Don’t Quit Homeschooling: Take a Break!

Sometimes a Break in Homeschooling is enough to allow you to keep going

You’re in the depths of winter and dreary weather and your co-op is dragging on and you’re ready for vacation and your kids don’t want to work (which makes sense—neither do you). You’re wondering if it’s time to quit homeschooling.

I’ve been there, too.

When I transitioned from full-time work to full time at home, I thought that the days of wanting to quit my job were behind me. But so far, at least twice a year, I dream about walking away from the whole thing. “Let’s just send the kids to school,” I suggest (though usually not outloud).

Should you quit homeschooling?

Before I had kids, when I first started teaching high school English, my mentor teacher showed me a graph of the high and low emotional points of the year, as experienced by teachers.

At the beginning of the year, spirits are high, but there’s a significant dip around November. Emotions tend to level back out over December, but dip to the lowest point of the year in February. Usually, after Spring break and until the end of the school year, the teacher’s emotions leveled out again. 

Once I started homeschooling, then, it didn’t really surprise me when I started hearing the jokes about February. You’ve probably heard them, too–don’t make any big decisions in February, don’t quit your curriculum in February. Susan Wise Bauer is often credited for first saying, “Everyone wants to quit homeschooling in November and February.” She’s right, isn’t she?

Consider Your Season

The predictable rhythms of a school year aside, sometimes crisis leads you to overwhelm and you want to quit. Sometimes an intense child is particularly demanding, and you’re just ready to throw in the towel. Sometimes your hormonal rollercoaster syncs up with your teenager daughter’s and you’re just feeling done with all of it.

What’s the solution? Is it time to make friends with the public school principal down the street?

Well—it might be! I’ve watched a handful of families send a kid or all of them to public school for a season or the rest of their school careers. Many of these families were happy, ultimately, with these choices.

But for most of us, we probably don’t actually need to quit. We’ve felt called to this crazy, unusual journey of homeschooling. We believe in it philosophically. We have seen some fruit of our labor over the years. We are just so tired.

Perhaps, when you’re tired and overwhelmed or sick of it all, the solution isn’t to quit, but to simply take a break.

Don’t Quit Homeschooling! Take a Break!

Taking a break as a homeschooler might look like taking a day or two off. It might mean setting aside all curriculum for a month (or a year…). It might be pivoting from your plan and following interests instead of calendars for a while, as long as you and your students need to reset. 

Taking a break might mean you “fun it in”, for a while. Maybe it’s time to put away the workbooks and pull out the board games. Maybe it’s time to hunker down in a quiet house and read without talking to one another. Maybe it’s time to finally get around to all those state history field trips you’ve been intending to schedule.

Now, listen, if you feel like it’s the right season to send your kid to public school, please don’t feel like a failure. You might be quitting homeschooling, but you’re certainly not quitting parenting.

But if you are only fantasizing about outsourcing school because you’re tired or overwhelmed, and in your heart of hearts you want to continue homeschooling for the long-haul, just realize that quitting homeschool isn’t your only option. You can set the whole thing aside for a stretch, you can catch your breath and find joy in the kids you actually have, and you can pick it all back up again. 

A child runs happily through an empty field.

Break Ideas for the Weary Homeschool Mom

Here are some of my favorite ways to take a break from homeschooling, without totally throwing in the towel:

  • Call it a break week (or day or month!), and let the kids do whatever they want, within your normal family rules for break weeks. I know, this sounds crazy, and you know your own kids better than I do, so I trust you’ll use your best judgment–but sometimes we all just want to focus on our own interests. Note: I strongly suggest that you make a decision about screen time before announcing the break week to your kids, so you can clearly communicate those expectations, too.
  • Do your morning time routine (for us that’s Bible, memory work, and usually literature) and then watch a documentary or two. I like Planet Earth for older kids and Wild Kratts for my littles.
  • Take a hike. Ask a friend or two to meet you there, pack a lunch the night before, and take the whole day to soak in nature.
  • Go visit dad at work for the day, or just for lunch (if his work allows this). 
  • Visit a zoo, aquarium, or museum for the day.

Schedule Breaks BEFORE Burnout

Sometimes, building in routine “breaks” can help relieve the monotony and reduce the challenges of homeschooling—before you all completely burnout.

Some of my favorite routine breaks include:

Attending Co-op

I know this one’s controversial, but for us, weekly co-op participation is a non-negotiable. My favorite co-ops “check off” some of the things on my academic to-do list. All of our co-ops have provided a place of connection for both me and my kids. Yes, being part of a full parent-participation co-op can also be a lot of work! But if it’s well-designed and a good fit for your family, it should also provide some restoration for your crew.

Hey, do you need some help getting a co-op started? We’ve got an Ultimate List of Co-op Ideas to get your wheels a-turning!

Scheduled Park Days

We try to hit the park weekly with friends. If your area doesn’t already have a regular homeschool park day, I suggest you set up a schedule. Start with twice a month (something like the first and third Mondays of each month) and assign each date a park. Pick parks with restrooms and equipment for both older and younger kids. If you’re up for including details, such as if the park includes amenities such as basketball hoops, tennis courts, or water features, that will help others decide whether or not to come. You can post this document in local homeschool networking groups. I’d suggest re-posting it the night or morning of each park day as a reminder, and then do your best to show up each week. 

A Natural Ebb-And-Flow In Your Week

For us, we have bigger academic days on the days we don’t have co-ops. On co-op days, we have a lighter home schedule that my kids can complete on their own. These are more like project days for all of us, and we have a natural shift in our schedule. Have busier and quieter parts of a week allows each of us a chance to rest and restore.

Something Fun Every Day

Do riddles together, have a dance off to your current folk song, play a board game. Include something fun for yourself, too–read a good book, take an online course in drawing, spend a few minutes watching the birds outside. Finding joy in the people you have is a nice shot of restoration for the homeschool mom, right in the middle of chaos.

Just Take The Break, Already!

Sometimes the right thing to do actually is to quit homeschooling; but often, what you really need is just a break!