A few years ago, I remember typing up lesson plans for the first week of school as the summer was coming to an end.
My family was spending our last summer day at play while I was trying to get ahead for work.
My planning spot was on the dock of a lake. My wife was sunning herself beside me. My four-year-old son, Cole, was jumping around on a giant water tube, tied to the dock.
To him, it wasn’t a water tube. It was his pirate ship. He waved his sword around as he protected his treasure from an imaginary Captain Hook in the water.
Then he stopped abruptly. “Daddy,” he begged, “can you stop working and play pirate ship with me?”
He wanted me to join his crew.
“Not right now, maybe later.” I insisted.
He frowned for a second and started playing again without me. I knew he meant well, but he was a distraction. I had too much prep work for school.
After an hour or so, I decided to take a break. I plugged my headphones into my phone and hit the play button on Laura Vanderkam’s audiobook about what the most successful people do on the weekends. How fitting, or so I thought.
Her first point hit me hard: We’re not really living in the weekend when we spend it prepping for the workweek. The most successful people don’t put off enjoying the weekend until they are less busy. They do it now.
I flashed back to what I had said to my son when he wanted to play, Maybe later.
Then I thought, Maybe not later, maybe now.
I turned my phone off and closed my laptop.
I yelled out to my son as I ran toward him, “Captain Cole, look out for the cannonball!” His eyes were as wide as an owl’s when I jumped off the dock and crashed into the water just beside him.
When I came up with water spewing, he was laughing uncontrollably. We spent the rest of the afternoon paddling around, fighting Captain Hook and searching for gold doubloons.
Later that night, I finished listening to the audiobook. It offered another tip for getting the most out of weekends:
Plan fun events that get you out of the house and keep you busy. I’ve come to refer to them as Family Field Trips.
On the way home the next day, my wife and I wrote down a list of 50 places we could travel as a family within a 2 hour radius of our home. We started taking our Family Field Trips the next weekend and we’ve been hitting the road pretty regularly ever since.
We’ve chilled with Hugo at the Charlotte Hornets game.
We’ve hit up the mountains in Asheville.
We’ve stood under the same waterfalls where Katniss and Peeta hid in The Hunger Games.
And we’ve shoveled out handfuls of food to giddy llamas at the zoo.
TBH, these trips have been a game-changer for my family.
There’s a deep connection that wasn’t there before-the stories, the memories, the shared experiences. And it all began with a decision to close my laptop and do a canon ball beside my son.
The teacher struggle is real. If you’re spending large chunks of weekend time on schoolwork, or you’re feeling burnt out through the workweeks, think about how Family Field Trips can help:
- you are forced to have fun because you can’t take the schoolwork with you
- you will feel more recharged and be more efficient for the workweek that follows
- you will create a stronger bond with your family
Here’s how you can get started:
- Make a Family Field Trip Plan
By yourself or with your family, create a list of places you want to travel.
Try to come up with at least fifty places,
each within a 2 hour radius of your home. Setting a limit on the travel time saves you the added expense of an overnight hotel stay. Use the Family Field Trip Plan Mini-Poster on my website under the Free Stuff tab at justinfashley.com.
- Keep the Plan in a Highly Visible Location.
Place your plan on the fridge or in the corner of your bathroom mirror. Put it anywhere in the house that works for you, so long as you’ll see it often.
Our list stays in our kitchen, just above our key box. Every time I drop my car keys off or pick them up from Monday to Friday, I get excited about the family vacation that awaits.
- Take at least 1 Trip Each Month.
Commit to an excursion on the regular, whether it’s once a weekend or every month.
The goal is not to take all 50 field trips in a year; it’s to build a habit of spending time with your family.
Still to this day, my son will sometimes stop and remind me about our pirate excursion on the lake. He refers to it as “The Best Day Ever.” It was as awesome for me as it was for him. And to think, it almost didn’t happen because I wanted to get ahead on a few lesson plans for the upcoming school week. What moments are you missing out on to get ahead?
Your weekend belongs to you-not your principal, your district, your students, or their parents-so own it.
Escape. Get out of your house or apartment. You’ll discover a special part of yourself where your schoolwork can’t follow.
Excerpted from The Balanced Teacher Path: How to Teach, Live, and Be Happy by Justin Ashley, copyright © 2017. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.