Do you like the idea of homeschool all year round?  Do you take school holidays?  When we take all of life and use it to educate our kids, when we are not dictated to by someone else’s objectives or calendar, then school holidays becomes a concept we need to think about.  I remember telling my kids one morning that since we don’t go to school we can’t take school holidays – I will never forget the look of confused horror on their faces!!  I was kidding them – but I wanted us to talk about how we were going to deal with this ‘school holiday’ issue.


So do we take school holidays?

Yes we do – and No we don’t.

Yes we do – we change our routine at the time our local school goes on holidays because it is a good time to catch up with many of our friends.  In fact, the school holidays are some of the busiest times of the year and to be honest, we more often than not take an extra week off our studies just to recover!

And No we don’t – I actually consider many of the activities we do with other families to be a part of my children’s specific education – so though school kids are on school holidays, I know my kids are still learning in whatever they are doing.  My kids also continue to read, write, talk, create – because these are life long habits all of which are learning and I can’t tell them to stop just because we are ‘on a break’!


Benefits of Taking a Break

Other than the social interaction we pick up with other kids there are a few other benefits of taking a regular break:

  • It seems as if everyone gets a little stale and loses focus and a break helps shake things up
  • I need time to catch up on housework, and
  • I need time to plan for the next study block

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you have this flexibility.

Each family will take a break differently; each member of the family will take a break differently.  In our family some recharge by being with people, some by being creative, some by being by themselves. Some like order, some like spontaneity.  I try and make sure that we have a balance of activities to meet everyone’s need to refresh.

Managing our Time

As I plan our homeschool year – a loose plan – I block out these weeks as ‘study breaks’.  I have always been amazed at how the words we use affect our attitudes.  When we call this time ‘school holidays’ the kids want to laze around and do nothing.  When I call it a ‘study break’ they have the motivation to continue to be productive and purposeful – though in a different way than in their studies.

Some people think that if you have a routine for your holiday time you are not free to be spontaneous but that is being on a scheduling, not a routine.  A routine is simply a sequence of habits.  There are two parts two having a routine –

  • The routine should reflect reality – what habits are you happy with help you get through your day, these should be the basis of your routine.
  • The routine should help with the discipline it requires to work on the areas of your day that you are not happy with – to help you form new habits.

Having routines during our holiday time is about balancing responsibility with pleasure.

Our day is shaped by the following blocks of time – a routine in the sense that it a sequence of events that happen regularly:

  • Personal Responsibilities
  • Focus Time (generally a study based subject, but not necessarily)
  • Free time
  • Lunch / chores
  • Productive time (generally projects they have on the go)
  • Free time
  • Outside time (together with siblings)
  • Responsibilities
  • Family time / Dinner / Bed routines etc

When my kids were little their routines fitted into this bigger picture as well, though I didn’t have as much free time because they weren’t as independent.  They would do their focus time at the table, and during productive time they would have their nap or reading rest.

If our children cannot make wise choices with their time (aka – they get bored) I help them find something to do.  Only when they refuse my help do I give them chores.  Read more about dealing with boredom.

Our study break routine gets put aside if we are doing something out of the house or with other people.  Family and Friends are a priority during our study breaks.

Current update 2016:  Daniel is currently my only homeschooler – he is in year 11/12 and is just preparing now for a study break.  He has decided that he will maintain his waking and morning routine till 10.00 – which will include 2 hours of focus / study and the rest of his day will be free time until his responsibilities and family time kick in.


The Pressure to keep on Going with no Break

The number one reason why people would not take a study break is because of the pressure of ‘being behind’.  This idea of being behind is like a wild animal constantly chasing us, pushing us to always work, work, work (study, study, study).  I have fallen into this trap a few times, only to see the exhaustion and lack of motivation on my kids’ faces, let alone my own.

Not taking a study break in order to catch up, or not be behind, is counter-productive.  Every productivity coach will tell you that you need rest, you need a whole life, you need to change gears every so often.  I have found my kids have always made huge jumps when they have taken a break.  If we have just come out of a struggle and are making grounds and it is fresh and exciting to the child, then I would use that subject as our focus time, and keep the momentum going – but if we are still in a glitch, still struggling – all the more reason to take a break.


Taking a Break is just a Change of Focus

Taking a break for us, is more about a change of pace, than stopping.  We are still learning, we are still creating, helping others, and looking after our responsibilities – it just has a different flavour and look to it.  It does us all good.

I find that during a study break the family reconnects too – there is more time to enjoy a slower dinner with conversation, there is time to go outdoors or watch a movie together.

Observing how your kids choose to spend their free time during a break gives you a great opportunity to see where they are at:  what life skills they have, or don’t, what character traits need working on, and maybe more positively what passions are developing.

As a homeschooling family we don’t need to be dictated to by the school calendar – we have the freedom to manage our days as it suits our family.  Tracking the learning opportunities that come to our family all year round is one of the things I love about homeschooling – it is a whole life learning process.  But that doesn’t mean we need to be focused on learning, or studying, the whole year round.  We need to make the most of the different seasons in our family life, and one of those seasons that affects our family is the local school holidays.

By looking at why and how you are going to approach these times in your family keeps you intentional throughout the year.

Further Reading:

10 Things we could do in the School holidays – looking at our local area, and what is happening in our town these school holidays we can plan some fun and full of learning experiences just by being with family and friends.

Family Life creates Learning Experiences – Everyday family life creates learning experiences that teach relationship skills, life skills, character and academic learning.

5 Ways to Encourage your Kid’s Unique Talent – Each child has unique talents, abilities and interests – it is the parents job to help discover and encourage those skills to grow.

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