By Hannah Grieser
My geraniums were already wilting. Sure, I was a new gardener, but I hadn’t expected to fail this quickly. I’d planted those flowers in my front yard just a few days earlier, and despite the May sunshine and my daily watering, they were slouching like a clique of bored teenagers. Meanwhile, my neighbor’s flowers—planted the same day as mine—stood upright and confident, ready to face the summer heat.
“What did I do wrong?” I finally asked as we worked in our adjacent yards the following Saturday.
“When you planted them, did you press the roots into the dirt good and hard?” she asked.
No. No, I hadn’t. Just the reverse. I had very gingerly placed them into the holes I’d made, sprinkling soil like fairy dust around the fragile, hairlike roots. I was afraid I might damage them. “Rookie mistake!” my neighbor said as she squeezed the nozzle on the garden hose. “Those roots need some pressure. Firm contact with the soil helps them take up water.”
My poor flowers. They had looked so happy in their neat rows on the shelf at the garden center. But apparently I’d nearly killed them with “kindness” when I placed them in my own garden.
Later that afternoon, I dug them all up and gave them a fresh start, this time with a little extra oomph—a friendly push to help them stay rooted and strong. Within days, my geraniums straightened their drooping backs and held their heads up tall. By mid-summer, both my neighbor’s garden and mine were full of cheerful red blooms. They just needed some pressure in order to thrive.
The same is true of kids. When the final bell rings, those structured rows of students, with embossed certificates and shiny awards in hand, file out the school doors and into the sunshine of summer break. No more striped ties and plaid skirts. No more lines of non-marking gym shoes. No more hotglued dioramas or stacks of research papers. The squares of the calendar are as free of deadlines as the blue sky is free of clouds.
And much like flowers in loosely packed soil, our kids may start to droop. Without test grades and class schedules, summer can be a lot like “having no captain, overseer or ruler” (Proverbs 6:7). And that is precisely when a different kind of test often begins.
After a period of long hard work, rest can certainly be a blessing—one that restores our strength for even more good work ahead. But giving our kids three months of aimless leisure is a lot like gently planting them into a shapeless hole. It may feel like kindness, but don’t expect them to thrive.
The truth is, we weren’t designed for the loose soil of long, lazy summers. God, in true kindness, gave His people a weekly rhythm of rest and responsibility—even before the fall. Daily work and faithful instruction are the kinds of benevolent pressure that produce strong roots and good fruit. Summertime has always been the season of growth and fruitfulness, and it can be that way within our homes as well.
PROVERBS IN ACTION
Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler, Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest. (Proverbs 6:6–8)
How can we help our kids grow deep roots and flourish? How can we teach them to be like the ant who wisely “provides her supplies in summer”? The practical wisdom of the book of Proverbs is a great place to start.
Consider these ideas, and then add your own practical applications as your read Proverbs together:
INSTRUCTION. “Whoever listens to [wisdom] will dwell secure” (Proverbs 1:33). One of the surest ways to gain wisdom is through reading God’s Word. For young kids that may mean just a couple of Proverbs a day, while high schoolers can read the entire new testament in a summer. And don’t just tell your kids to read the Bible. Do it with them and lead by example.
DILIGENCE. “The soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4). Video game achievements and social media likes can be fun and can give the temporary illusion of reward, but they’re no replacement for the real thing. Diligent work brings lasting and tangible rewards, including a regular paycheck. Summer jobs for older kids—and paying jobs around the house or even around the neighborhood for younger kids—can help cement the connection in their minds between real work and real reward.
OBSERVATION. “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). Get out of the house and explore the natural world. It’s summer, after all! Don’t just read about ants. Go find some. Watch how they line up in ranks and carry loads 10x their size. Proverbs provides a wealth of wisdom gained by observing birds and beasts, rain and heat, lizards and lions. Open your eyes and see what you and your kids can learn from the created world outside your front door.
These are just a handful of ways to apply the wisdom of Proverbs to daily life this summer. Try reading it together, and discover what new applications come to mind for bringing fresh strength, deep roots, and good fruit to our families. ✤
Bible Reading Plans and Apps
The “Same Page Summer” reading plan from the Bible Reading Challenge is a helpful tool for staying on track to read the whole New Testament together during summer break. And it takes just 15–20 minutes a day. Find details and downloadable reading plans at ToTheWord.com.
More Recommended Bible readings apps and plans
Bible Reading Challenge Christ Kirk
2021 Bible Reading Plans Ligonier Ministries
Nature Documentary and Podcast
An excellent nature documentary from a Christian perspective:
Riot and the Dance and Riot and the Dance — Water
Note: Coming Soon: Riot and the Dance: Africa
Summer Jobs for Kids
For ideas on age-appropriate summer jobs for kids, check out the suggestions at EveryDollar.com.
A useful blank summer chore chart, ready for you to fill in what works for your family.
Tip: Use a clear cover and a whiteboard marker to reuse chore charts.
Adobe Stock Images