What do WAH parents do over summer break?

Emma writes:

"So I was thinking: Have you covered the topic of how best to deal with a grade-schooler during summer when you work from home? I'm facing this in 7 days and it occurs to me that people might already have great ideas."

That's a great question, Emma.

Last summer when I moved and was working from home, we were staying with my parents. So my mom basically had Camp Grandma for my kids all day while I worked. (Then she'd cook dinner. It was unbelievable, and made me really want a fulltime housekeeper.)

This summer, it's going to be some concoction of day camps and splitting time with the kids' dad and my mom. Which is workable, if confusing.

But what about those of you who don't have any other adults with somewhat flexible time over the summer? Can you enroll in day camps, or are those prohibitive? Do you have a temporary babysitter or parents' helper (like a high school student)? Something else?

Who has ideas for Emma?

36 thoughts on “What do WAH parents do over summer break?”

  1. Different country, where day camps are popular to a certain age (say 10ish) but only July. Maybe first week of August, maximum. August is a big month for family vacations, and day care providers (of all sizes–from 2 babies to big preschools) for ages 4 and under literally close down from August 8 or 9 until school starts up again.It is very, very hard for working parents, of course, especially if you don’t want to blow your yearly vacation in one month, when the weather is beastly hot and not great for being outside.
    I am spending a lot (comparatively–there are camps that are much cheaper) to send my rising 1st grader and rising 3rd grader to a day camp that’s focused on swimming. Also sports and arts & crafts, but real swim instruction + free swim every day. (This is unusual for here.) It’s for 15 days in July, then they are home for the rest of the summer. One week in August my husband is taking off and we’re all vacationing together in a more touristy spot.
    Because the camp hours (including a bus to/from) will actually be longer than the hours they are in school, I hope to up my workload by about 50% during camp weeks by accomplishing as much as I can that isn’t time-sensitive.
    Thankfully most of the people that I work with and for are parents of small kids and in exactly the same boat. We’re trying to cram as much as we can into June and July so that in August we are just doing autopilot/maintenance stuff for an hour or two at night. Wish us luck–we are going to need it.
    If I were more crafty/better with other people’s kids….some moms organize “mommy camp” with a few other parents so that they don’t have to take as much time off or dream up as many mostly-indoor activities. But that means having a bunch of other people’s kids in your house AND entertaining them. So not up my alley, so much.

  2. @Kate – I’m glad to hear there are other moms who don’t love having a ton of other kids in their house. I thought there might be something wrong with me ;)We’re not there yet (T is only 2.5 and luckily preschool has a ‘summer session’, plus hubby is home full time now), but there is a mad scramble to cobble together camp weeks around Jan/Feb/March. Most parents I know have a spreadsheet where they meticulously track weeks and where there kids need to be, whether they’ve registered, etc. It sounds exhausting and I am NOT looking forward to that, so I’m just putting my head in the sand.
    I’ve also seen ads up around work for college students majoring in Early Childhood Ed, or Education in general, looking for summer nanny positions, so that seems like a cool idea too.
    I think places like the Y have “camp” all summer, so people use that to fill in weeks their kids are not at a specialized (and usually quite expensive) camp.
    But man, do I wish for year-round school here. I’d rather have intermittent long breaks during the year than one HUGE chunk to deal with during the summer.

  3. And I will just get up on my soapbox for a second – if you work during the day for someone else (like a company or whatnot) and your kids aren’t big and self-entertaining, I do think childcare is necessary so one can actually get uninterrupted work done and be productive.I’ve seen too many people say they’re “working from home” when they’re wrangling their kids all day, and it makes it hard for the rest of us who are *actually* working from home to get flexible arrangements approved. One bad apple, and all that 😉

  4. Summer day camp.And here, you could theoretically still register on Monday morning for that week because I know for a fact that it’s not full (because I know someone who signed two kids up last Monday for camp last week). I am not totally thrilled with the park district camp here. It’s fine for older grade schoolers, but most of the counselors are HS students so it’s not super well-supervised. I’d say fine for 9 and up (maybe 7 or 8 if they are responsible kids who would remember to apply sunscreen and go to the bathroom). They go to the pool a couple days/week and one field trip per week (movie, bowling, etc). It’s $135-ish per week per kid.
    Also, the area day cares are open all summer and you can sign kids through age 12 up for summer camp. They do fun outings (waterpark, museums, zoo, baseball game), and it is regular adults supervivising the kids. They also provide their standard hot lunch and breakfast/snacks. The price for this is highly variable but $150 to $200/week is about the price.

  5. This wouldn’t be feasible for the whole summer, but for isolated days here or there where he doesn’t have other care, my brother-in-law takes the kids to the public library after breakfast and parks them until lunch. The younger one is 5 and this library has a nice play area with some toys, a lego/duplo table, and of course many picture books. She has several friends who are there regularly. The older one (8) reads or uses a library computer in the YA area nearby.With one grade schooler, you might be able to get away without extra in-home care, depending on the age and trustworthiness of the kid and your work flexibility. You could look into pool or gym memberships. Some libraries do elementary school programs. My 8 year old nephew would be fine fending for himself during the day, between the library, the pool, neighborhood friends, books, and video games.

  6. I am extreeeeeeemely lucky in that my husband is a teacher, so as soon as school is out, he’s on Daddy Daycare duty. The transition is always rough on me – I’m used to a quiet house during the day, and I get bummed about all the fun stuff they do together – but after a week or so we all settle in to the routine.I know lots of other parents around here do rec camp, which is cheap and reportedly decent. My girlie isn’t in the least bit interested, though we are forcing her to do a brief tennis camp and a one-week theater camp in August.

  7. Much like @SarcastiCarrie, my kids will be in day camp (through the YMCA) all summer. They could go M-F but we’re lucky enough to have my mom watch them on Mondays (all day) & Friday mornings & then my husband is home with them on Friday afternoons. I’m a full-time WAH mama & there’s no way I could get my work done + all the conference calls & have the kids home w/no help. It woud be ridiculous to even try.

  8. I WAH part time and WOH part time. This summer we joined the pool. My kids have swim team, swim lessons, and tennis lessons every AM so I can work from the pool, I then have more time to work when they go to bed. When I WOH my husband takes them because I work at night, just like during the school year.

  9. A plea from a public librarian: public libraries do not typically provide supervision for children left unattended — and typically, during programs, parents or responsible adults are required to be in the building, where they can be contacted in case of emergency. In my state, children under 12 may not be left unattended (by law). Please send your kids to the library chaperoned, for their safety! I’m not an alarmist — and I’ve never seen a worse-case scenario — but each summer, all summer long, I watch marginal and unsettling scenarios unfold as unattended children interact with the wide variety of humanity that can be found at the public library, in particular at the public computers.

  10. Wait, people leave their kids *unattended* at their public library??Yikes. Even in our really nice part of town, the library is where the homeless people hang out and surf ickiness on the computers.

  11. I’m really struggling with this. I booked my kids for (relatively) inexpensive yet brief day camps (about 3 hours each morning), and I’m realizing it’s not a long enough block of time to get stuff done. Now I’m scrambling to find a high school/college student who won’t mind being flexible yet completely irreplaceable this summer and won’t mind when the work dries up in the fall when the kids go back to school.

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  13. This is why I HATE summer vacation with the fire of a thousand suns. Also, as a freelancer I am never sure if I am going to have enough work to justify the expense of camps. This summer, we’re splitting our longtime babysitter with a classmate of my daughter two days a week and possibly more, using some camps, etc.

  14. Last summer was the first time I faced the LONG 2.5 months of kids-are-home-all-the-time-OMG. I put my oldest in a two-week day camp. My middle is used to entertaining himself a lot of the day. This year, I also have an infant, though (last summer, I was pregnant). My two older ones are going to camp for two of the weeks (ideally, the SAME two weeks, haha), and I’m looking forward to a relatively quiet house. Otherwise, I’m trying to work while the baby sleeps and otherwise entertain them with park outings, play dates, zoo, etc. It’s hard for me to put the work away to spend time with them, and I can’t work from anywhere but my computer at my desk because of the nature of my job. It’s hard.

  15. I think summer is the hardest time for WOH moms, First of all, I agree with ARC (and the librarian!). Second, even with camps or a babysitter, you are usually dealing with non-standard times, changing weekly schedules, and less quiet in the house than you probably need to work. Third I know I feel the most guilty about working in the summer when I see my friends and their friends at the beach and pool all the time and I know we’d all love to be there too. Meanwhile, I am the mom a fit because the special horseback riding camp they love so much doesn’t start till 10 and for the love of all that is holy do you have to fight with your sister in the back seat while I am trying to listen into a 930 am conference call and pretend to be a professional in a real office while driving you there?What we do is this. Keep the two year old in his all day daycare and thank our lucky stars he can be there and doesn’t really understand summer vacay yet. Put the older two in our township camp that runs for 6 weeks and is cheap and fairly decent. It also features busing and mimics the school day hours so my schedule stays intact for those weeks. It is not their top choice of camp, but they can both go to the same place at the same time, the care is good, there is swimming and field trips and it is run by teachers in the school district on summer break and has college kid counselors. It costs $200 per week per child. The other six weeks are a combination of our summer vacation, me taking a few strategic days off to do fun things with them during weird or short weeks (last week of school, days before school starts, etc) and special camps that are (a lot) more expensive and are far more likely to run on less tradition schedules like 10
    to 3. I let them have input in the selection of these camps, so while I TRY to encourage them to pick ones that they can both do or are at least close to each other so our drop offs and pick ups aren’t a nightmare, there is usually at least one week where it is a struggle. Our moms sometimes will do nana/grandma camp for a few days and in the past I have split them up so that they are each with a different grandma and then they switch. But for a variety of reasons that is really only an option for us for one week max.
    So that they don’t feel completely deprived of summer fun, I plan all year to be able to cut out early on some week days in July and August so that we can go to the pool right after camp. Our pool has wifi and my older two are great swimmers so if I have to get something done I just leave the baby at daycare and bring my iPad to the pool. But this only works on an occasional basis. My husband and I also plot out a few days during the cheap camp bloc where we pull them out of camp as a surprise to do some fun day trips. Shamefully, we sometimes leave the baby at daycare when we do this because when we want to go river rafting or to the water park it is more fun for the bigger kids if he isn’t there!
    I think I really only have one or two more years of my little one who is two not knowing what is going on and my biggest one, who is nine, still being willing to go to camp. After that, I have absolutely no plan other than to cross that bridge when I come to it!

  16. I’m a WAH freelance writer/editor. My kids are 6 and 9. They like each other and play well together, and they’re theoretically big enough to be self-entertaining, but *I* am high maintenance. I need space and silence to work; I cannot concentrate at all when they’re around.So here’s what we do in the summer: Year-round, the kids go to a tae kwon do school 1/2 mile away. During the summer, the teacher offers a daycamp for her TKD students only. It’s the best thing ever, I swear. She is totally flexible and lets people change schedules from week to week, and it’s pay-by-the-day. Several of my kids’ favorite friends also attend. They take tons of field trips and do lots of imaginative play. The day ends with a TKD class. I send my kids 2-3 days per week in the summer, which is what we can afford. It gives me just enough time to cram in the work I need to do.

  17. When I was in college I worked for a family for three years and the mom worked from home. Sometimes the children and I were inside but we played outside a lot. They also had a basement playroom which helped some with the noise.I found the job because the mom advertised in the college newspaper. If there’s a local college nearby you might have luck with this (of course you’d advertise online now; my college still had a newspaper).
    Good luck!

  18. @Anon, the same place/same time/same bus was a win for me. Plus bus stop is 1 block away, on the route where I walk the dog in the morning. Multitasking FTW!

  19. Camp camp camp camp. Home w/Dad in the afternoons. The kid will have a blast. Me, not so much.I’m praying fervently that the freelance work doesn’t dry up over the summer, because all that prepayment for all that ridiculously expensive camp took a huge bite out of our puny savings.
    I’m also missing the opportunity to spend more time with the kid, whom I’ve been missing a lot – this is the first year I’ve been FT+ (largely) sole breadwinner. Plus, resenting that I have to work so damn much just to pay the rent.
    Sigh. Sorry for the grumpfest. Now back to a truly mind-numbing technical whitepaper edit.

  20. Like June, I’m a freelance writer and editor. My freelance work has picked up as the kids have gotten older, and I always seem to get a big gig right when school is letting out – arrgg!My boys are 9 and 12. We can’t afford a lot of camp so they’ll be doing a lot of hanging out, riding their bikes and scooters around the neighborhood, reading and – I hope – not pestering each other to death while I work. During the school year we only watch movies on Saturday night, but this summer I’m prepared to let them go to town on Star Trek the Next Generation, if that’s what it takes…

  21. I work part-time, super flexible, from home. But I need to have about 15 hours available every week. I am doing 5 weeks of morning camp on the busy busy work weeks (I do billing for an attorney first/last week of the month are heavy). And then I hired the girls assistant K teacher for 6 hours a week. And then my mom moved here and she will have them another 5-8 hours a week when I don’t have camp.The scramble is August when there is no camp and no school and no sitter because teachers go back 1.5 weeks earlier than students.
    I feel lucky to have figure it all out by mid-april but It was a huge financial burden and hard to coordinate. I know I can’t wrangle and work, I have to be in full work mode.

  22. We are very very lucky. For the last two years we paid for a very cheap day camp run by the same people who do the after school program at our elementary school. This year that camp closed due to underfunding but the same program has a FREE program at another school that I knew nothing about. So they are going there for 8 weeks. Eight blessed weeks where I don’t have to meet the school bus in the middle of the afternoon, but rather jump on the subway and head down a few stops at about 4:30. It’s pretty good.For the time before the day camp starts, they will probably play at home half the day and then one of us will take them to the park for some outside time. If work slows up, we might take a day trip somewhere. My husband is taking them camping for the first three days in the two weeks before camp starts. So we will cobble together the time as best we can.

  23. I was lucky enough to go to a cnonevtion in Hampshire. There were people there from over fifty different countries. There were kings from Africa and other important delegates. MPs and coucilers from around britan came. David Camaran even sent a message of peace! I was there with my family and cousins and I had so much fun. It was called the Annual Convention 2011(Jalsa)I also fasted during Ramadhan which was 30 days long.I did not keep a full fast because it was 17 hours but I kept 1 half.A day after the last fast I went to Leicester for Eid. I went to the mosque and about 100 or more people came. After the speech and refreshments we went to Blockbuster and a funfair which was great. There were lots of rides and arcades and me and my brother won a gun with yellow pellets. My favourite ride was a really fast spinning teacup and went about 40mph. On the way back to Manchester we all fell asleep(except my dad because he was driving)

  24. Dear Mindy,I just finished raeding your book To Wish Or Not To Wish and it was amazing! I had to pick a book for my culminating assignment for english class and when I stumbled upon your book I couldn’t stop raeding it! Anyways there were just a few questions I was hoping you could answer for me because I couldn’t find the information when I was looking around I hope you don’t mind 1.What year were you born?2.What is your nationality3.Whatr are the themes of the story? (I picked out the relationship factor, that she has with Teel, Timothy, and Amy and the responsibility that Erin has to learn to take for herself through the Master Plan but I need one more )I know you probably have a busy schedule but hopefully you will soon be able to squeeze in a quick email response to meThank you for your time and I hope I will get the chance to read your other stories Sincerely,Katarina

  25. I was up bright and early when smuemr camp registration opened 2 weeks ago. Get this — sleepover camp for 2 nights — with a sister theme. All the girls will be attending with a sister — or in our case, 2 sisters!

  26. Dear Walt, Thank you for the message. September is usullay a dry and warm month characterised by the vast herds of wildebeest from the wildebeest migration which cover the plains. Normally the weather is warm and dry although last year we did receive some unseasonal afternoon and evening rain showers. Average daytime temperatures are normally around 30 degrees celsius by midday with evenings and early mornings being cooler. Here are the links to the reports for the last 2 septembers in our monthly game reports for you to look at and We look forward to welcoming you on safari with us.

  27. It sems like forever until July when we are boeokd for 3 nights at Governors Camp. But I am sure the updates on the blog will whet our appetite and make us look forward to it even more. We’ll celebrate our 49th anniversary there and can’t think of a better way to do this

  28. nola surprised me by the very lngteh of the 95/95 weather. april to september is quite a long time to endure such a thing. other places are hotter, but few are as persistent.so clearly my thoughts and prayers are with you. we had a week of fall, last week. it was so nice.

  29. My wife and I took one on a medical misison trip to Bangladesh with 20 students. According to the girls on the trip it worked great. It worked so well that non of the guys ever got the chance to use it. I guess guys are supposed to be immune to cold water. The 5 gal. ones will work great for 2 people, and pretty good for 1-2 more. After that you are just using it to get wet and rinse off. They get plenty hot and we were very pleased. Walmart is cheapest (no big surprise) but I am not sure what they are going for this year. Approximately 20-25 dollars 2 years ago if memory serves correctly.

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  31. Hoo boy, I’ll say! I developed not-seeing and not-hearing as stteregias for living in an alcoholic/crazy family if you really noticed something, and other people knew you were noticing it, then you’d have to deal with (a) the something, and (b) other people’s reactions. This turned out to be hugely useful in real life, esp. dealing with those who had more power than I did, like bosses, and inn guests when I was a chambermaid. It’s very much part of the tourist/ local dynamic. I learned long time ago that when a tourist or, even more so, a summer person seems to be inviting you to say something true about being a local, danger danger danger! Typical exchange: Them: You must be glad when Labor Day comes, huh? Me: Well, yes, it’s nice to get our island back. Them: But you’d all have a tough time without tourist dollars, right.You learn PDQ to be polite and noncommittal and never, ever to acknowledge that moving twice a year is a PITA and that at some point you get real sick of answering stupid questions and pretending that they’re intelligent.

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