7 Tips for Setting Your Compass to Sanity This Summer

The Wreck Report for the SS Slavonia concludes that: "The Court having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds for the reasons stated in the Annex hereto, that the stranding and loss of the 'Slavonia' was due to the default and error of judgment of the master in setting too fine a course and navigating at too high a rate of speed in such weather as prevailed when nearing land, and in placing too much reliance on two admittedly poor bearings for compass error, which were not taken by himself."

After over 16 months of uneventful travel, two compass errors within 24 hours led to the demise of the ship. She simply sailed too close when she skirted an island the captain had thought he was avoiding by nine miles! It would have only taken a few minutes to recheck the numbers and set the ship onto a correct heading, but no one noticed, and much too fast, they raced right towards the rocks, invisible in the wee hours of the morning.

How does this relate to summer planning? As you launch into summer, it is invaluable to take a moment to set your course before being swept along by the day-by-day frenzy of opportunities and activities. A moment spent on planning and preparing can set the tone and expectations for the entire summer. Don't you think that's worth doing?

Here are our seven best "compass-setting" tips for your planning session:

1. Do the Chores

If your child's entire day is spent thinking about himself, it's no wonder when a sudden dose of It's-Not-About-You reality completely unhinges him. Keep him in his daily chore routine to start with, and now might be the perfect opportunity to add in those chores that no one seems to get around to. Perhaps he could take on all the plant watering this summer?

2. Make Something Awesome

This could be as simple as breaking out a new construction kit or as memorable as finally building his dream treehouse. Or perhaps he's always wanted to paint something wall-worthy, make a stop-motion documentary, or build a backyard obstacle course. Choose something that interests him, and will take more than a day to complete. If it results in a worthy answer to "What did you do last summer?," so much the better!

3. Work His Brain

You know if you don't use your brain, those pathways grow dormant and eventually die. But expanding his mental capacity doesn't have to mean hours of workbooks. Why not add one or two Smart Games to cultivate logical thinking? Or a book of brainteasers or even humongous Dot to Dots?

4. Summers are for Serving

Find something unique that he could do this summer to serve. Perhaps he'd like to take on baking for Bible study each week. Or maybe he could dog-walk for an elderly neighbor, landscape the local pregnancy care center, or paint the trim in the hallway. Perhaps you're housebound for the season (Arizona people, we don't know HOW you survive that heat!) and he could spend his time writing to shut-ins, reading to younger siblings, or filming an advertisement for his local homeschool group.

5. Focus on Memories

It won't matter in the years to come just how much you spent on the summer vacation plans, but you'll all remember if you spent your time enjoying each other's company or stressing about the cost. Choose moments and memories over luxury every time and you won't regret it. For our family this means simple choices such as eating protein bars rather than eating out on the road in order to afford zoo trips or boogie boards at the beach.

6. Get Some Skills!

He'll never regret learning a skill. Apprentice with the local landscaper so he can learn to design and build waterfalls. Sign up for that volunteer firefighter course. Help Grandpa build a chicken coop, or plumb in a new yard faucet. Or maybe he's ready to try his hand at running a summer business.

7. It's a Retreat, not a Vacation!

Our family never did traditional summer breaks. Instead we would take mid-winter family vacations where we would rent a small cabin and cross-country ski and snowshoe as a family. Despite our best efforts, clustering seven sinners into a single cabin for several days without even a regular routine to fall back on always resulted in some stressful moments. One year we happened upon a way out of this predicament when we brought along a DVD sermon series and made it a point to watch and discuss it every day. Family devotions had long been a part of our routine, but adding an intense, Jesus-saturated course totally shifted the point from "my perfect vacation" to "our discipleship retreat." How could you apply that to your summer? Is there a devotional you've been wishing you had enough time to tackle? A topic you've never studied? Or perhaps you're feeling your own resources as a parent wearing thin. What if this could be the summer your parenting skills took a long leap forward?

Regardless of how you spend your summer, let us urge you not to waste this time. Have a wonderful and memorable summer!