Whether you school year-round like we do, or take summers off, the question (or thought) about taking a break from whatever your schedule is will come up. Your kids are resisting more, you're moving, there's a new baby, a new animal, someone has a paper cut. Whatever it is, there will be something that comes up and seems to shatter your world and make you consider a break.
So, how do you choose whether to take a break or not?
This choice is as personal as whether or not to homeschool at all. But there are several factors that could help you decide whether it is time for your rigors to take a back seat to life.
1. You're moving--whether local or cross-country or out of country, this is a big upheaval with a lot of needs so pausing school might be helpful. The kids will still be learning because of your moving process. But their brains might need a bit of a break from math and reading while they process their new environment.
2. A new baby--these tiny humans cause so much change. It might help your older kids to have a break to bond with their new sibling before returning to their routines. Also, once that baby is mobile and entering toddler years, restructuring or another break to figure out a new structure might be in order. Training and acclimating a new pet is also a time consuming exercise that may shift focus away from schooling and require a break.
3. Resistant kids--this is a tough one to decide on. When your kids are struggling more with new concepts, old ones, or general behavior, considering whether a break will help reset everyone is worth it. You know your children best, but trial and error might be needed. And it might be different for each kid. You might see that a break helps one kid but completely throw off another. We generally choose to buckle down and go strong for a couple of weeks to solidify expectations. However, for Rory, a break from their studies helps them recover so I let them take a break or pull back a bit to refill their learning cup. When you child is heavily resisting or struggling with a particular concept, taking a break from the demands of schooling might help them. Think of this as a mental health break to reset their interest in schooling. Not only can you reengage them in school after a break, but you can focus on relationship building that might have become strained while the child was resisting for what
What do you do during said break without school to keep you occupied?
School takes up a few hours of each day and accounts for a good portion of organization and schedule expectations for my kids. Probably yours too. Their brains also crave new information. Mack and Sawyer both need engagement to maintain sanity too. So, what do I fill their time with when we take a break from school? We explore. We go on hikes, we do household projects.
We spend time training a new animal or setting up housing for said animal. Pre-Covid, we went on field trips to museums and sports parks.
This not only keeps us busy and out of trouble but also helps the kids learn in new ways and explore their environments. It looks like a break from school because we aren't writing or doing math worksheets, but really it is a shift in how we are learning. If you're taking a break because of a new baby or a toddler who's learning to get into your space, your break will be filled with reorganizing your days to maintain school schedules so everyone stays happy and engaged.
How long should your break last?
Again, this is as personal as which kid might need a break or not. Sometimes a week is sufficient time to tackle some projects and reset brains. Sometimes a month or 6 weeks is needed. In our case, I generally have kids begging to get back to schoolwork and routines before I think they should be ready. And, what is homeschooling if not an opportunity to let your kids lead the way a bit more?!
Play is learning
Sometimes we go a full year only needing a day or so break periodically. Other times, we school for a week and break for a week. Each season is different and needs a different approach. Right now, I am struggling with Will and writing again. He struggles with dysgraphia and we took a bit of a break from heavier writing so he is struggling to get back to his previous baseline. He is 12, so I expect him to write a minimum of 12 sentences per assignment right now. That results in about 36 sentences each week, but generally different topics with 12 sentences about each. His most recent two, I have had to sit with him and ask questions to lead him to the next thing he should write. While he is struggling and resisting, he is doing far better than he did a few years ago when any writing assignment took hours and many meltdowns to accomplish. Now, with support, I get the 12 sentences in 2 hours without meltdowns most of the time.
As with choosing how to structure your homeschool day, whether to take extended breaks is highly personal. But, it is okay to need that break and take it. You also don't have to justify your break to anyone. Sometimes, I declare a "beautiful day" and we simply take the day off and enjoy the weather. (I stole this from my undergrad university)!
It's a beautiful day
Reach out if you need help deciding when and how to take breaks whether they're extended or simply beautiful days!