When a fresh new homeschooling year starts, we are in “full speed ahead” mode! However, as we move into the holidays, the mid-year slump can often bring us to a grinding halt. It’s not entirely a bad idea to take some very necessary breaks in your home education throughout the year to make sure that both children and parents don’t burn out from trying to do too much too quickly.
Many times, we get burnt out by attempting to keep up the “school at home” pace. That means trying to fashion your homeschooling schedules like those carried out in public schools and private schools. This does work for some homeschool families; however, you have to remember that freedom is likely one of the reasons you started homeschooling in the first place! Let’s not lose sight of that as we think about some ways we can take breaks during the school year and make the whole year, and the child's education, better.
But here’s the thing… a “break” can mean so much more than just taking some time off.
Slow the Pace When Homeschooling
If you’re adhering to a specific homeschool curriculum, it’s not at all uncommon for that curriculum to be paced at such a rate that your homeschooled child becomes overwhelmed with the material. Things are going along great one day, and then all of a sudden, they’re just “not getting it” and you wonder why. It could be that they haven’t completely mastered the information that was presented last week, and now, trying to stack on new information to that foundation, is more than they can handle.
Remember, part of your job as an educator is to stop and reassess the situation whenever your child gives cues like this. Flip back through the homeschooling curriculum or the homeschool program to something they have a firm grasp on, and then slowly move forward. It won’t take much to identify the stressor, and once you find it, you can figure out how to make it easier to understand, and thus, easier to move on.
This reassessment time not only lets your child see that it truly matters to you that they understand what they’re doing, but it also helps them gain confidence. They’ll know they really can grasp the material, and they’ll enjoy the fact that they conquered this area that seems to be a pressing weight on their little minds. We don’t like being overwhelmed, and it’s a sure thing that they don’t either.
As Winter Drags On in the Homeschooling Year
One of the things that can create the need for a break most of all is when winter just seems to drag on forever. Cabin fever is real, and sometimes, you just need to change things up a little bit to bring in some freshness. You don’t have to completely toss your plans out the window but heading out for a little adventure or an impromptu field trip can add a lot of zest to the day.
Maybe you’d rather spend the day at the library, or a nearby museum for a day-long art study. The zoo can add a great splash of real-life to science as you get to observe animals and habitats in a much closer space. If you live in a historic town, you might even decide to walk around some of those landmarks for a great lesson on some of the historic events that happened nearest to you. These are great opportunities to go at your own pace and enjoy the day together.
In addition to all of these great field trip-type options, you might also find it a great change of pace to participate in a homeschool co-op or a homeschool support group. Not only will you find friendships that you can foster, but your homeschooled child will also get to have a change of pace in what they are learning. These types of groups often provide a way for your child to learn subjects that are a bit out-of-the-ordinary.
Relationships are Important in Homeschooling
My daughter had a rough time with math. It didn’t matter if we put it at the top of the daily homeschool schedule, or the very bottom, it always caused some serious emotions to come out. Most of the time we worked through them with no problems. It was usually something she didn’t quite grasp. And I couldn’t blame her, because I wasn’t exactly a mathematician myself! (I’m still not!)
But you’d better believe there were many days when the tears were flowing from both of us, that I just tossed the books aside and we went into the kitchen for some hot tea and Mommy/Daughter time. Sometimes we talked about math. Sometimes we talked about photography. And sometimes, we didn’t talk at all. The point was, we weren’t doing math!
No matter what happens, we were going to learn math. But I needed her to know that she meant more to me than her math grade! We chose to homeschool because it was what was best for our family. How could I expect her totally to wreck her nerves and our relationship, because I wasn’t willing to call it a day right at that point of meltdown? No, I’d rather spend a few hours in the evening, or on Saturday, working on those bumps in the road.
For you, it might be something entirely different. Maybe your teenager is having boyfriend or girlfriend problems, the tension on the job, or having anxiety over an upcoming SAT test. Whatever it is, it’s okay to take the time to deal with that, even in the midst of your homeschooling schedule. This is where you get to homeschool your child in the way that is best for you AND your child.
A Cushion for Crisis in Homeschooling
Almost every homeschooling family will face some kind of a crisis at some point in their lives. Maybe it’s an illness, a death in the family, someone loses a job or takes a new one in another state or any one of countless other crises that could happen. They may not always meet the specified criteria for a literal crisis as we adults know it, but some children, and especially children with special needs, are far more sensitive to changes in their normal day, and for them, it really is a crisis.
Even for the smaller crisis, have enough grace for yourself and your child to be able just to step back and take a break while it’s dealt with. You can always catch up on the curriculum (or become an unschooling family for a short while). But stressing through the crisis and the curriculum can create stalls in the learning process that might take much longer to recover from.
This should be especially raw for homeschooling parents and their kids right now with the pandemic ongoing. Although we're beginning to get back to a more normal kind of schedule, the coronavirus has caused us to all have a crisis throughout the past year. But, I'm so thankful that we are a homeschooling family. I can't imagine the challenges that full-time distance learning caused for school districts and school systems around the nation.
Holiday Breaks While Homeschooling
I know homeschooling families approach holiday breaks in different ways. Year-round homeschoolers often take much longer breaks during the holidays, while other families use the pomp that surrounds this time as extra learning days. There’s always something to be learned through baking, gifting, running errands for family members, hosting out-of-town guests, and attending a variety of community functions.
During this time, it’s easy to cover math, science, life skills, socialization, empathy, giving, and so much more, all of which are extremely important, can be actual lessons if we will choose to use them as such.
The good news is, it’s entirely up to you! You know how much of a break you and your homeschooled kids need. You know whether an extended break will cause problems in your child’s learning. So, you do whatever it takes to maintain the calm, but don’t be opposed to doing it your way instead of the way everyone thinks you should.
Just Get Moving During Your Homeschooling Days!
Sometimes, a break doesn’t have to be days or weeks long to be a real break. If your child is prone to a bad case of wiggles after a couple of hours of lessons, you probably know this better than anyone! It can often make more sense to take several breaks throughout your homeschool day just to make sure the wiggles don’t take over. You can even combine the two if you like. Learning spelling words over a jump rope or a game of hopscotch could be just the thing to break the monotony and open up a whole new level of learning! This works especially well in the elementary school grades, as well as the middle school grades, and the Pre-K kiddos will love participating, as well! It does get a little trickier in high school.
If your children are older, they might choose to take up a quick game of basketball or bike riding which can allow you a few minutes of solitude to have a quick tea, read the Word, and defrag from the mounting pressures of a full day.
When children and moms come back together after a quick break, you’ll be surprised at what you can tackle with your fresh outlooks. A few of these breaks might be the answer you’ve been looking for, and if they’re not, you haven’t lost a thing.
These are just a precious few ideas on how to add some breaks into your homeschooling days. You can surely come up with many more of your own, that works perfectly for your own homeschool family, and you’ll see the same great results as homeschooling parents! Never con yourself into thinking that you have to do the same thing as another homeschooling family, the same thing you did last year, or give in to the pressures of the naysayers.
Taking a break – whatever that means for your family – is a great way to rejuvenate, decompress, and fill in a few gaps with family time. It makes a world of difference! Just give it a try, and you’ll see.