What we do in our Homeschool “off” weeks

I’m intentionally trying something new this year that I sort of fell into over last spring and summer with homeschooling.

I tend to burn out really easily. I get bored of routine and crave something new… Which is probably why I’m so in love with my visionary husband. He doesn’t see himself that way, but I’ve had a wealth of experiences that are only possible because he’s my adventurer. However, That type of spontaneity and inconsistency doesn’t fly well with toddlers and preschoolers. Or really, kids in general.

So, as a means of preventing the burn out, I’ve strategically spaced what limited curriculum we use across the entire year instead of just 8-10 months. That way, we end up doing 2 weeks on, 1 week off (sometimes 2, depending on what needs done in the gardens.)

But I can’t very well just consign myself to wearing running shorts and eating cereal for dinner for 14 straight days. I have 4 little minds to grow and nourish! Our off weeks instead are spent doing practical hands on learning, as well as loads of reading aloud and discussion. OH- the discussion!! I’ve heard everything from, “Mom, what if a bear ate me?”-H, age 2 years… to “Mom, I’m not doing real work [shelling peas], but I’m still honoring God by drawing and writing with the skills He gave me.”-T, age 5 years…to “Mom, when I grow up I’m gonna be a doctor to help people feel better like Jesus did.”- A, age 3 years. These kids wow me every day with their thoughts, dreams, outrageous senses of humor. So it just seems natural to engage those parts of them and develop their mental and spiritual lives.

Something I think my mom-peers fail to realize is that the infant messing on your last clean tee shirt is a person too. With an intellect, emotions, needs, desires. That infant will not stay an infant, God willing, but will grow! And as a parent, it’s our privilege and responsibility to aid them in growing in maturity, wisdom, and intellect.

These down weeks are the times I’m really leaning harder than normal into Scripture, talking about Jesus and what He did, taught, said, and how my kids would have interacted with Him in the time He was ministering. I also really go back to Clay and Sally Clarkson’s body of work to really focus on enjoying the richness of life with my children as compatriots and fellow human beings! They are autonomous people after all. I’m simply more mature…most days.

A typical week like this for us includes a bigger than usual breakfast where I let the kids help prepare it. They learn hands on how to measure, what each ingredient does to make the finished product. For example, my oldest peeled apples for baked apples for breakfast this week. He did all the prep work the night before and was so excited to eat and share with us the breakfast he had made 90% by himself (with our supervision of course).

We also have lots of picnics with homemade bread, hot tea during quiet time with lots of quality picture books. We recently finished the Brambley Hedge series by Jill Barklem and it has become a fast favorite, as is James Herriot’s treasury for Children. Both are collections of stories with exquisite illustrations.

We read aloud. A lot! Until it absolutely requires hot tea to restore my vocal chord function. Ask my in-laws, my kids will have you read to death!

But this means we go through children’s books aplenty, but also some really great literature like The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, or The Swiss Family Robinson. And I always take everything we read back to Scripture. Example, “How do you think they felt finally finishing their tree house?

Why do you think they stopped to thank God for their safety?

What makes a good leader?

Why do the boys want to be like their Papa?”

That is the time to stop and explain or look up new words and vocabulary (the old English spelling of jailer in The Wind in the Willows [gaoler] really threw me for a loop!) You get to explain new concepts, geography, technical and practical skills, character traits, virtue- literature rich and verbally rich time with your kids is invaluable. I struggle with being overwhelmed by their endless barrage of questions every other sentence so I put a restriction on them; they must wait to the end of a page before they get to ask their questions. I also try to remember that their questions are how they are building understanding and ultimately their Christian worldview. So while it can get annoying, I do my best to graciously answer their millions of questions.

I also allow for lots of “semi-structured free play” which in essence means I set up “stations” or nooks in the house and I have different activities for each area. This is our newly created book nook. Complete with blankets and some throw pillows, a couple of which we sewed ourselves. The point is, if there’s something you desire to happen in your home, create a space for it.

They have spent HOURS reading, drawing, and writing in this space.

That affords me time to go to the bathroom, cook a meal, or read a few verses of Scripture.

I tend to turn on instrumental music in the afternoons to help cultivate tranquility. We sip [spill] our tea, quietly [loudly] read our books [pester siblings], and create [scribble] poetry, art, or stories [scribbles].

More often than not, I am shhh-ing, guiding, encouraging, helping, or modeling (no not this, do this) during this time. But it is a process of training my children to value what I value; exquisite art, music, tranquility, stillness, creativity.

It gets better each day, so moms new to homeschooling- it’s not going to be this clean, prim, delightful experience until you spend the hours slogging through the messiness and exhaustion of training your children in your expectations and teaching them to love what you love.

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom to hold your tongue, grace to extend compassion to your kids, and strength to make it through the training and instruction with some modicum of dignity and sanity.

Your kids will be like their teacher (Matt 10:24; Luke 6:40) so their teacher must possess the qualities which the children are expected to emulate. This means that homeschooling is as much a time for personal growth and development for the parents as it is the children. And I treasure this! And praise God for the chance to learn more and do better alongside my children.

If it ever feels overwhelming, just remember that your autonomy and authority are 2 of the best reasons for homeschooling. When you or your kids need a break, take a break. With no guilt, just honor that everyone has their limits and then get back into diligent work after you have given yourselves time to rest and absorb all the new material and routines.

When you relax and follow the rhythms of the natural learning process, home educating can be incredibly enjoyable for all envolved.

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