how to homeschool with breaks

One thing that gets neglected when people are figuring out how to homeschool, is scheduling in breaks. I’ve been homeschooling for over 17 years and I have noticed a couple of funny things about homeschoolers.

#1   There are no true sick days

When I was a kid (in public school), there were days that I was truly sick and others when I was just sick of it. My mom was kind and wise and she occasionally let me stay home from school. On those “sick of it” days, we would go to Swensen’s for a GINORMOUS ice cream sundae and maybe cruise the mall. I’d be all better about halfway through the sundae. On the truly sick days, I would binge-watch PBS, Gilligan’s Island, and Dick VanDyke. Guess what? Those days off didn’t make me fall irrevocably behind, fail to graduate or become a lazy adult. I’m actually pretty okay, and I have great memories because of it.

Let’s consider our homeschoolers. Raise your hand if you have ever said, “I know you’re not feeling great, but you can read 2 chapters of your book today, right?” Or “It’s just a mild sore throat, have a Tylenol and we’ll start math in 30 minutes.” We wring our hands and worry if we let them bounce between the tablet and TV all day. We think it somehow reflects poorly on us, like we are failing them in some way. We feel this because of all the articles we read about technology being bad for our kids. Spoiler alert! There’s a lot of good in the technology available today. But that’s a topic for another day…

#2   Monday Holidays, Spring Break, and Summer give us anxiety

How many times have you been asked, “Are you taking Labor Day/MLK Day/Spring/Summer break off?” Only other homeschoolers ask these questions. The rest of the world assumes we are taking those breaks. Why wouldn’t we? We tend to see taking breaks as weak, lazy or backsliding. We feel guilty for RESTING! Need I remind you that God Himself considered rest so important that he dedicated an entire day every week to it? I suggest you read Teaching From Rest by Sarah MacKenzie.

Every homeschool family will have their own rhythm and routine and that’s great! Some of you want to school through the summer for all kinds of reasons, go for it!

But promise me two things…

You won’t look down on taking breaks. Encouraging your kids to always be curious, and in that way, value learning all year round is awesome. Requiring a certain amount of bookwork or something you see as “actual learning” before you allow the kids to have “free time” could be crushing their desire to learn and be curious. Think outside the box and try to see the value of learning in your child playing with Legos or even that <dare I say it> video game!

Also, promise me you won’t fear “getting behind” so much that you push math on your sick kids.  Let them have the occasional day where they build a “nest”. That’s what my kids do when they don’t feel well. They drag a big blanket, a few pillows and some stuffed animals in front of the TV and settle in for a day of watching TV, drinking water and napping on and off.

Scheduling Breaks

This year, my family instituted scheduled weeklong breaks every 6 weeks (or less). Some of them corresponded to holidays or vacations, others were just a week off at home. Basically, we never did more than 6-8 weeks of school without taking a week off. We could use that week to do some makeup work if we felt we needed it, or we would just take the whole week off.

I’m not saying we watched TV all week. The kids used the “unstructured” time to work on craft projects, write stories, read books, have poetry teatimes, do internet searches of things that interested them, go to museums, play outside, get bored, cook/bake new things, watch documentaries and also play some video games. I used those weeks to plan the next block of schooling, which gave me the freedom to expand what was working and remove what wasn’t. It was such a blessing! We were much less stressed, and we still finished all our structured schooling by the end of May.

A typical school year should last between 32-36 weeks, depending on the age of your students. What you do with the remaining 16-20 weeks per year can make or break your homeschool. Give those kids and yourself a BREAK!

Heather is a wife, mother, and nurturer with a big heart for others. She has homeschooled her four children since 2002 with the help of LOTS of coffee and chocolate.

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