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Toward the end of last year, homeschool became a burden. My daughter wasn't enjoying it, and I certainly wasn't enjoying the constant fighting, nagging, and begging her to get on schoolwork.
The thought seriously crossed my mind to enroll her in public or private school.
The thought also crossed my mind, late one night, that nothing --not even homeschool-- was worth compromising the relationship I have with her.
Right before Thanksgiving, with holiday travel staring us in the face, then a myriad of doctor, dentist, and orthodontist appointments looming in the coming weeks--not to mention Christmas--we made the intentional decision to go on an extended, month-long break from regular homeschooling. Some may call what we did unschooling; the name doesn't matter. But it helped us both gain perspective, chill out, figure out what was important to both of us to study, and what we wanted our homeschool to look like.
That month-long break saved our homeschool. That month-long break saved us.
Mind me, please: learning still happened. Laura (who has dyslexia and struggles with reading) discovered books read on YouTube. She deep-cleaned her room, organized it the way she wanted it, while listening to books being read on YouTube. She helped with meal-prep, and we talked. We talked about things: silly and serious, facts and fantasy. We took care of relatives that needed an extra hand.
Neither of us wanted her to go to public or private school. We talked, at length, about goals for homeschool and what we wanted it to look like: she wants to do more hands-on science experiments, more field trips, more baking...
I told her, though, that we're not just doing the "fun" part of learning -- hands-on science experiments, field trips -- but we're also going to do the academic part of learning too. The bookwork. The reading. Since she has trouble with reading, when it comes to history, I read the history assignments to her. I have to admit: I enjoy this as much as she does. We cuddle up on the couch, crack open the history book (we're currently going through The Mystery of History Volume II).
This is what she learned most about our month-long break: our mental health is as important as academics. Our relationship is more important than academics. While homeschooling can be hard, we don't have to make it harder by forcing it. Learning does not have to be done bright and early at 8 a.m. My daughter is not an early bird (and frankly, I can be if I need to be). Sleeping in and getting a good night's sleep, having a peaceful morning, and easing into the academic part of homeschool works for us. We just need to remember that.
Also, what we talked about the past month was our "why." Why do we homeschool? This always grounds us and offers some perspective on why we do what we do as homeschoolers.
I encourage you: look at homeschooling not as a chore or a checkmark on a to-do list, but as a lifestyle. As with anything, when you have anxiety about something or if it's not bringing joy, stop and analyze what's going on, and what can be done to fix it. Sometimes all it takes is a break.
Happy New Year!
(C) 2023 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
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