is there a season of scheduled neglect in our homeschools?

In July

I’m watering my garden and letting the chickens wander as I drink my morning coffee before the kids wake. Then I’ll walk the dog. So I might not see the kids till eleven. When they’re awake, they will wander down to the riverside beach or run through the sprinkler if it’s especially hot.

In the afternoon, I plan for the next school year. Amazon spends more time with me than my children for two weeks in summer.

In August…

I can pizza sauce, cut and freeze peaches, blanch green beans, organize the house, and read about homeschooling before the onslaught of neglect. I reason that I will have no time for all this cleaning when studies start again mid-September. (And I always prove that this is true.)

I organize my homeschool planner and prep each of my kid’s educational routines and goals for the year.

In September…

I am in full swing of that delicious schedule, complete with red star stickers for each finished math page, a box of yellow pencils freshly sharpened, and a box of smarties for each kiddo (cause they’re about to get Smart-er).

My ambitious schedule hits all the important elements: science, history, foreign languages (more than one), writing, reading, arithmetic, spelling and cursive. I even add logic and chess, Latin and typing practice.

September is homeschool super-charged.

By February…

By the end of February, post-Christmas cabin fever, New Year’s energy has subsided and the schedule predictability, the winter blahs, the overcast, shortened days, and the blighting boredom has taken over. Welcome Slump Month!

Contemplations while hunkering down with a cord of wood, a Netflix education, and fulfilling outcomes creatively.

is there a season of scheduled neglect in our homeschools?

One February, I spent the day staring out the Great Room window, watching the downtown traffic zoom by while pedestrians scurried past the stone wall in our front yard.

I wanted a nap. A week of them.

I wanted to cozy in my bed and sleep. The season of hibernation drew me in. This was unlike me, but I wondered: Could I schedule a week of purely unscheduled routine? (Was I even capable of that?)

No afternoon history reading? No math lessons for my three kids and toddler? No prescribed quiet time? No bedtime reading? No suggestions for their down time?

Had I ever done that? I am Type A with a capital T. (That doesn’t make sense unless you know my name.)

To everything there is a season.

Seems to me that every February I hear moms complain of boredom in their routine. I wasn’t the only one. It even gained a name: the Slump Month.

Perhaps I could take a short season of rest.

I wanted to switch gears. That unschooling word seemed a reasonable prospect.

Just find me something to do we haven’t already been doing! Make us a non-schedule! Make it not come out of a workbook! Make me not hear my voice read something over and over and over.

What to do with frazzled, fed-up February?

If you’re lucky, take your show on the road. Vacate your family to a sunny idyllic location. Not everyone can disappear to the Dominican and not everyone can do it every year, so what to do?

What to do when we don’t vacate:

  • Stop doing what we’re doing. If I’m bored, I can guarantee my kids are likely to be too.
  • Schedule documentary days. No one will wither by being transported to the Scottish Highlands or the Trans-Siberian railway via YouTube or Curiosity Stream.
  • Pull out the paints. Instead of art history each morning, paint or draw or craft while mom reads something.
  • Change up the schedule. Mix the day up or start an hour later.
  • Delete one thing from the morning schedule.
  • Or throw each of the subjects into a hat and pick out one. Don’t do that one for the week.
  • Give something up entirely for the rest of the year. I gave up Simply Grammar one Slump Month never to take it up again. Even the writer in me doesn’t care about antecedents and indeterminant pronouns.
  • Plan a weekly outing. Anywhere but the grocery store or the gas station. Try a new museum, art gallery, or new library in a different town.  
  • Make February “New Friends” month. One visit with a new family each week.
  • Introduce a new subject. Art History. Classical Music. Russian Literature. Coding. Fortnite.
  • Free Flow a subject. Instead of continuing with the same old same old, ie: Story of the World or History Encyclopedia, let the kids choose a few topics that they want to research.
  • Take time to get more sleep. It feels like hibernation for a reason, so take advantage.
  • Get outside. Ski, skate, build forts, hike, or drive to a nature reserve.

Mama, you’re not a robot. Your expectations are not always realistic.

  • Don’t overschedule.
  • Give yourself margins in your daily schedule.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get places.
  • Plan time to just think.
  • Plan date time.
  • Determine to be present in each activity or with each child.
  • Incorporate self-care.
  • Do nothing for a day or two. Think anti-NIKE: just don’t do it!

Make sure you’re doing stuff for you.

  • For Learning. A book, an on-line course, Pinterest, podcasts, magazines, HGTV.
  • For grooming. Face creams and weekly masks, flossing and perfume.
  • For exercise. Get up and get moving in whatever enjoyable way works for you, every day.
  • For reading. Stimulate your mind or wander to new worlds and characters.
  • With friends. With tea on their sofa, texting or phone calls, brunches or movies.
  • With your partner. A chat at the end of the day, a visit to your room or a cheap motel.

You can take a mini-retreat here: the Homeschool Mama Retreat.

Get more encouragement in the book: Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer

Homeschool Mama Self-Care: nurturing the nurturer