In my house the main priority in our homeschool are the relationships between our children and their siblings, parents, family, and friends.
You see, homeschooling is not just about the academics. As homeschooling parents we have the responsibility of teaching our children everything there is to know about being a fully functioning and contributing member of our society (bearing any challenges). A fully functioning adult in our society is not one that only knows math, or science, or has a higher level degree in whatever field they choose. A fully functioning and contributing adult also knows how to be compassionate. How to be empathetic. How to work well with others. It is our job as homeschoolers to make sure that we facilitate these qualities, (and many others) to make sure that our children can be successful in the real world.
That means that sometimes we don’t do any course work at all. If I feel that our family is in a crisis, or not in the mental headspace to facilitate learning; I don’t push it.
We want our kids to be intrinsically motivated to learn. When they do not feel inspired because of something that is bugging them emotionally, we stop. Learning to work through these emotions are just as important as learning to work though a word problem. This is why we follow a mostly Unschooly approach. Following this approach allows us the freedom to take a day, week, month, or even a few months off from the course work of our homeschool. If I feel that it would be more advantageous for the kids to take a mental break, we take it. If we need to reconnect as a family in a fun way, we do it. As homeschoolers we are not stuck following the September to June calendar, so if we need to finish something for our facilitation meetings for our school board, we have the whole year to do it.
When we take these breaks we spend a lot of time talking, and reading, and discussing human relationships. We discuss how our actions relate to others reactions. We role play, we play board games, we sit in each others company. We are teaching our children the tools that they need in order to be able to deal with these big emotions when they are adults. This is also homeschooling.
I want all homeschool parents to know that they can relax. We sometimes get into this frenzy that we are not doing enough, that we are somehow behind. We question ourselves and the outcomes of this decision to homeschool. However, we have to be confident that this is what we are meant to do. To realize that to question is to be human.
It’s okay to take a break. To recharge. To take a vacation. If something isn’t working in your family life, have a family meeting and make a plan to change it. If that means that the math book sits empty on the kitchen table for a few weeks, so be it.
Learning does not happen in a stressful environment. It does not happen in a coercive manner. Concepts do not stick if the child is resentful. You are not the teacher that you want to be if you are angry, depressed, or burnt out.
Take the time to work on the family unit. Work together as a team.
If you make your family’s well-being a priority even for a few weeks, you will see that the learning returns. You will also see that it will be even better than before with everyone feeling renewed and ready to put the work in.