowing the neighbor’s lawn is still doing that regularly, even though he is also working two jobs and volunteering in the community. Our daughter is her little brother’s best playmate, and has also been doing math flashcards without prompting. And video games are only requested very infrequently—our kids are too busy growing personally and interpersonally to default to those!
When I give presentations to parents and professionals around the United States, attendees often request the “Summer Growth Chart” after hearing how I implemented that at home. I now have that document available for purchase as a pdf download. I hope that it will incite parents and teachers to structure learning and growth opportunities at home and at school, to allow yourselves and your children/students to grow personally and interpersonally!