How I Survived Summer at Home with Both Kids, Sanity Intact

I’ll be honest, not even a few days into summer break did I start questioning my sanity. I had decided to keep my 5-year-old son home with me instead of sending him to extended summer daycare at his preschool.

Why not, I thought? I work from home and keep my toddler-aged daughter, so why spend the extra money if I’m home anyway? Besides, he’s starting kindergarten this Fall and I wanted time with him before he begins this new journey into formal education. He’s big enough he can mostly self-entertain, right? The two of them can play together, right? Mama’s got it made. (Cue laughter from heavenly places.)

Two days, everyone! Two days in and I began to question the wisdom of that decision. I had NOT anticipated the constant competition between siblings, the non-stop chatter box, the endless ploys for my attention, the melodramatic meltdowns, the neediness, the mind-numbing whining, and the E-N-E-R-G-Y… the bouncy-trouncy-flouncy-pouncy-fun-fun-fun-fun kind of energy level that possesses a healthy 5-year-old boy (and toddler copy-cat!).

Two days and I was near done. But I did have a plan and I was determined to take advantage of this precious window of time.

And let me just say, we survived. In fact, we more than survived: We learned.

We learned how to love each other, how to honor each other, how to ask for forgiveness and start over. We learned what we liked and didn’t like. We learned what makes us scared or sad. We learned how to make each other laugh. Best of all, we learned how siblings really can become best friends.

We also learned the 10 Commandment–together. Each week we covered a new commandment until we went through all ten. And each week as I taught my son these words, I realized with greater depth and humility how much grace really is a beautiful, divine gift. It takes grace to follow His ways as it takes grace to parent. I fall so short. But He is so, so sufficient.

I started out this season wanting to pull my hair out. But I ended it wanting to pull him even closer to my heart. Summer is over and my son is now off on a new journey. And as he goes, I pray these words we learned together grow with him.

As he goes, the Love and Grace we shared this summer will follow him every day.

And they will always be waiting for him when he comes home.


To recap this summer’s learning: Here’s what I posted as I reflected on each commandment and attempted to explain to a child the depth of meaning behind them.

Summer learning Week 1:
No. 1: “Do not put anything above God in your life.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

We are called to love God more than anything or anyone else in our life. #lifelessons #godscommands

Summer learning Week 2:
No. 2: “Do not worship or serve anything except God.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

Nothing should take God’s place of devotion in our lives.

Summer learning Week 3:
No. 3: “Do not take the Lord God’s name in vain.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

He may not fully understand all the words. That’s ok. I want him to learn the words in a way that will grow in depth and meaning as he grows. Essentially, we are to treat God’s name with respect. Vain comes from “vanity,” meaning “empty.”

God’s name is not just any other name or word. When we use his name, it should not be an empty ritual, a misrepresentation of who he is, or used for personal gain. His name is above all other names, including our own.

Summer learning Week 4:
No. 4: “Keep the Sabbath, God’s day of rest, holy.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

How can you teach the commandments to a 5 year old without feeling convicted yourself? How can we honor this command in a culture that prizes productivity and does not value a regular rhythm of rest each week?

To be real, I’m still working on this. Jesus said he is Lord of the Sabbath. If I cannot find rest in him first, to truly trust him, I will never be able to “rest” on the seventh day as he commands, even if I do no work.

Summer learning Week 5:
No. 5: “Honor your father and mother.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

It’s one of the easiest commands for a child to understand yet the hardest to keep. Still, it must be taught. As a child, honoring your parents first involves obeying them. As a parent, teaching this requires appropriate discipline and abundant forgiveness.

And isn’t that the point of it all? We all need discipline to learn God’s righteous ways. How much more do we need his forgiveness when we break his loving commands?

After a wrestling of wills this morning and a second chance to do it over, that’s just what we learned together.

Summer learning Week 6:

No. 6: “Do not murder.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

It’s only three words. Sounds simple enough. Yet all God’s commands are aimed at the heart. From the heart comes action. That’s why Jesus later explained that if we hate our brother or sister, we are guilty already of murder. Hate kills the spirit of life and promotes death.

What is the antidote? Consider this: “By this we know that we love The children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.” (1 John 4:2)

When Love rules our hearts, hate and death have no room to breathe.

P.S… He was very excited that he only had three words to write, hence the smile.

Summer learning Week 7:
No. 7: “Be faithful to the person you marry.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

Adultery may be way beyond his grasp but even a 5 year old can understand the importance of promises made and the pain of promises broken.

Fidelity is a mind issue as much as a heart issue. He’s years away from having a “honey lady,” but he must learn now that a promise made is a promise kept.

And praise God that there is One who remains faithful despite our own broken promises to him.

Summer learning Week 8:
No. 8: “Do not steal.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

To most 5 year olds, stealing is pretty black and white. Bad guys steal while the good guys chase them down and put them in jail. (Notice little man’s artistic interpretation. ☺️).

But there are many ways a person can steal besides taking another person’s property. The truth is theft of any kind creates fear. Just think about how many times you check your car doors before you walk away? Or double check the front door to your house before leaving?

As with all God’s commands, this one strikes at the heart. Stealing is an action that lacks love for the other person. But the Bible says perfect love casts out all fear. How much less would we all have to be afraid of each other if we truly loved “our neighbors as ourselves.” If we did, I’m sure there would be far more doors left unlocked. And not just the physical kind.

Summer learning Week 9:
No. 9: “Do not lie.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

The actual words in the Hebrew best translate “false witness.” In court, a false testimony can literally mean the difference between life and death for the condemned. Justice is never served through lies. Instead, God requires that we stand as witnesses to the truth, always.

The Bible talks a lot about lying. How many of its stories reveal the destructive nature of our deceitful hearts? From the very beginning, it only took one lie, one false representation of the truth, to break the perfect fellowship we once had with our creator. One lie condemned us all to death.

But lying involves far more than the words we say. The commandment encompasses our whole lives. Our very lives should stand as witness to The Truth, the Living Word that pardons the condemned and transforms our very nature into his own.

As I teach these simple words to my son, I pray the whole of my life stands as a truthful witness to both my kids—a living testimony of the One who has set me free and who has the power to free us all from our tangled, deceitful hearts.

Summer learning Week 10:
No. 10: “Do not covet.” (Exodus 20:1-17) “Do not want anyone else’s stuff in your heart,” he explains. “But Mom, that’s the same as the first commandment: Do not put anything above God in your life.” This from his own mouth after explaining to him the difference between taking what’s not yours and wanting what’s not yours to have. Desire vs. action.

All the commandments point to the heart, but coveting drills down to the real issue: idolatry. When we want what isn’t meant for us we are willing to sacrifice what’s good for what’s wrong.

And that was the issue in the beginning. The first couple desired what God had forbidden and sacrificed relationship with their Creator to become their own gods.

So we come full circle. Instead of a covetous heart, God calls us to be content in him, to make Him our only God.

As I’ve peered into these commands over the past few months, one thing has become abundantly clear: grace. Grace has always been the only way. It’s humbling. It’s transforming. It’s life-giving when we receive it in faith.

It is the only way for this broken, wayward mama’s heart to teach my son how to live an abundant life.

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