Katharine Trauger shares her motivation for getting her family started with summertime journaling: "After spending one summer busy to the hilt, we felt so bad about looking back and not being able to tell where on earth all that time went. We felt as if we had lost the entire summer. Only trips to the pantry told us that we had spent some time canning and gardening. Surely that was not all." She continues: "So the following summer, we made a journal. We stapled pages of lined paper between pages of construction paper, used stencils to make an attractive title on the front cover, and then proceeded to record our doings for each day. It became an official family creation, complete with vying over who got the privilege of recording in it each day. It did not matter if all we did was some weeding and a picnic, we recorded at least two significant activities from each day, one for the morning and one for the afternoon." And just what were the advantages of keeping this journal? "The effect was electric. We realized that 1.) every day of summer has significant happenings that we enjoy or profit from, 2.) that we really were a very busy family, 3.) that a summer break was absolutely essential in our lives, and 4.) that we really loved summer and used it wisely."

Suzanne Broadhurst suggests a fun twist on the journaling idea--have your kids write a book about themselves! They can add to it throughout the summer, perhaps finishing it in a single summer, or it can be a multi-year project that gets added to year after year.

IDEA #4: GARDENING

Although it may be a little late in the season to launch into a full-fledged gardening project, you can still have some fun and learn a few things by either trying to grow a few plants or researching plants you could grow next year. Suzanne Broadhurst suggests, "Plant something, watch it grow! Or watch it shrivel and die; or research what to plant and then don't plant it--in any case, it's a lesson! A few years ago, I had my son look up Perennial Plants That Will Grow in Shade in North Florida and Not Take Any Work From Mom. He made a whole list! It kept him occupied and learning. Now, where did I put that list..."

Melanie Hexter adds, "Having a large family, we focus on 'edible gardening.' We have strawberries for ground cover, raspberries for bushes, and blueberries amongst our flower beds. The kids help with weeding and picking, freezing and eating! What we can't or don't yet grow, we pick at nearby you-pick-it farms and create annual traditions for the meal that night. One day each summer we shuck, parboil and freeze 12 dozen or so ears of corn. Guess what's for dinner that night? Or when our strawberry crop is at its greatest, we make shortcakes, smother them in fresh strawberries and call that dinner."

IDEA #5: TURN FAMILY VACATION INTO A LEARNING EXPERIENCE

Says Marcia Washburn, "When we went on a family vacation, I tried to plan a variety of activities for each trip--scenery, museums, historical sites, visiting relatives, etc., as well as just plain fun. We'd mix it up so there would be something to interest everyone from the little ones through the adults."

Suzanne Broadhurst suggests allowing your kids to plan a trip (real or imaginary). "Choose a destination, or even many destinations within the U.S. or around the world, then have your children write to state/country visitor bureaus for maps and brochures (or go online to request them or view them right on the Internet). Plan distances, gas money/mileage, airfare, train fare, hotel or camping spots, sightseeing, food expenses, grocery lists, etc." If the trip doesn't fit in your budget or schedule, perhaps you can find some travel videos from your planned destination to finish up your project with.

IDEA #6: GET A DOG

"Summer is a great time to get a new dog, learn about raising it, and work on obedience or agility training," suggests Melanie Hexter. "Take an obedience course for your new dog together with one of your older children at the County Extension Office or Career Center, then practice, practice, practice. It'll reap rewards for the future."