“A stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY”
― Roald Dahl, Danny the Champion of the World
For a long time, I have been intrigued with the idea of scheduling one’s homeschool year six weeks on, one week off, providing intentional breaks. Unfortunately, I’ve almost always been stressing about what we’re not getting done that I feel as though I can’t take a break. Truly, a sign I needed a break. For a long time, I was trying to help a student who was struggling, I felt like I had to keep pressing forward, only to cause myself extra stress.
This year our routine is different because my one of my children is in school in a brick-and-mortar school. He is thriving. His confidence is growing. So many good things are happening for him.
I drop him off most days. I’ve fit in one month of working out consistently to see if it would help improve my health in the areas of sleep and headaches. It feels like it eats a chunk out of our school day, but I am resolved to try it. We get home and begin our school (academic) block between then and the school’s pick up time.
I told my other two who are still being homeschooled that we will do school on all the days that child is in school, and the days he has off, we will have off as well.
Today was the first day he has had off since we started.
Throughout the day, I have felt the sense of relief that today was a day off. I had some ideas in my mind of things we could do–an art project with chalk and egg tempura paint–if the day went that way. I held the idea loosely.
Instead we visited with grandma. We watched Minecraft idea videos, they played Minecraft, we watched episodes of Fixer Upper, and I knitted the final stitches on a boot cuff, only to have to rip out ten rows.
At the same time, it was still relaxing. I wasn’t worrying about spelling, math, writing, or anything else.
I made a nutritious supper, and sat down and ate it with my kiddos.
I swept a couple floors, wiped down a bathroom and gave the youngest a bath, then I told the chores that it’s not their turn.
I think it helped that I listened to a podcast about this topic just yesterday, and the ideas were fresh in my mind.
I played three games with my kids on the floor and read a story book we had never read before: The Pumpkin Runner by Marsha Diane Arnold.
We enjoyed each other’s company.
I wasn’t stressing over the must do’s.
That’s just it! That’s what intentional breaks do for us. Like any homeschooling parent, I am carrying the wellbeing of my children, the housekeeping, meal planning and preparation, addressing any health concerns, all the errands and appointments—as well as my children’s education.
Where does my wellbeing fit into it? Where does it fit in that my children experience mom having fun with them without the stress of having to finish all the lessons? Yes, homeschooling is fun at many moments, but not without me carrying the checklist on my shoulders. My wellbeing suffers. Our relationships can suffer.
I picked up a book for a few minutes that I have been trying to read for my own health benefits by Dr. John R. Lee. Chapter 9 is called Tried Adrenals Equals a Tired Woman. The action points at the end of the chapter say, “Get enough sleep and play time.” Get enough play time. What a revolutionary idea! Yet our kids know how to play!
I know that I forget to play. I say, “I will do it when I’m done with___. “ And it never happens. Unless I schedule it in, or just stop what I’m doing. Our children even beg us at times to stop and do—fill-in-the-blank. So often, in following our child’s lead we can keep from being too stodgy. This evening it was my son asking me to go outside with him while he selected twigs for a craft project. Those were some of the best moments of the day with him.
The intentional breaks build in a space to address things that aren’t school related, which translates to lessened stress. Even more, it gives me down time.
It gives my children and me time to just be us, enjoying each other’s company. It gives us space for activities that are just for the sake of spending time together and being interested in each other and our interests. It builds morale. It fills our emotional buckets.
Even on school days, building in pieces of this is important. One day this week we took our school work to a local coffee shop. We sat on the coffee shop patio for most of our visit because the weather was warm and sunny. This one gesture—and the hot chocolate—gave my daughter the boost to try and to keep working when she would have felt like shutting down. She just needed something to look forward to.
I see myself growing and making progress as a mom, as a person. I’m learning so much from my children. They are, in so many ways, my greatest teachers. Having the one child in school and offloading the dynamics of his education into the capable hands of his teacher has given me perspective to see when I need to step back, or approach him differently. And now, this added bonus of build in days off.
I would like to say that I will take the break weeks we need for the rest of this year. It will take a little strategy since I’m juggling two at home and one in school. I know my tendency is to power though when I need to slow down. Yet, I am thankful for today. I’m grateful for the tangible evidence that a true break day provided.
If you can relate to this, I want to encourage you to see where you can fit in the down time you need, or to find help if you have a struggling student. It doesn’t mean that a brick-and-mortar school will be the solution, although it could be. Or it could just be taking break time, on purpose. Time for spending with your kids just as mom or dad. Time for you to take a step back in whatever way you need, even for a few days. Time to tackle a project that has been stressing you that will clear some mental space—as long as you don’t crowd out the relationships.
I want to encourage you to enjoy your children without putting an agenda on them. Spend time with them. See where their interests can lead, even for a day. What games would they enjoy playing with you? What book is waiting to be discovered together? What hiking path is begging for the patter of feet taking a respite from the humdrum of check boxes? Take time to breath, the rejuvenate, to bask in each other’s companionship!