Sunday, June 09, 2013

how to take a summer break when you can't

We have always homeschooled more or less year round. At first I was all, "Oh, learning happens all the time and shouldn't have dates imposed", and then I was all, "ARGH, can we never get a day's worth of schoolwork done in a day? No wonder we never get a summer break!" The truth is both...learning *does* happen all the time, and that comes very naturally when you homeschool...your teacher brain is always on and you find yourself looking up maps of Bora Bora on a Sunday afternoon to explain a reference in a Looney Tunes episode. But, as your kids get older and earthworm jars and coffee filter art starts to get replaced by algebra and grammar, you find yourself really *needing* a break. There's learning and then there's LEARNING, and while the delight-driven and spontaneous stuff should always be happening, the lesson plan-driven and table-bound stuff need not be, *should* not be. People live most happily in's why we have feast and feria in the church year. We like rhythm. And yet....we have 32 weeks of syllabi to complete. I am enrolled, now, in a Real Curriculum, (Mother of Divine Grace) and also I have a high-schooler that needs to complete credit hours and such. And we so rarely *do* complete a day's worth of work in a day, and so we often need *much* longer than 32 weeks to complete everything. So, a happy(ish) middle was born. Here's how it looks...

1. Assign breaks on your school calendar at the start of the school year. Note that even with a long Christmas and Easter break you should be finishing school well before Memorial Day. Laugh heartily at your calendar because you have been doing this for a long time now and know better.

2. Do your damndest all year to stay on track. You *will* have a Real Summer Break this year! Of course, your best efforts are thwarted regularly. Daily, even. You keep chugging though, with visions of algebra lessons being replaced by long summer afternoons in the backyard watering tomato plants and drinking sweet tea cheering up your cloudy February brain.

3. Spring break comes and you panic because you are on week 20 in most of your subjects. There are 8 weeks left in the school year and 12 weeks left in your syllabi. Dang it all! Determine that you can make it if you nip and tuck here, do a few Saturdays there...

4. Memorial Day comes around and guess what? Summer is here and you still have six weeks of school to do! That's right, superfly, you got *further* behind! Buh bye, Summah! Buh bye sweet tea and tomatoes!, don't give it up! It doesn't have to be that way! Take some steps and salvage a break for yourself. Here's some thoughts we are implementing, along with some others that are worth thinking about---

---What can you do to give yourself a break? Think hard. Think of shortcuts you don't usually take, but maybe you can cut yourself some slack just over the summer. What will make *you* feel rested? Getting some backlogged work done? Can you hire a preteen girl to come a couple afternoons a week and help out while you catch up on your to-do list and start the next school year caught up? Or having a slower start to your day? Can you switch to paper and plastic dishes and easier, lighter, quicker meals most nights a week? Maybe indulge in a few convenience foods you don't usually use? Maybe instead of cooking breakfast every morning you stop by the bakery thrift store and stock your freezer with bagels and English muffins and lay in some supplies for smoothies. Maybe you get to indulge in a slow read of backed up magazines with your coffee instead of making eggs. Maybe you grill a bunch of meat once a week and eat a couple more meals off of that preprepped stuff. Maybe you start eating dinner outside most nights by the wading pool on paper plates and save your kitchen and dining room from needing another cleaning. Maybe you toss out popsicles for a quickie dessert and start doing white trash showers while you are out there so that when bedtime comes everyone can roll from the backyard right into bed. Take those last few weeks of school work and spread it out over the summer. Tell yourself you did it that way on purpose, to keep your kids from "losing skills" over the long break. Grab each kid for 30 minutes to an hour a day and work on the dregs of those lesson plans, then let it go.

---Make sure you have some fun in there! What looks like fun to you might be different from year to year. If you run ragged all school year, maybe you should drop as much as possible and spend plenty of time at home this summer. In recent years we have let a lot of outside activities go during the school year in the name of sanity, so I decided we would indulge in more away-from-home fun over the summer...I sat with a calendar and a list of possibilities and marked a bunch of dates...pool days, lake days, library activities, movies, bowling, skating, VBS, museums....I have something on my calendar pretty much every day. We won't *do* it all. But it's all on there, and on the days we want to go somewhere, I have a place in mind. Right now I'm finding it easier to go and do something most days. When we return, the kids are more content to be home and entertain themselves better.

Ok, that's it, my rapid-fire blog post. I really am trying to get on here more often...