Summer is our time to break free from the rhythm of the year. Days are longer, warmer, and the ecosystem changes with the season. Interestingly enough, when we look at the inhabitants of the land, seasons shift the flow.
According to Sciencing.com, "Animals especially (although plants also go through the process) change their patterns and behaviors based on the cycle of seasons. Scientists believe that organisms naturally sense the changes in the light cycles the sun and automatically change their behavior accordingly."
And so as with our fellow Mother Earth residents, our movement should change with the seasons. Even if the day job doesn't change, the time outside of work changes. Dining outside happens - whether lunch, dinner, picnic, brunch—festivals, vacations, staycations, boat trips, etc. Then there is water. Tons of water - we drink more, we swim more, we sweat more.
However, I'd be remiss to not name that summers are changing. With all the urban-dwelling, scaremongers, obsessive work schedules, competitive test scores, and now a pandemic - summers seem to be more regimented - less free. But even in the midst of COVID, things may be able to look closer to what they were before we started overscheduling ourselves and our children.
Our Summer Flow:
For the last seven years, our summer rhythm has included my baby, eventually, babies. Due to being a teacher and working from home (in the educational realm), I've been able to savor summer as my sons' primary caregiver. As an educator, I consistently reflect on how I want the boys to experience the summer. Some of the prompts, I use while preparing for the summer:
How can Mike and I model a summer flow?
What have summers in the past felt, smelled, looked, and sound like?
What [noun] needs to move, so that space is created for their curiosity to unfold?
What needs to happen so that I can model positivity and patience?
For me, the summer rhythm boils down to the macro-vision based off of our senses:
Feels: warm, autonomous, loving, holy, liberating, fresh, and communal
Sounds: like bugs buzzing, pages turning, loud laughter, whispers, midday snores, the drums, endless conversations
Taste like: honey and the sun, smoked umami, foraged bitter blackberries, sour citrus, refreshing sweetness, and the saltiness of the ocean
Looks: like constant slow movement, colorful brightness, all hues of blue, broad smiles, perfectly tameless curls, stained hands and clothes, and soft stillness
This means, Mike and I, creating space for uninterrupted play and exploration in nature and indoors. Read about our journey to nature and play-based learning here. Most of the time, we have both boys, but at least twice weekly, we will explore with them independently or with a friendly peer and parent. During the day, our boys flow from room to room. Champ (our oldest) makes his brother and himself lunch and snack. We provide the ingredients.
Each day, we go outside regardless of the weather. I take them out in the morning, and allow my boys to lead, stop and look, climb, splash, and wander. There has been no more exceptional teacher for me than the Forest School. Bear and I are participants in an official forest school, and I, independently, build learning based on forest school philosophy. My sweet Bear (youngest child) literally says "schoo-schoo" referring to wanting to go to the woods. The free forest school has taught me how to participate in child-led activities. When we first entered the forest school community, I would try to hold Bear's hand, lead, or force us in a direction or pace. Bear would resist, and I would feel defeated. Now, when I am mindful, I can resist my need to control or limit their learning possibilities. The only time I step in is for safety or the need to create boundaries. And I'm so grateful because my sons teach me daily. We typically find a picnic table or a place to squat to eat a simple lunch.
Then they rest and I reset.
During Mike's workday, any call that doesn't require a screen, he takes it walking. He also schedules an hour for a workout. Once he is off of work, he takes our boys out to play. And this is when I take my daily walk, jog, hike, or forest bath. During my outside time, I listen to music, talk on the phone with a friend, or enjoy silence. When I return home, I shower and put finishing touches on dinner. We bathe the boys and then eat by the big open window. On the weekends, we may find a space to plant ourselves outdoors and grub. In most seasons, we keep picnic blankets, cloth bags, outdoor chairs, and open minds in the car. We eat, talk, laugh, and linger.
When the boys are in bed, Mike and I retreat outside for time to rehash the day, watch the sunset, and flirt freely (without all the "ewwws" and interruptions).