You know how when you follow a workout video, there’s the standard routine, and then the modified one? That’s how homeschoolers should handle this summer.

Whether you’re a longtime homeschooler or just launching this fall, you’ll find lots of advice about how to fill up this empty summer. Some ideas are good, and some are even great; regardless, you’ll definitely get the message that you need to expend a lot of effort and energy to keep your kids busy and salvage this summer.

I’m here to tell you that’s not the case.

You may thrive on activity, planning, and creating adventures. Or you might be more like me, someone who has to consider whether the result is worth all the energy I have to expend for it. Either way, homeschoolers have to approach summer plans differently. We can’t really sprint through summer, pouring energy and creativity into every day. For us, summer turns into fall right in our living rooms. We need some of that energy and creativity for school.

Fortunately, one of the perks of homeschooling is that we can take great ideas and modify them to suit our needs.

I recently read an article by a mother of two girls, ages 10 and 7, who suggested some ideas to combat the summer slump. They’re fun ideas, but they are pretty high-impact. I thought they could use a little modification here and there:

  1. A picnic lunch.

    She packed a picnic basket, mixed a fancy drink in a pitcher, and set up a play tent out in the yard. She and her girls lounged on pillows, read books, played lawn games, and ran through the sprinkler. “My kids had no desire to go back inside until dinner,” she says.

    Factors to consider:

    • The planning, preparation, managing, and cleanup are considerable.
    • Uncooperative children can ruin every bit of your planning and preparation. Tweens, in particular, resist enjoying anything that’s suggested to them.

    Modification: Make a tray of different kinds of sandwiches (pb & j, chicken salad, cheese), cut them into little squares, and add apple slices and strawberries or whatever your kids might eat. For little kids, you can have a “picnic” that’s anywhere except the dining table. For older kids, just invite them to come and get food. You can sit nearby with a book. As the children drift past, engage them in a short conversation or ask them a trivia question—enough to make a connection before you both go back to what you were doing.

  2. A bathroom spa.

    She lined up every nail polish color she had. Then she added body scrubs, lotions, face masks, and a stack of hand towels warm from the dryer. She ran sudsy water in the tub for a foot bath, and had her older daughter pour fizzy strawberry drinks.

    Factors to consider:

    • She had to clean her bathroom first, then set up a spa, then oversee the activity, then clean up again. This sounds exhausting to me.

    Modification: Sit at the dining room table and paint each other’s nails while listening to an audiobook.

  3. A movie night.

    She printed a poster and hung it in the living room and had the kids make tickets. They popped popcorn and got dressed up, and then her husband ushered the girls to their seats. They watched the movie with no arguments.

    Factors to consider:

    • This is a fun way to give kids a theater experience completely unlike what they’d get if they actually went to a movie. Who dresses up and is ushered to a seat?
    • No arguments? Really? Really?

    Modification: Make brownies . . . or just buy cookies . . . and choose a movie that most people will enjoy. Invite everyone to watch it but don’t insist on making it a whole-family event. I know that goes against the notion of “family fun,” but trust me, it’s not worth ruining the majority’s fun by dragging in a sulker.

If you think my modifications sound lackluster, then by all means go for the whole fiesta! Yet you’re still free to modify, scale back, and change course if you need to.

The reason I emphasize modification is that it’s good practice for homeschooling itself. During this summer, you can confirm what your family enjoys and what doesn’t work at all. You’ll also get an idea of what you can do on your own, and what you’ll need help with. These are important concepts to keep in mind as school starts.

But until then, enjoy your summer fun—however all-in or laid-back you want to do it.