Have you ever found yourself questioning if it’s okay to take a break from homeschooling? As a homeschooler we often already feel heavily questioned about our choices. With everyday life giving us opportunity's to learn constantly, it is easy to get burnt out sometimes. We can feel that longing for a break and rationally can see the need for a break, but for whatever reason actually taking the break can feel wrong. That coupled with the worry of the judgment from outside forces can make us scared.
In our three years of homeschooling, my kids and I have taken several unplanned breaks. The pauses from lessons could last a day or a week, I’ve never regretted taking a rest from our homeschool routine. I have, however, regretted pushing ourselves to finish something and not taking the break sooner.
Taking a break is not a sign of failure or weakness. More often than not, it's exactly what our kids or we need in order to rest our brains, refuel our tanks, and get ready to learn again. Below are some examples of when it is absolutely okay and necessary to take a homeschool break.
Take a Break When Your Kids Are Clearly Burned Out
One of the biggest reasons to take a break is when you notice your homeschooler is continually feeling overwhelmed or shutting down. There are times to push through a hard concept or lesson, but if your child is constantly hitting a wall, they need a break. If the lessons are ending in tears, arguments, or defiance your child is trying to tell you something. One of the most important things to remember about homeschooling is you are a parent first, and a teacher second. No lesson is worth damaging your relationship.
Research shows stepping outside of our routine and away from the thing that is stressing us out can help us replenish the energy we need to keep trying. Sometimes walking away is exactly what is needed to make the lesson click as it works itself out in the back of their mind.
Take a Break When You Are Over Stressed
Another important time to take a break is when you are feeling overburdened. You can't pour from an empty cup. Continuing on can cause you to feel worse. Trying to be everything your kids and spouse need while being overburdened will push you over the edge. It will lead to misery for you and your kids.
If we never give ourselves time to recharge, we’re more likely to lose our patience and say or do things we will regret later. I’ve found my mood directly affects my children’s moods. When I’m not at my best, it’s just a matter of time before they start the eye rolls and attitudes, which will always end badly. The days I’ve allowed myself a period of rest have always ended up benefiting us all. It doesn't always have to even be a whole day, sometimes we just need an hour to take a nap, get a shower, or read a good book to help us get our well being back in check.
Take a Break When You Have Out-of-Town Guests
When we first started homeschooling and out-of-town family or friends visited, I thought I needed to keep our lessons going. Every time, it was a disaster. With more people in the house, there are more chores to do, more meals to prepare, and way more distractions. While well-intentioned, family members often made our lessons harder. We also wanted to spend quality time with these people instead of spending time trudging through our homeschool lessons. Taking a break when we have house guests is now something we automatically do. Family can be a blessing and if the pandemic has taught us anything we are not promised tomorrow. Taking a break to visit with family is never an occasion I will regret taking a break.
Take a Break When It’s a Gorgeous Day
The first sunny or even warm day after many days of rain or the first day where coats and shoes are not required deserves a celebration! Cabin fever is real and can wreck havoc on anyones mood. Especially since my kids are a little older, taking a break from homeschooling to spend the entire day outside recharges them as much as a week’s vacation. Getting a day off when they know all their friends are at school is extra exciting for them.
We will often take our lessons outside, but a day to just play is something special. I quickly learned whenever my children played outside, learning happened. They discovered new plants or insects, found tracks, or learned how to engineer forts.
But We’re Behind Already
If you’re thinking to yourself, “A break would be awesome, but we’re already so far behind,” I’d like to first ask you to answer the question, “Behind what?”
One of the gifts of homeschooling is we can move at a pace that our children learn best. This means sometimes our children will move quickly through a lesson and other times they need more time. One subject they may be working above "grade level" and another is slightly below. I'd also ask who set these levels? Who decided when something is supposed to be learned or mastered? They've never met my kids so how could they possibly tell me that my kid is behind in some way.
I’d also point you towards science. Research has shown brain breaks allow learning and retention to happen at a faster rate. As counterintuitive as it may seem, a break might be just what you need to move ahead. I struggled with learning disabilities my whole life. I learned that shorter study periods with breaks in between actually create greater retention of the material being learned. Healthcare professionals are starting to encourage parents and schools to give children mental health days, and companies are seeing the benefits of giving their employees more time off. Taking a break is good for our minds and bodies.
The next time you find yourself wondering if you and your homeschoolers should take a break, let the answer be yes. Once your break is over, everyone will feel refreshed and ready to learn.
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