We’ve always been a homeschool family, and we love it. I love the flexibility of being able to travel and visit theme parks during the week (we live about an hour from Orlando), and generally do things however and whenever I want to do them.
We are eclectic homeschoolers, taking bits and pieces from different curricula to find the right fit for each child. My kids are at different levels in each subject – sometimes ahead of their peers, sometimes behind – and I really enjoy being able to meet each of them where they are at a particular time.
We’ve always schooled through the year, often doing more school work in the summer than at other times of the year just because it’s so hot we’d rather be inside, and because the local parks and places are more busy when public school is out.
This year, I thought we’d try something different and take a summer break. I’d seen so many friends talking about summer vacation plans, and I’ve gotten sucked in to those reminiscent lists of classic activities from the childhood of every 80s kid. I don’t want my kids to miss out on amazing summertime memories and I thought we’d try having our own summer break.
It didn’t go well.
At first, everything was fine. They enjoyed not having any school requirements, and the freedom to choose what they wanted to do, for a little while. They played together and separately. We did some fun family activities, but it wasn’t too different from what we do throughout the year, when the weather is more mild and public places less crowded. I did set a limit on screen time, just requiring that they do a few things (read, art, help out, etc.) before settling in front of a screen for hours, and they enjoyed unlimited screen time when they chose to do that. This all lasted about a week.
Then they got bored.
It was most apparent in my son. He loves to listen to audiobooks, so he chose to do that with much of his free time. He did a few other things as well but mostly he spent hours listening to audiobooks. I suspect the hours of free time felt so unproductive that even while he was doing something enjoyable, it wasn’t fulfilling to him.
My daughter did a little better with her time, as she loves to do art projects and immersed herself in that. She also had friends over a few times which filled her need for social interaction.
In general, though, we were all noticeably more grumpy, short-tempered and generally unhappy with this open schedule.
So I decided to cut our summer break short and get back to our homeschool routine.
We started back on July 5th, and things have been so much better. Right from the start, there was less fighting, less complaining, and everyone has been generally happier. We do school right after breakfast, first reading aloud together for history and science, and then I spend time with each kid individually on math and spelling.
Doing school early in the day gives us all a sense of accomplishment and seems to enable us to enjoy the rest of our day so much more. It also provides us with connection time together. Reading aloud is one of our main connection activities, and we were missing out on that connection early in the day.
It’s ok to change your plans.
People often ask me questions about homeschooling – those who already do it and those who are considering it – and one of the things I always say is that it’s important not to feel stuck. That goes for anyone, really – if you’re homeschooling or if your kids are in public school. And it can actually extend to other areas of parenting as well.
If something isn’t working, make a change. Maybe you hate the math curriculum you bought, after trying it for a little while. It’s ok to dump it and try something else. If you feel like school would go better doing this instead of that, even if everyone else is doing it that way, do what will work best for your family.
In general parenting, if you are really unhappy and not sleeping well with your baby in your bed, try a mattress on the floor so baby can still be close by but have a little more space. If you always wanted to nurse until your child self-weaned, but after a couple of years you are really just feeling done and not enjoying it anymore, it’s ok to change from your original plan.
Don’t be afraid to change something that isn’t working.
For sure, give it some time if it’s something you really wanted. Sometimes we need time to adjust to new things or different things. And maybe just making a small change (like setting limits on nursing without fully weaning) will make a big difference.
But don’t feel stuck with a decision.
If public school isn’t working for you and your child, then don’t be afraid to try homeschooling. It doesn’t have to look like “school at home” unless you choose to do it that way. There are many different ways to educate your own children at home and it’s different for each family.
And if you have made the decision to homeschool, and it’s really not working for you, it’s ok to shift gears and find a solution that will work for your family. It isn’t a failure to stop homeschooling and send your kids to school. I even know families who have some children at home and others at school. That’s really meeting their individual needs!
That’s our job as parents. To meet our children’s needs, whatever they are. Sometimes our original plans are what our children need and it all works out. But many times we will need to be flexible and change our plan, at least a little bit, and that’s ok. You don’t have to feel stuck.