Ask any homeschooling parents and you will find that at one time or another, they’ve hit dry spells along their homeschooling journey. It’s nobody’s fault, really. Many families take academic breaks over the holidays and find it hard to get back into the groove in January. Curriculum that was started with high energy fizzles into the dreary winter months. Suddenly Nature Study becomes one more chore to check off the list. After all, who wants to accompany their kids outside to look for signs of nature when it’s cold and gloomy? (Maybe bring it inside instead!)
My kids are teens now and generally take an academic break for the last half of December. Frankly, I need their help to clean and decorate our house and bake homemade treats for our friends and neighbors.
Often they wrap gifts, too. But just before we do take our break, I meet with my kids individually and talk with them about their studies. What are they still enjoying? What do they want to tackle in January? Is there anything they’d like to “pause” for a month or shelve until next year?
As homeschooling parents in Washington State, we have complete freedom to switch gears like this as often as we need to so that we can best meet the needs of our kids. In December, sometimes my kids’ biggest need is freedom from ME! They want to sleep late, go bowling with their friends, go out to lunch and spend time with people they haven’t seen.
What do they learn from this time off? They learn to slow down. They learn that it’s OK to take time off. They learn to prioritize spending time with people. They learn to keep family traditions that work and eliminate the silly stuff that we don’t really need to do now that they are older. They learn that Christmas Eve is just for our family and Christmas Day is a time to invite friends over to feast and celebrate.
When I first started homeschooling, I tried to mimic some of the breaks that our local schools took. Sometimes I did this so that my kids could spend time with their public or private schooled friends. But after building my own confidence, I did start to notice that we did not need so many breaks in our family. We had our own rhythm and worked through many days and if we had a late night out, we’d declare Pajama Day the next day, sleep late, and work from our beds. We have freedom to do what works for our family, and once you get a taste of that freedom it’s really hard to turn back.
My advice to you is this:
- Don’t feel like you have to finish every book or set of curriculum that you chose before the school year started. If your kids lose interest and you feel like you’re forcing them to complete a subject, ask yourself if there’s a different way to go about it. Or sometimes you can throw a DVD into the mix instead of having them read about a topic….This works especially well for history!
- Don’t feel like you can’t use some chapters or sections from a book now, and some next year or the following year. Some subjects will hold your children’s interest for several years. I think we’re on our third year of Nature Study with my 14-year-old. She can’t get enough!
- And lastly, revisit your list of reasons why you chose to homeschool in the first place. You’ll probably find that even if you have gone slightly off course or dove down some rabbit trail, your kids are learning something interesting every day. Be kind and patient to yourself and your kids. This is a journey, not a 50-yard dash. Some of that journey will be uphill….but just imagine the view from the top!
Kelly Malleck is a homeschool mom to two teenage daughters, one in high school and one in middle school. She is the advertising manager for HSA and enjoys writing articles to inspire others. If you would like to share an article with other homeschoolers, please contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.