A Few Tips for Staying Sane During Breaks from Homeschool
Following on from my exuberant plea to let children be children I do of course realize that many parents find the near-chaos (and sometimes, downright chaos) of the summer months to be, well, unsettling, to say the least. What happens is that the carefully nurtured and created family rhythms completely go to pot and if one is not careful, not mindful, the children, instead of benefiting from the freedoms of summertime, can really get way too out of themselves.
So I want to clarify a few things—first, by letting go of school schedules and not carefully organizing the bulk of the children’s day, this in no way means that everything is let go of. Basic family rhythms need to remain in place. But instead of lesson time, homeschool time, the idea is that the children are lovingly put into the position of having to go within, to call upon their own creative abilities to find something to do. If a child is so adult-dependent that she cannot organize her own games, find books to look at or read, draw or make mud pies in the yard, then, quite frankly, there is a problem. A parent is not here to entertain or to problem-solve every moment of the day—s/he is here to create forms and rhythms and then to step back so as to enable the child, when there are no specific activities scheduled, to fall back upon himself to find something to do.
And of course, this isn’t always easy and many children do not take to this readily. If your child tends toward the melancholic, unscheduled time can start to feel like torture time – to you and to him! Part of the gestalt of being melancholic is to feel heavy, to not quite trust what one meets in the world and to not like change. So helping the melancholic to go within can take quite a bit of doing (and a parent who can remain calm and centered despite the melancholic’s pleas of ‘Mommy, play with me—I don’t know what to do’).
Phlegmatics are generally easier though one has to ensure that summertime doesn’t become one long eating fest whilst doing very little…walks and outings might need to remain organized for phlegmatics.
Sanguines can find things to do but the trick is getting them to stick to one thing long enough so that they don’t burn through all possibilities by the end of the first week of summer! ‘More is less’ and ‘repetition’, gently and lovingly adhered to by parental example, can help ground the sanguine child without ever dimming her enthusiasm.
Parents of choleric children are often grateful for the summer break as this provides some relief from dealing with a child who constantly wants to take her schooling (and often parenting) into her own hands and has her own strong ideas about how everything should be done. She has probably created a 10-point program for what she wants to do during the summer so you might actually get a bit of a break—just be mindful for opportunities where she can help others (picking up garbage along a roadside, bringing cookies and visiting at a nursing home and so on) so her self-organizing tendencies don’t become self-obsession.
Here are 6 things to keep in mind:
- No matter what your summer days and weeks look like, try to keep at least one meal per day at the same time every day and with the usual grace and lighting of a candle to bring the meal form and a moment of blessing
- Try to keep the bedtime routine the same (especially for under 7’s) even if the actual time varies—brushing teeth, getting into jammies, a soothing calm bedtime story and blessing and so on will help calm your child after the excitement of playing outside all day or traveling to Granny’s
- Make sure there is at least 30 minutes of rest every day – and that goes for teens and adults too. On the bed, in silence, no media for teens (reading is ok but looking out the window or reflecting is far better)
- Try to read aloud to your children every day, whether you are on the road, camping or visiting relatives. Snuggling up listening to a story (which of course could be told or read) helps quiet and calm children, bringing them back to center.
- Be careful of out-of-control media exposure. When visiting relatives or on those days when whining becomes unbearable, the lure of screens can seem like the only hope and help. Not much more to say on this one—every family will need to find its boundaries—but just know that though it takes more work and planning to fill ‘empty time’ with games and song and craft activities (and to involve your visiting relatives) the result is quieter, more satisfied children. Screens call up ‘more, more, more’, in children—other activities do not.
- And your screen use? Summer provides another opportunity for you to examine your own screen use and the boundaries you create.
Enjoy your summer! And if you’d like to learn more about rhythm, its importance and how to bring it to your family and children, do consider purchasing my video on the subject: https://www.christopherushomeschool.com/our-store/in-depth-videos/what-do-we-mean-by-rhythm-in-waldorf/
Posted on July 20, 2018 in Uncategorized