Give Me a Break!

I’ve been homeschooling for 16 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 Van Dyke. 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 those days.

Let’s consider our homeschoolers. Raise your hand if you have ever said, “I know you’re not feeling great, but you can read two 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.

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? 

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!

If you do school through the summer or holidays then promise me two things:  

Don’t look down on those 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 a video game.

Don’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.

Planned 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 make up work if we felt we needed it, or we would just take the whole week off.

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 more than 75% of the math book by the end of May! Did you know you don’t have to finish the whole book? 

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! 

How do you handle sick days? Do you take regularly scheduled breaks throughout the school year?

Photos by Daiga Ellaby 

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