Another week of sub-freezing temperatures. Another layer of snow and ice. Another bout of colds and flu. Just a few weeks ago, you would have loved to have a few weeks with no holidays; now you are doing lessons day after day after day without a break, and you think you will all go stark raving crazy. All members of the Average Family Homeschool are tired of the routine, tired of being stuck indoors, tired of having to wear socks and shoes and sweaters, tired of having to sit still and write lessons, tired of staring at the same faces everyday, and tired of being tired of it all. Cabin Fever has set in.
Sometimes my calendar had Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. At other times my days became Mundane with routine, some weeks had Too much of everything, and I felt as if someone would find me rocking back and forth in a corner, my head in my hands, sobbing Woe is me. (The nice, young men in their clean, white coats should come and take me away.) It was time for a change to the routine. Schedule be hanged — our mental health needed emergency first aid.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. When you need a complete break from normal — the wilder, the better. The important message to convey is that your family is what is most important to you, not your schedule. Taking even one day away from your usual routine can be very therapeutic for all of you. After a break, you will feel as if the cobwebs have been swept away from your brain cells — everyone’s mind will be able to think more clearly, and lessons that were difficult just a few days ago may suddenly seem simple.
Depending on the ages and personalities of your children, you may want to let them help plan for the Break Day, or you may want to spring it on them as a great surprise. However you decide to break up your routine, be sure to include all family members — especially Dad, if his job schedule will allow. If Dad’s work cannot provide him with time off, plan extra activities for after Dad gets home from work to include him in the fun. Dads like breaks, too, and Cabin Fever strikes everyone.
A friend of mine would randomly declare “Opposite Day!” on a winter-weary morning and serve her children hot dogs for breakfast, saving the oatmeal for supper. They all had to change into fresh pajamas for the day, and then sleep in their clothes that night. Throughout the day, anyone could declare an “opposite” activity from the normal, and all family members had to participate. The ideas that came about were always fun and always involved a twist on what we commonly expect as “normal.” “Set the table” for dinner, complete with placemats and napkins, on the floor; put a simple jigsaw puzzle together face-down; make turkey-shaped decorations for Valentine’s Day, etc. The only limitation was their imaginations. By the end of Opposite Day, everyone had enjoyed a wonderful break from routine, and their minds were refreshed with new thinking skills.
“Backwards Day” is a similar event, but differs in allowing individual activities to be done in reverse order. Your dinner menu can still come at its regular time, but everyone eats dessert first and finishes with a salad. Again, your imaginations are encouraged to run amok — smashing the normal routine is the goal — for one day, anyway. (I can think of a few energetic little boys who would eagerly accept the challenge to take every step backwards for an entire day.)
If your family has the means and the opportunity, taking a weekend away at a hotel can be a delightful break. The mid-winter blues can be effectively driven away with a few hours in the hotel swimming pool — especially now that many hotels are building complete indoor water-parks. (Those people really know how to fill a need!) Complete your weekend with a museum tour, family movie night, or shopping at different stores than you usually frequent.
A city near us is home to a Botanical Center: a huge glass-domed structure filled with exotic flowers, trees, and tropical plants of all types; hummingbirds and butterflies flit from petal to petal, and exotic fish swim lazily in the ponds and streams that wind throughout the Xanadu-like oasis. Winter coats must remain on the lobby coat racks — it is just too warm inside the dome for anything heavier than a t-shirt. Even the dreary gray sky outside looks warm and friendly when viewed from behind a banana tree. (Note to the pollen-sensitive: I finally had to restrict my visits to the dome: the exotic pollens sent my allergies into hyper-drive. If you are not embarrassed to wear one, a breathing mask made a short visit endurable for me, then I let my husband and kids continue their tour while I checked out the sofas in the peaceful lobby with a favorite book.)
Sometimes we took Get-Away Days, leaving town for a taste of new scenery; other times we planned Game Days: doing no bookwork, but playing games of all sorts for our educational activities. Whatever you choose for your break from the routine, enjoy it to the fullest — Guilt-Free. Once you are back at your regularly scheduled program, you will all think more clearly and have new memories to laugh about. You have worked hard to get yourselves to this stage of needing a break; now work just as hard at refreshing yourselves — you deserve it.