Cutting Myself a Break: Sabbath Schooling

The second week of October meant fall break in our home. I went into the older boys’ room that Sunday night to say goodnight to them, and I said in feigned excitement, “FALL BREAK!!” My secondborn rolled over and said sarcastically, “Fall break?! You mean CHORE BONANZA.”

(I may have had some other things planned for them that week.)

But until last year, I didn’t have a regular fall break. I mostly planned our school schedule around the public school schedule. I did all my planning in the last month of summer, ordered books, and hoped and prayed all the organization would work well when school came around. I made decisions in August for the following spring.

In some ways, this is unavoidable. I had to order books and decide on curriculum when I had the time to evaluate in the summer. But in other ways, it just wasn’t working.

I found myself scrambling to keep up week-to-week with both school and home. Weekends were already full — I didn’t need to be making last-minute decisions about field trips and extras then. I couldn’t keep up with the needed grading and make decisions based on student progress.

It felt like we just hit the gas pedal in mid-August and kept going until Christmas, at which point I was so worn out that I couldn’t think to make critical decisions. So we’d just keep our heads down and barrel through til the end of the year.

Then I read an article in Home Educating Families entitled “Sabbath Schooling.” I admit I rolled my eyes at the title — another homeschool family trying to insert sacred meaning where there is none, I thought* — but the concept intrigued me.

Families who “sabbath school” commit six weeks to school and then take a full week off. That one week is allowed for rest. For those pesky doctor’s appointments that can torpedo a whole morning of schoolwork. For car maintenance. And for, as my children found out this time around,  seasonal chores and work around the house.

More than anything, I use this time to work on our homeschool. Before we started this schedule, I planned around the public school timeline — but I didn’t have those in-service days. Those days are allowed — nay, even REQUIRED — for teachers to plan and properly execute a year’s worth of teaching. I was expecting myself to just get it done without giving myself the time to do it well.

Fall Break 2014. Red door.

Fall Break 2014.
Red door.

So now I’m regularly cutting myself a break. I am requiring myself to have some in-services. Every six or seven weeks — I’m not a Pharisee about it  — we stop for a week. For the first two or three days of that week, we don’t touch school. On my most recent break, I painted our front door red on my first day. What a nice feeling to get a little project out of the way and checked off my list.

In the short time that I’ve had this schedule, I’ve found it much more effective, and I’m doing a lot less pulling my hair out. Stopping and evaluating our progress every six weeks gives me a chance to check where we’ve been. I can catch up on grading and assess who needs attention in an area. I plan for the next block of weeks, order library books we need, plan for movies we’d like to watch, and put a field trip or two on the calendar. I also find that my energy is better. I get excited about what we’re about to study when I have the time to read through my resources and study up myself.

For those of you who are considering homeschool in the future, or are doing it now but are burnt out, may I gently suggest knowing your limits better than I did? I have been so grateful for our schedule these past two years. Having a week ahead to count on makes the time in between far more productive.

*I have issues. I get that.

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