Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gimme a break.

This past week was Fall Break for the public schools in our county which, for us, means we could bring a lot less than our A-game without feeling that bad about it.

When you look at homeschool as a constant, ongoing, 365 days a year learning experience (like we do), it suddenly becomes pretty easy to "do school". We don't have to sit at the kitchen table sweating over assignments 7 hours a day. Or even 4 hours a day as our state law requires (180 days/year). As long as we're learning something (which we typically are), we're doing just fine.

Of course, for as many days that I feel perfectly comfortable with that (kids learn through play! the world is our classroom!), there are just as many days that I find myself in a tailspin of panic. We'll be clicking along just fine when all of a sudden I notice it's nearly noon, the breakfast dishes are still on the table, Liam's in his underwear, Finn is screaming over some minor infraction, and the only thing remotely educational we've done all day is make pancakes.*

On a normal day, this is when I am grateful to have some highly structured curriculum to throw at Liam. Knowing he's learning basic algebra or picking nouns and verbs out of a sentence makes me feel so much better about the seemingly chaotic state of our lives. And having him engaged in an assignment gives me a chance to spend some one-on-one with little Finn (or finally unload the dishwasher...).

But since this week was Fall Break, I didn't have to rescue the day from sliding into the abyss of sloth. I could just go with it, embrace the crazy, and mark it as a day off on our attendance tracker. If everyone else gets a break, why shouldn't we?

Well, I'll tell you why. Because not having a break can often mean the difference between one of those days (the yelling, late for everything, messy house, four o'clock is the new five o'clock, pizza for dinner, holy hell when is bedtime?! type of days) and a pretty normal, possibly even fantastic, day. Having bits of structure here and there makes our time at home infinitely better.

No structure, no problem! Take a lap in the name of PE.

And since we get to make our own schedule, I like to save our days off just in case we really need them. Or want them. There wasn't a whole lot to drag us away from school last week but this week Bill will be going to Naples, Florida for a trade show and has a room at the Ritz on the beach. The beach! So it looks like we'll be taking a "Fall Break" after all! Only instead of hanging around the house in our pjs, getting on each others nerves, we'll be tagging along to The Ritz, living it up Flo-rida style. I'll still bring my laptop though, just in case. You never know when we might need to take a break from our break.

*Cooking is actually a really good learning tool that we use all the time. Liam has to decide what he wants to make, find a recipe (online) that we have all of the ingredients for (or make appropriate substitutions), get everything out, follow directions, delegate (aka - ask for help),  measure correctly using the incorrect measuring tools that I give to him on purpose (he now instinctively know how many fourths are in a half, etc), exercise caution so he doesn't get burned (he can flip pancakes all by himself!), clean up, and answer whatever questions I throw at him while we cook (if we make 12 pancakes and there are 3 of us, how many pancakes can we each have...). We have to eat, right? May as well make it educational!

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