Shawna asked: “1. Do you schedule breaks similar to our summer, Christmas and Spring breaks or do you keep at school all the time, letting the breaks fall where they are most advantageous to your family?
2. Transitions between tasks must be complicated. I think of the time I spend setting up the table so that the kids can paint and then the cleanup and set up required for switching to reading. Do you try to accomplish small amounts of multiple tasks during the day or do you tend to stay focused on a bigger picture?”
We go year-round and always have. I originally wanted to avoid the Forgot Everything over Summer Syndrome, but discovered that it was important for many more reasons.
1) One of my main tenets in life is: We are not robots. So many things in our culture seem to be structured on the premise that we are a) willing and b) capable of doing the same thing every day.
In the 90’s Interval Aerobics was a popular concept in the exercise world. Hard minutes followed by easier minutes. I like to think of my approach to homeschooling as ‘Ecclectic Interval Homeschooling’. We follow no one particular program and we have days/weeks where we’re motoring along followed by days/weeks when we’re strolling. It just makes sense. Kids (people) can’t learn the same amount each day. Brains just aren’t ready to process the information at the same rate all the time. Going with the flow by paying deep attention allows me to avoid fighting and frustration.
2) Summer isn’t the only season for taking a break. In a heat wave, sticky-hot afternoons are best spent indoors with a glass of something icy and we may as well do a little learning. Besides, I can’t imagine being stuck to a schedule when that glorious first week of high spring arrives or when crisp autumn whirls into our lives with breezy, dancing leaves.
3) A little structure goes a long way in our family. No structure = arguments. My kids are very different from each other and keeping certain habits on most days keeps the friction lower.
4) Burnout isn’t as big an issue. We still have phases where burnout looms (oh, cruel and dismal March), but we never push ourselves beyond what’s reasonable until we have nothing left. We are not the tools of the schedule; the plan is our tool. Mindful parenting coupled with the understanding that my moods drive family moods lets me toss the plan out the window for a while when it seems necessary.
As for the second question: yes. Yes to both options. Yes to options not mentioned. We’ve tried every method I can think of to make smooth transitions. And what is working has changed as the kids have gotten older.
Mostly what worked when they were smaller is something I call ‘anchoring’ a chain of events. I’ll find something that we’re doing anyway (think food, food works really well) and add an activity to that. So to breakfast we added storytime. Then in a bit I added another activity to storytime. And then added another subject. I’ve found our days always go smoother if I can get us going in the same direction first, then add the learning. Like creating a current in a body of water.
But transitions are hard at times, particularly if there is a mess to clean up between. I tend to put messy things last in the chain so that if the kids wander off, they’re wandering into a break anyways.
What works, what fails, what inspires…all is always changing. “Life is not orderly. No matter how we try to make life so, right in the middle of it we die, lose a leg, fall in love, drop a jar of applesauce.” Natalie Goldberg
All of those are clickable, if you want a little more information about them.