Things to do in the holidays that don’t cost the earth

A few days ago someone commented on a supply teaching group I belong to that she was worried about being bored in the long summer holidays.

Holidays are difficult for supply teachers, because we don’t get paid, and although in theory the daily rate includes holiday pay, when for some that daily rate is as low as £85 and they’re not guaranteed work for every day of the school term, it’s hard to budget for holidays.

Any holiday activities therefore, need to be cheap, or preferably free! As someone who never gets bored, I find the worry in the first paragraph difficult to understand, so here are some of the things I do in holidays that don’t cost the earth to do.

Blogging: Well, obviously – you’re reading this and it didn’t just write itself! On this blog I share some of my ideas for teaching and give my opinions on education related topics. I’m always looking for guest posters, so if you have an education related idea and you’d like somewhere to share it, please do get in touch with me.

Walking: At the weekend I went out with my husband and dad and we visited a couple of our local nature reserves. We took a picnic and stayed out all day, enjoying the fresh air and each other’s company. We saw several birds (including buzzards,  jays, thrushes and treecreepers, as well as the more common blackbirds, robins, magpies and crows), several different types of bee (including red-tailed and buff-tailed bumblebees) and lots of unusual flowers. There were apparently red deer also to be seen, but we weren’t lucky enough on this occasion.

Cycling: I live in a big city and I’m terrified of the traffic. Gone are the days when I happily cycled to my city centre office job. But even here, there are plenty of quiet roads and designated cycle paths, and I’ve spent a very pleasant day cycling through one of our large urban parks this week.

Catching up with friends: I hardly speak to my friends in term-time, so holidays are a time for seeing the ones who live close and having a good old natter, and putting pen to paper/fingertips to keyboard to write to the ones who live abroad.

Reading: I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love reading. I buy most of my books from supermarkets when they are on offer and pay about £3.50 per book, but if this is too much there’s always the library. I read a whole range of fiction: thrillers, horror, chick lit, fantasy, children’s books, young adult….and then I don’t get bored with any one type. There’s nothing better than curling up in a corner and getting lost in a good story.

Fiction writing: I love to take a pen and paper and get creative. Sometimes shorter pieces; sometimes poems; sometimes even longer works. I’ve shared some of my flash fiction on my personal blog, and I have one finished book and one in-progress book locked in my desk drawer waiting for me to have the courage to submit them to a publisher.

Stargazing: even if you can’t afford a telescope or binoculars, you can still take a blanket outside, lie down and look up at the night sky. You can watch the constellations as they appear to move over time, pick out several of the planets (we’ve seen Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter this year) and watch out for the ISS as it passes overhead. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a decent telescope you can see the bands on Jupiter and watch Gannymede, Europe, Callisto and Io as they dance around him.  I have writing a blog post about what you can see with the naked eye on my to-do list – it just hasn’t reached the top yet!

Learning new languages: last summer I went on a (free) intensive Chinese course. I was really diligent over the summer, revising what I’d learnt on the course and teaching myself the next steps. Once the school year started I ran out of time for it. I’ve retained some because for two terms I did teach what I’d learned so far, but I’m looking forward to having time this summer to recap and move on. I’ve also been trying to learn German forever, and above my desk I have some Flashsticks that I look at whenever I sit down to work.

Learning other new things: there are so many sites offering free courses now that it’s easier than ever to learn new things. I’ve only signed up to FutureLearn and Open2Study, although there are many more, and so far I’ve learned about the new computing curriculum, archaeology, forensic psychology, how Shakespeare’s life experiences influenced his plays, how to write newspaper articles, the moons in our solar system, how to teach languages to people with dyslexia, the forgotten stories of WW1, Maori and Aborigine culture…….and too many other things to list. The day I want to stop learning is the day I’ll give up teaching!

Watching TV: I’m not one for sitting for hours in front of the box (although I do like Dr Who and Strictly Come Dancing) but there are some good programmes on. Last Sunday was the first in a series about the Spanish Armada which I’m looking forward to watching with my husband when he gets back from his week-long Harry Potter tour.

Craft: I’m hopeless at arts and crafts, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to be good at. I’ve tried a few different things, and like with most things in life, the more I practice the better I get. I’m probably never going to be good enough to be able to sell what I make but I find it relaxing and I’m happy just to be able to see progress. I bought a teach yourself to draw book (£2 from The Works) and I’ve been having a go at sketching. I’ve tried painting and although I’m no Constable there is definite improvement from my 1st to my 3rd ever attempts. I’ve decorated boxes and jam jars with tissue paper and beads, and I’ve taught myself arm knitting! And I’ve not used anything I couldn’t have got from Poundland.

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Cooking: This isn’t my favourite activity, but it’s useful and a girl’s got to eat. Usually my husband does the cooking in our household, but sometimes in the holidays I’ll set aside a day or two when I cook all day and then put everything in the freezer to use up when we both get too busy to think about preparing meals.

By the time you add in life’s necessities – housework, grocery shopping, and keeping the garden under control – just about every second of my holiday is accounted for. There’s no time for feeling bored. What do the rest of you do in your holidays? Why not share your ideas in the comments below.