Home(schooling) for the Holidays?: How and Why to Take a Break
By Chelsea McLeod
Just as Self-Care is essential to the homeschooling parent puzzle, so is taking breaks from the planned curriculum. Homeschooling offers many benefits, one of which is a flexible schedule. Homeschooling doesn’t often follow a traditional school day; you have break time during the day as the requirement of time spent schooling differs. As a homeschooler, you do not have to follow a traditional school calendar; you can choose your calendar, but taking breaks from your planned learning on your family’s schedule is essential.
Taking needed breaks is easier said than done for so many of us.
Home(schooling) for the holidays: How and why to take breaks from homeschooling.
We often feel guilty for taking time off or become overwhelmed by the concept that there is too much to do to take breaks. However, this is not the case, and on the contrary, it can be very healthy for you and your children to take breaks from traditional schooling. So first, you must allow yourself to make the mental space for holidays. You cannot worry about lessons and learning 24/7/365, or you will burn yourself and your children out.
There are many types of breaks, from planned, spontaneous mental health days or unplanned; permitting yourself to take those breaks, whether planned or unplanned, is crucial to the success of your homeschooling journey. But how? How to take these breaks is a different story. In the case of planned breaks, you can follow a traditional school calendar or even look at the work holidays of your spouse and friends.
This may include family or community commitments, events, or simply taking the summer off to allow your children to have a similar schedule to their friends, and you get some much-needed time off. Conversely, unplanned breaks can come from sicknesses, family deaths or unexpected hospitalizations. These things are unavoidable; however, sometimes we need to take a breath, make space for family connection and forget about the calendar for a short or even long while if necessary. The routine, plans and learning will be there waiting for us when we are ready and able to return to normalcy.
Why You Should Take Breaks.
Why you should take breaks is easier to break down. Just because you have chosen to homeschool doesn’t mean you are not allowed to make space for some separation. You school from home, but you do not live in the school. This is an important distinction. I’m sure you know from experience that when you are doing too much of something, it can lead to burnout.
Well, the same applies to learning. You must care for yourself and make space for your interests and hobbies. In the same way, your kids need to have some time and space not connected to a learning outcome. On top of that, there are many reasons (we can only name a few here) why you should take breaks and direct the focus away from traditional learning.
Here Are Some Reasons Why Breaks Are Important:
You are in Charge.
Like many, you chose to begin homeschooling in the first place to take charge of your time and calendar, right? So why not use that to your advantage and plan your break when it works for You? You make the plan; you know what to focus on and when. Could you make space in the plan for holiday breaks? So whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice, you can plan your days off from teaching and learning to best suit the schedule you set out.
Similarly, being with and connecting with your kids is crucial to their emotional development. You are a parent first, and your children need you for more than just teaching them academics. Life skills and emotional development require an emotional connection. Taking the time to bake cookies together or read a Christmas story is okay because it will help your child build emotional intelligence. Family traditions, religious/non-religious holiday practices or time spent together are always more important than academic learning.
Tomorrow is Not Guaranteed.
This one sounds sad to say, but it is true. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, so take the time to make those memories. If you skip picking out a Christmas tree together or carolling with a relative to keep going with your curriculum, you risk losing your children. What if that relative isn’t around next Christmas? So take the time while you know it is here to create those memories and connections.
Homeschooling Requires Less Time.
Most homeschooling families complete their lessons in less time than a traditional in-person school day. For this reason, you often get naturally occurring breaks during the day or only homeschool for part of the day. And, if you are a curriculum person who likes to follow that checklist, you will easily find and plan how to push through or make up for lost time at a later date.
Learning Isn’t Just Planned Lessons.
Learning happens all the time, especially for children. Baking cookies with your kids can include measurement learning; volunteering can involve learning emotional maturity or gaining “subject area knowledge,” as well as early civic or community engagement lessons. So much “counts” as part of a well-rounded educational experience for your child, so worry less about planned lessons and take in some other types of learning while you spend time with your kids.
Everyone Needs A Break, and That’s OK.
The holidays, no matter which ones you celebrate, often come with much busier schedules. So while you are running around with various get-togethers, holiday concerts or wherever else the season brings, take the time to enjoy it. Remember, you are making memories, and the change of routine often means occasional periods of downtime, rest, and relaxation. After the holidays, you will be able to start fresh.
A Break is A Good Time to Make Changes.
Speaking of starting fresh, if things in your homeschool plan are going differently than you envisioned after a break is an excellent time to make changes. You can take the time during the holidays to explore other approaches or make new plans. Then, when you’re ready to return to it, you and the kids will have had a natural break, which can make the transition easier.
Other Relationships Are Important Too.
Whether those relationships are with friends, mentors, extended family or activity leaders, the holidays are a great time to make space for these. So give your children the opportunities to connect with others outside the immediate family group. It can be problematic in your everyday routine to find time to do this, but holiday events often shift focus to spending time with important people to your child.
They will Grow Up; You Don’t Want to Miss It.
That’s right, I said it! And no, I am not trying to “rush” you or make you cry, but the reality is that before you know it, your littles will be grown, and your traditions will have to adjust. Your holidays will no longer be entirely a time of downtime but could involve part-time jobs and studying for finals. Eventually, they will grow up, move out and get their apartment. They may be going off to university or work, and while they may have time off, they may not be able to get home on all their days off. So be intentional with the time you have now, and put down the lesson planner; the algebra problems or the poem unit you had planned isn’t as important as building relationships with your kids.
Summary: Home(schooling) for the holidays: How and why to take a break.
Amid the busy day-to-day of raising little ones, it is hard to imagine that it will ever be different; believe it or not, there will come a day when you will miss the “help” baking cookies, the constant questions (or screaming) and the stepping on toys at every turn. For now, take the time to enjoy your kids because your family won’t always be this easy to connect with; they won’t always be together under one roof. One day, they will be grown, possibly with a family of their own, and you want them to look back fondly, remembering their time at home with you and use those memories to create their traditions. After the holidays, a new year with new lessons will be waiting, but for now, embrace the change of routine and lean into the break for both yourself — and your kids.
Enjoy your family time.