solo staycation

5 Tips For An Awesome Solo Staycation

Everyone Needs A Solo Staycation

It’s finally summer – teachers know that we’ve logged our hours towards summer vacation on all those afternoon unpaid meetings, late nights spent grading, weekends logged on to the computer creating lesson plans, and working through our lunch hours. One strategy I’ve used to keep centered as I raise two kids and teach middle school is the summer staycation. Staycations are another reason that summer isn’t just for vacation anymore!

solo staycation book
I’ve got a great list of books I read in 2017 – http://jenniferwolfe.net/2018/01/the-best-books-of-2017.html

My summer staycation is solo – no kids or husband allowed.  I build up to it each year, keeping a ‘to-do’ list of all those big projects I can’t seem to get around to while juggling my job, dinner, dishes, laundry and sports activities.  Sometimes the list involves a big project – painting a room, re-doing the garden, or cleaning the carpets – and sometimes it’s a week of ticking off the myriad of organizing and tidying-up projects I’ve wanted to conquer since last August.  Always it involves following a few simple rules to re-focus, re-group, and remember who I am.  

solo staycation

Solo Staycation Rule #1:  Be prepared.

The key to a successful solo staycation is to have an idea of what I want to spend time doing.   Keeping a list during the school year helps me remember those nagging projects that would simplify my life cleaning out a memory chest, organizing the digital photos, or cleaning out the pantry, for example.  Being prepared also sometimes involves scheduling some help – having a repair person come, or having a girlfriend spend an afternoon helping choose paint colors.  Plus, checking off items on my list feels great!

Solo Staycation Rule #2: Stay home.

For me, staying home for a staycation means spending time alone.  So much of a mom’s life involves serving others, so I take this time just for me.  I try not to spend too much time socializing or shopping – I like to hunker down with a stack of magazines, some great novels, and the Oscar-winning movies I never saw, and just indulge myself.  Staying home helps me focus on creating a happy home environment, and doesn’t break my budget!

solo staycation
Stay home on your solo staycation and take a walk somewhere you’ve never been before!

Solo Staycation Rule #3:  Plan each day.

I’m a natural planner – I like to accomplish tasks each day, and my staycation is no different.  Without anyone else to take care of, my ‘me-time’ is drastically increased (no dishes or laundry, and the house stays clean!).  The first day I tidy up like a whirlwind, leaving me hours of uninterrupted free time.  Breaking down mornings and afternoons gives a little structure, and gets me off the lounge chair!

Solo Staycation Rule #4:  Create a welcome
home celebration.

The key to repeated solo staycations is to ensure your loved ones know you missed them, and that you appreciate the time alone. Take the last day and cook a nice meal (with their favorite dessert), cut some fresh flowers, and update your Facebook status to elevate the excitement
of their return. Try this pasta recipe I demoed on TV a few months ago. The smiles on their faces when they walk through the
door will make you remember why you work so hard all year long!

solo staycation

Solo Staycation Rule #5: Don’t feel guilty.

Being a mom is easy – but being a great mom takes a huge amount of hard work.  Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself – you will reap the rewards tenfold by having a more centered, positive, cheerful outlook after having spent some time just for you.

solo staycation

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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The Teacher’s Summer To-Do List

Some people think teachers like me shouldn’t complain. They think that summers off mean three months of party time, ninety days of freedom to lie around and do absolutely nothing.

Someone, please show me that teacher.

The teachers I know definitely earn their summer ‘vacation’. If you think about it, most teachers work so much overtime during the school year that it equals the time we have off in the summer. And most of us use our vacation time to catch up on our life to-do list -medical appointments, chores, reading, and mostly for me, being Mom.

Honestly, motherhood never feels like a to-do for me; I’ve always cherished my summer free time with my kids.

to-do
Summer at Cecret Lake

In my summer,  June finds me coming down off the adrenaline crazed end-of-the-school year, and when August comes around I start having those terrifying teacher dreams where I’m not at all prepared for my classroom of terrifying students :). July is the time when I can try to completely forget about school and remember what makes me me, where I find solace, where I can recharge.

to-do
One summer ‘shelfie’ pile to-read

This poem certainly spoke to me this July; I, too, find myself pushing through the list of ‘must-do-before-the-end-of-summer’. I’ve been to the eye doctor and the dentist, I’ve visited my daughter, I’ve weeded and laundered and decluttered and cleaned. Now I find myself much more inclined to sink into that novel that’s been haunting me from my shelf, or to take a long walk with a friend. I’m realizing that July really is the time when I need to remind myself to pencil in pleasure not just in the present, but all through the school year. Thank you, Tony Hoagland, for the gentle reminder that the kingdom still exists.

Down near the bottom of the crossed-out list of things you have to do today,
between “green thread” and “broccoli” you find that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word is beautiful.

It touches you as if you had a friend and sunlight were a present

he had sent you from some place distant as this morning—to cheer you up
and to remind you that,

among your duties, pleasure is a thing
that also needs accomplishing.

Do you remember that time and light are kinds
of love,

and love is no less practical than a coffee grinder
or a safe spare tire?

Tomorrow you may be utterly without a clue
but today you get a telegram,

from the heart in exile proclaiming that the kingdom still exists,

the king and queen alive, still speaking to their children,
— to any one among them

 who can find the time to sit out in the sun and listen.

~ Tony Hoagland

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Summer Isn’t Just For Vacation

Summer vacation is almost here – teachers- are you dreaming about your summer vacation yet?


Growing. Trusting. Dreaming (big). Discovering. Feeling alive. Blooming.

The verbs jump from the calendar as I turn the page to August. Yes, yes, yes! Kelly Rae Roberts may not be a classroom teacher, but her artwork aligns with exactly what I’m feeling this month as I transition away from my only school-free days (July) and into a month of endings, movement, preparation and goodbyes.

Summer vacation is a teacher’s curse and blessing, all wrapped up in one big present you’re not always sure you want to open. For teachers, summer isn’t just for vacation.

I’ve always lived by the school calendar; I’ve never had a ‘real’ job that wasn’t in education, and I mark the passing of time by the start and end of the academic year. January may be the time for most people to make new year’s resolutions, to reflect and reminisce and plan and prepare, but for teachers, that happens as the August days sizzle, the vacations are in the rear-view mirror and the summer mornings still offer time for quiet contemplation.

Map Maker's Children book

Since my first official teaching year started in 1991, August has been bittersweet; the slowness of hot July days or travel to exciting locations has dwindled into something more real. The teacher dreams begin, so familiar yet absurd; not being able to find my classroom, suddenly teaching Spanish, or being unable to literally see my students due to the reconfigured classroom and the complete classroom chaos caused by custodians insisting on vacuuming in the middle of class to prepare for the ‘dress rehearsal’ haunt my sleep. The summer vacationto-do list, looking so ambitious and completely possible in mid-June, now is merely a half completed reminder of all I didn’t do. I quickly count down the ‘free’ days I have left, knowing that most of them will be consumed with lesson planning and classroom cleaning and meetings and meetings and more meetings, until one day the alarm will scream and I’m back in the rhythm of school.

At the risk of sounding ungrateful for the summertime freedom, I am not – without the unscheduled days of July, I’m not sure I could have sustained this job for two decades. After nine months of living by school bells that tell me when to talk, when to move, when to pee and when to eat, the endless moments of absolutely no expectation are sheer bliss.

on top of a NY mountain

They are the days I grow and dream, the hours I discover myself again away from my ‘teacher’ persona. They are the moments for my children, for me, for feeling alive and allowing my passions to bloom outside of the classroom. Summer mornings spent digging in the dirt of my garden, righting the chaos I allowed to grow forth in the spring, rejuvenate my spirit. Hiking seaside trails with my children, the wind on my face and the sun on my shoulders, restores my connection to the world. Baking bread and cookies and creating a meal full of love, my daughter by my side, deepen my relationships.

Summer vacation squashes into six to eight weeks of restoration, moments of anticipation that began last October. That’s when the back-to-school adrenaline usually wears off (for me and the students) and I begin making my ‘that-can-wait-til-vacation’ list, tasks that require more concentration/dedication/money/brain power than the weekends from September to June offer. Teaching isn’t just a 7-3 kind of a job, after all.

So as I turn the calendar one more page, I’m struggling with what-has-yet-to-be-done. The to-do list sits half completed. The days with my girl dwindle before she moves away again, and I find myself choosing between her and it. I know the moments are precious; I know that the filing can wait. I trust that I still have growing and dreaming and discovering to do.

Summer isn’t just for vacation. Summer is for feeling alive, for blooming back into me.

Summer Isn't Just For Vacation

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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It’s The Last Day of School – So Why Aren’t My Students Leaving?

It’s always a minimum day schedule on the last day of school, making it super hard to get anything done (yes, they want us to teach up until the last bell), as well as to have a moment to breathe, to be present, to process what is going on.

The last day of school is about both endings and beginnings. It’s a celebration and a sniffle of what we’re leaving behind. It’s more than just hurry up, get inside, close the door, sign yearbooks and you’re off.

For me, the end of the school year is bittersweet. Even after 25 years of teaching middle school, I still have yet to leave the last day dry-eyed.

My classroom starts to feel like my home away from home, I guess.

Some years it’s worse than others. I’ve had years where the tears flowed from before the first bell even rang, until long after the kids (or most of them) left for their summer vacation.

This year was both usual and unusual.

This year the tears started at home, in my bathroom, when my friend Estherlyn texted me this photo of our boys at the end of 6th grade:

ready for 7th grade!

They were full of excitement, ready to tackle the adventure of ‘junior high’ for the next three years.

And now, three years later, my tears came as I thought of all the happiness, disappointment, joy, laughter and growth they’ve experienced. I thought of the classes and report cards and homework, the basketball games, the sleepovers and dances and the lunches in my room. I thought about how they’ve managed to stay close, and how much I would miss their faces next September.

And I thought of how they’ve grown in to young men and are so ready for 10th grade.

Not a great way to start a frantic day of goodbyes and thank yous.

I made it through most of my classes-they moved too fast to allow myself to sink into sadness. We had papers to collect, “The Diary of Anne Frank” to finish watching (yes, I do end the year with the Holocaust-but remember, Anne says, “No matter what, I still believe people are good at heart.” It’s uplifting, really).

I made it through the start of each class, thanking them for this community and for doing their best. I reminded my ‘kids’ of how hard they’ve worked, how their struggles have turned them into strong thinkers and readers and writers, and assured them that they were well prepared and ready for high school.

I think they believed me. I meant every word I said.

Except they don’t know the real reason I show a sad movie on the last day is another teacher trick for hiding my tears.

I received some beautiful notes and thank yous, some cookies and  gift cards and hugs. I could feel the tears right there, but I was holding it together. Bell rings, we talk, we watch, bell rings, they go. It’s like a well oiled machine.

And then the last period of the day was upon me, my struggling readers who I’ve encouraged and cheered and danced with (can you do the nae-nae? I can!) and  read with and tried to help them get to grade level. These kids hold such a special place in my heart. The tears are close…but in this class, we must celebrate! Cue Selena and dance!

And then suddenly the 9th graders started streaming in from the room across the hall. Kids I’d known since kindergarten, when their hair was neatly combed and backpacks proudly balanced on their shoulders. Kids that had spent the last three years eating lunch in my room, loving having a place to call ‘home’.

teacher thank you cards

They handed me a thank you card, and I made the mistake of opening it in front of them. You see, when teachers don’t open gifts in front of their students there’s a reason – it makes them cry. And it’s usually an ugly cry, and the kids usually don’t know what to do.

Cue ugly cry.

The card said ‘thanks for always letting us stay in your room (or at your house)’ and ‘you’re like a second mom to me’ and ‘without you our lunches wouldn’t have been nowhere near as great as they were’.

I honestly had no idea it meant so much to them.

And somewhere in there the last bell rang, we watched them stream out into summer and I closed the door on the last day of school. The quiet was eerie. The room was a mess. I breathed deeply.

And the door burst open.

A line of 11 gangly, sweaty, smiling 9th graders entered one by one, big arms wrapping around me. The tears streamed all over again with loose abandon. There was no card or cookies, just huge, grateful smiles covering up a bit of nervousness, as one by one they piled in and said thanks, my son at the end of the line.

“Thanks for having such great friends, Cam,” I whispered as he hugged me, his head towering over mine.

The next thing I knew it was lollipops and selfies and sharing moments from the last three years.

9th grade selfie

They didn’t leave. I didn’t want them to leave. None of us quite knew what to do. I wondered if they knew how much they mean to me – how much joy they brought when they were tiny little 7th graders watching the big kids with wonder in their eyes. Do they know the joy I felt when Cam was away at boarding school in 8th grade, and they still came to my room every day? I wonder if they felt the gratitude I had each lunchtime when they would flop their big 9th grade bodies on my beanbags, pull out their food and homework and Tech Decks and just be themselves?

And suddenly, the hugs started again. The tears, the smiles, the joy oozing up from inside.

The last day of school isn’t only the final day of classes – it’s the final day of this community, this place of being together. This home away from home.

This is why I teach. This is why I’ll be back again next year.

This is why they call me mamawolfe.

last day of school - mamawolfe

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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