By Laura Simon

February. It’s the month that made me question all my life choices when I was teaching other people’s children, and it’s no different now that I’m homeschooling my own kids. It’s the month where the newness of the school year is long worn off, the weather flat-out stinks, and summer seems a million miles away.

When I first started homeschooling, I used to joke about not giving my kids a day off. I didn’t think they needed it: they had plenty of downtime in their daily lives, and frankly, it took me days after each break to get them back on track. But as time has gone on, I’ve realized that while the kids don’t need a break, I certainly do. And I definitely need it somewhere in February or March.

It’s so easy to get buried in the day-to-day grind of lesson plans, checklists, things that MUST be completed, household responsibilities, and general life. And once I’m buried, I turn into the teaching machine. Fueled by a deep fear that I’ll fail to teach my kids something important, I demand that we stick to the schedule, check off the boxes, and push through the reading lesson that has already reduced my child to tears twice. Creativity goes out the window, as does empathy and understanding. I feel bad, so I buy more curriculum, and I pile more tasks onto an already full schedule. It’s an ugly cycle, full of worry and discouragement, and no one benefits from it.

At first, I thought I needed to respond to this frustration by planning better. I’ve heard of homeschool moms who take a night away at a hotel every six or eight weeks, drag their curriculum along, and spend 24 hours plotting the next few months of school. But frankly, if I do happen to find myself alone in a hotel room, I’ll be sitting in bed, binge-watching trash TV, reading a novel wholly unrelated to homeschooling, and stuffing my face with food I don’t have to share with my offspring. It sounds delightful, but it’s not what I need to recharge as a homeschooling parent.

Instead, I’ve found it’s much healthier to plan time for things that nourish my creativity and joy. I think that probably looks different for everyone, but I draw fresh energy from reading a good book, taking a bath, or going on a long run. A new perspective lurks in a visit to a new park or a even a clean car. This week, I gave the kids one day off while I put the house (and our lives) back in order after a month of family birthdays and traveling. I’m ready to go with enthusiasm again when Monday rolls around.

The things that give me joy help me remember the truth about what we’re doing in our little homeschool. They open up the creative pathways in my mind. They give me freedom to press pause on the schedule and spend a little more time on the science lesson that creates so many good questions. They make me a learner again, which in turn helps me remember that homeschooling is about so much more than lesson plans and checklists.

It’s almost March. January, February and March are hard teaching months – for teachers and homeschooling mamas alike. It might be time for you take a take a break yourself.

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