Dandelions are blooming, birds are chirping and soon we hope to bare our legs blinding others with their pasty, white glow. This can only mean one thing: summer is on its way!

Dandelions are blooming, birds are chirping and soon we hope to bare our legs blinding others with their pasty, white glow.

This can only mean one thing: summer is on its way!

Remember when thoughts of summer were filled with structureless, free-ranging, barefoot, sun-infused, boredom-laced, bike riding, tree climbing, neighborhood trolling, Barbie torturing, firefly catching, fly swatting, screen-door slamming, grasshopper chasing, Saturday-cartoon-watching bliss?

Not anymore.

Recently I started to feel anxious as I thought, “Mother of Pearl, what am I going to do with the kids?”

The lazy days of summer turn into a horror movie, with my zombie kids following me around the house whining that they’re bored, or worse, calling me at work to see if they can put the cat in the microwave to see what happens.

I don’t know about you, but I always approach this time of year with excitement laced with fear and trepidation. I alternate between both loving and fearing the lack of routine.

This summer I promised myself it was going to be different.

Mason, 14, is stuck between wanting to have a job and not being quite old enough. That was solved when my sister and her husband, who own their own business, asked if Mason would like to live with them in Iowa this summer and be an apprentice to earn a little cash and get some work experience under his belt.

But then there was the issue of what to do with his sister, Maddie, who is 10, but not quite responsible enough to stay home by herself for an entire eight hours.

Not only that, Maddie thrives on interaction. She is the kind of kid who could talk a woman in white gloves into buying a ketchup Popsicle. Quarantining her to the house all by herself seemed like a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

I decided that the best thing for both of us was to enroll her in summer school. When she learned about that plan she was madder than a wet hen. Naturally, attending summer school symbolized failure and punishment in her eyes.

This was the school year she discovered that she couldn’t charm her way through important concepts with social graces–particularly in the subject of math.

I empathize with her. To me, math looks like this: If you have four pencils and I  have three apples, how many waffles will fit on the roof? Purple because aliens wear straw hats.

While I can offer sympathy and empathy over her struggles in that subject, I am completely and utterly useless as far as helping her grasp math concepts.

I had to bring in reinforcements.

The Sleepy Eye Public Elementary School and the Tri-Valley Migrant Head Start Summer Schools are nothing like watching summer go by from a classroom window.

For six weeks beginning in June and ending in mid-July it isn’t all work and no play. In past years students have had the opportunity to experience Christmas in July, visit the Como Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul and hold an end of the year wrap up party the day before summer ends.

As a mom, I need to lead the way and teach my children how to set goals. I think the greater goal is to help them learn the importance of goal setting, the wonderful feeling of achievement in success, and the habit of self-discipline.

This summer my goal is to make this a summer of purpose for all of us by learning a new skill or improving an old one. With a little vision and direction I hope to inspire my children to accomplish big things.