Often when we are asked if we take the same summer break as the local schools and I say no. Then there’s a comment or two about how kids need breaks. I agree. Actually, I need the break more than my kids. And that’s why we take breaks all through out the year. I don’t know how schools go 12 months with only a winter break and a spring break, then a long 3-month summer break. Why not take breaks all year? One of the joys of homeschooling is the freedom to follow our own schedule. Why not let the seasons ebb and flow and ride the tide along with them as we homeschool?
There exists a period of time in the homeschool community called the winter blues. An article was written about it in The Old Schoolhouse magazine a couple of years ago. About 6 or 7 months into the year, usually about February if the year is started in September, the winter blues hit homeschool families everywhere. It is described as a slower pace, in which we grudgingly move through the piles of school work we were so excited about months earlier when we opened the new boxes of books and supplies. Homeschooling becomes boring compared to all of the wonderful holidays… Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve/Day. During this time, I love reading other mama’s blogs and going onto my favorite forums for inspiration and ideas pertaining to giving, outreach, and the holiday spirit. It’s exciting to partake of all the holiday season has to offer! But then we sit down to work on proper nouns, averbs, and borrowing when subtracting long numbers, and we are bored and burned out.
I decided last year that when this season hits, we are going to take a break, re-evaluate the books and subjects that are extremely strenuous and painful to get through, and set them aside. There is a sea of learning to be had during these dry, almost depressing times. And it doesn’t have to be in the textbook or workbook. Doing a mini unit study on watercolors or helicopters (I have all boys), or just taking on a more relaxing, unschooling frame of mind can be a prescription for joy.
My very practical, need-to-have-something-written-down-and-in-the-folder personality will often promt me to print some writing. reading comprehension, and math drill sheets, just so I don’t feel so guilty for taking time off from our normal schedule. The kids breeze through them, then we are free to read what we want, experiment with solids and liquids in the kitchen, and keeping unstructured and unedited journals. It’s not my finest homeschool moment, but at least they are not losing ground and I am not burning out. The other day I had some buoyancy activities prepared because we are reading about Ping the duck and Ping floats and we wanted to know why. Well, the 3 short experiments I set up for them in the kitchen turned into 2 whole hours (!) of experiments and “let’s see what happens if…” comments, and we never got to vocabulary. At first I started to freak out because I am already just wanting to get school over with so I can move on for the day, but then I realized that they are using their scientific method reasoning and I wasn’t making them do it. No vocab that day. They learned plenty.
During this time of year, I need to be careful not to make major decisions that will affect my kid’s futures. According to TOS, circa Winter 2011, this is the time of year many homeschool moms give up for the simple reason that they are overwhelmed and mistake it as a schooling issue instead of a personal issue. When the season passes and the sun shines again, everything will look different. I have learned a few things in our years homeschooling. I have learned that an hour on the treadmill or out for a brisk walk will renew my mind and my Spirit. I have learned that doing domestically enjoyable tasks, such as baking, will refocus my thoughts and my mood and lead to more productivity. I have learned that if I give in to the blues and allow too much tv time or begin giving in to the desire for a nap, it leads to more of the same. This is not true for all moms, there are many for whom I am sure a nap is just the ticket to a better, more productive day. I’m just not one of them. I have learned this through trial and error. The Lord is gracious and my children are doing well, despite homeschool whole family burn-out.
This is a very tempting time for our family to give up. Chris and I talked about trying new things to get our family back into the frame of mind we wanted to have. We threw around the idea of being tougher with the rules and preparing a boot camp style school for a bit. Less grace, more tough love. In the end, we decided that the way of the Lord is to stop fighting so much. Instead, we’re releasing the need to try to change the inevitable winter blues and just ride it out. On a toboggan. No boot camp, more snuggle time. We are going through Five in a Row as slowly or as quickly as we please and the curriculum lends itself well to this fashion. We are letting the Lord have His way and if the mood strikes to be helpful or neighborly to another, that’s what we do. If we need to make the year a little longer than planned to allow room for the winter blues, I see no problem with that, because I am relinquishing control over my homeschool, to the Lord. And I trust Him.
Hopefully this blog finds you happy and well, but if you are also feeling the homeschool half-way point winter blues, I suggest you find what makes you happy and lifts your children’s spirits, and you do it!
Have a wonderful weekend. Thanks for reading.