3 Summer Must-Dos for a Sustainable Teacher & Parent

May 25, 2021

Hello there and welcome to the Sustainable Teacher Podcast, where we chat once a week about all things keeping our lives manageable so that we can do the things we love longer, particularly teaching.  In this episode, I’m going to take a little break from the normal teacher-specific talk, and focus more on another important aspect of our lives, and that is our homes.  More specifically, I’ll be getting a little personal and sharing some specific things that I’ve been working on lately in my home and personal life to reach for a bit more sustainability.  And I hope you find them valuable.

After listening to this episode you’ll know three ways that I’m making our homelife a bit more manageable, so that you are inspired to reflect on and possibly implement any of the strategies as you strive for more sustainability in all aspects of your life.

Let’s get to it.

Summer Bucket list

As we are quickly approaching summer, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m getting a little overwhelmed at the idea of having all three of my kiddos home all day long with me.  Now  that I say that out loud it sounds terribly horrible of me.  So I’ll say it this way.  I’m so stoked to have our lives slow down for the yearly summer-like pace of life that is so refreshing and rejuvenating for the soul, but I’m also dreading all the whining about being bored, or wanting to do all the things all the time, and, let’s face, the constant sibling fighting.

Many of you listening to the podcast are parents as well, so I thought I would share what I’m doing with my kids in hopes that it gives you some ideas to make your summer at home a really great one.

I sat down with my kids and we made a summer bucket list of sorts.  This is pretty self explanatory - we all came up with things we wanted to do over the summer, which mainly consists of going to the lake, going to parks, visiting the pool, museums, etc. as often as possible.  But this year, I also had my kids think of a few other things that made our list even more specific, but also a bit more applicable on a daily basis.

All those big ticket items (pool,  park, lake, museum) require going out of the house and me driving.  Which is great two or three days a week, but I also want time at home to just chill.  I’m very much trying to teach my kids what true boredom looks like - seriously, we all have to learn how to get creative somehow - and filling our summer to the brim isn’t going to help. 

So here are other categories of items we put on our Summer bucket list:

  1. Things we want to learn.  Each one of us identified at least one skill or topic in which we wanted to learn about.  My oldest son and I chose the piano.  We recently got one and we are determined to learn how to play.  My middle son is still thinking on his, and my 3-year-old isn’t quite old enough to determine his own so we said we want to learn more about mixing colors.
    What this category also includes is a list of educational-like tasks my kids should complete each day or week.  Like reading, working in some packets and with age-appropriate manipulatives.  All things that will help them prevent the summer-slide, but are also what they would call “fun,” and I don’t have to pull teeth getting them to do each week.

The second category of items we added to our list is,

2.  Ways we want to serve.  We are actively coming up with ways that we want to be serving others.  Remember how I said I want to teach my kids boredom, well I also want to teach them that not every moment has to be about them.  I want them to have a servant’s heart, so we are coming up with two larger service projects.  Our first one will be a Captain Underpants themed underwear drive for a local organization that supports foster children and their foster families.  They are going to organize the fundraising as well as save some of their own money to contribute.
We’re also going to come up with smaller service ideas… think more like serving your neighbor, in addition to the larger projects.  We’re going to take in the trash for our neighbors and take them fresh-baked cookies.  We’re working on coming up with more ideas as summer arrives in a few days.

Calendar System

The second must-do for this summer is focused on the calendar system. I’ll give you a glimpse here into the system we use for our personal, family calendar system throughout the year, and then what we are going to try this summer as well.

My husband and I share a Google Calendar. I absolutely love that we have a dedicated family calendar in the Google app because he can see it at any time and doesn’t have to ask what’s going on.  In fact, for the stuff that I’m needing him to just take the reins on with kids (i.e. Cub Scout events), I share the calendar events with his work calendar and that way he knows in plenty of time all of the details and then I don’t have to think about them anymore.

I can explain that in more detail.  I get the emails from the Cub Scouts leader who lets me know, for instance, that next Tuesday our son needs to pack the 5 essentials to hiking and show up at XYZ park at 6pm.  I copy and paste all those details into the description area of a Google Calendar event, share it with my husband, maybe setting a reminder, and bam.  It’s out of my mind.

Something else I do as my kids are getting older and they want to know what nights we have stuff going on so they know when they can play with friends, I put most of our evening and weekend events on a whiteboard calendar on the side of our fridge.  This is one process we’re still growing into and learning about, but I’m liking how our oldest is able to see what’s going on without me having to walk him through the schedule frequently.  Bonus points because it empowers him to understand time management in an age appropriate way as well.

Lastly, with our calendar system.  Something I’m going to try out this summer is the block system.  If you haven’t heard about this, you should go check out Jordan Page and her Fun, Cheap or Free community which we’ll have linked in the show notes, because she is who I learned the system from.  It’s essentially  coming up with themes of time usage throughout your day and letting yourself and everyone else know what’s happening in those blocked time intervals.

This makes a whole lot of sense for me with the summer because our time, for the most part, is so open as compared to the school year.  Our block schedule will change each day depending on if the boys do swim practice on any  given day which is dependent on weather, but here’s what I’m thinking our block schedule will look like for the summer. 

7am-10am Wake up, breakfast, get dressed and straighten up (leftover time to play)

10am-1pm Learning/service time, lunch, clean up

1pm-4pm Free time to play with friends, in the playroom, Mommy work time

After 4pm is dinner, family time, bedtime routine

Of course this will switch up often, and we’ll work errands to either be during the 10am block and we’ll  grab lunch out, and a lot of days we’ll do an activity that takes up the middle two blocks, and that’s ok.  But when we’re home, this will help guide my kids on what it is that we’re doing on a regular basis.

Reducing the stuff

The last summer must-do is a very personal one, but I’m betting there’s someone listening who will benefit from me sharing this tip. Here it is.  I’m going to take this summer to reduce all the stuff. And by stuff here exactly is what I mean.

I’m going to reduce the stuff:

  1. In my boys playroom - they don’t play with 75% of it, so we’re getting rid of it so they can run and play, and get creative in their play time.
  2. In my hutch and kitchen drawers - it’s our catch-all space. I’m going to go through it, get rid of what’s not needed, and organize what stays.
  3. In my pantry - seriously, there is stuff in there that I’ve totally forgotten about and I’m sure is expired. I’m going to get rid of the super junky stuff and work on more healthy options for our family, and organize the products that stay.
  4. In our closets - our coat closet, both mine and my husband's closet, all the bins of old kids’ clothes, our linen closets, and our kids’ closets. That’s a lot of space that is just holding stuff. I want to make sure that what we have are items we are going to wear and use. The rest can be donated or used as rags in the garage (that’s what we do with old sheets because we are DIYers in most things).

I am generally pretty good at keeping all these spaces organized. Over the last year or two I’ve been very convicted about organizing these spaces as it’s seemed that more and more things have been entering our home, mostly from my kids’, but also from me wanting to update things around the house. So as I’ve gotten things organized, I’ve realized the need to reduce. I’ll be reducing in each of these areas and also trying to stop things from entering before they even come in.

I’ll be doing that by asking questions like, “Do I really need that?” “Is there something I already have that will work?”. And I’ll be doing things like letting something sit in my amazon cart for at least 48 hours before purchasing. Most of the time I’ll just forget about it, and then be over the hype of wanting it so I just delete it. Lastly, I’ll be questioning and challenging my kids in these ways as well. Plus we’ll be teaching and encouraging them to use their own money in certain ways, not always relying on mom and dad for every little item they want.

If this message of sustainability is one that you want to pursue and dive deeper into for your teacher-life, I would encourage you to come check out our Sustainable Teacher Challenge. It’s a 7-day challenge that’s meant to challenge your thinking and processes, not your calendar, but ultimately gets you prioritizing your own sustainability so you can stay in the classroom longer.

Although this episode is focused more on the personal side of work-life balance, the challenge fits nicely with our goals of sustainability as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this non-teacher-specific but still real life episode where I’m sharing a few things happening at the Rice household.  I hope you’ve been inspired to be intentional with your summer days, and maybe even gotten an idea or two to make it all a bit more sustainable.

At the time of this recording, the school year is coming to a close, and I hope that it does so peacefully, and you have a fantastic start to your summer. Until next time, teacher-friend, I’ll see you next week.



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