Amida’s day in a life (with a 3, 7-, 12- and 15-year-old)

Written by Amida of Journey into Unschooling.

If you are following a traditional school calendar, then your year may look something like ours: fall semester, winter break, spring semester, summer break. And if you’re like me, then you hit fall semester running and start losing steam around December.


In our family, December marks the countdown to birthday and holiday celebrations, crafting, gift making and shopping, with school falling to the bottom of the priority list.

This year, I wanted to try something different. A while ago, I visited a charter high school and was impressed with a mid-semester academic break they called intersession.

During this time, students took a break from their regular studies to pursue four-weeks of interest-led learning — working on a specific project, volunteer work, learning a new skill.

This intensely focused time was the equivalent of a whole semester of elective classwork. Plus it gave students and faculty a much needed break to re-energize for the upcoming semester. Sounds great, right? I had to try it.

So this December, I elected to stop our regularly scheduled programming and instead, pick up a guitar.

guitarkidsPhoto by Peter Dutton

The guitar is one of those instruments we have had lying around for years, yet nobody really knows how to play it. We’d say, hey, we should learn a few chords, but never seemed to find the time to do it. Until now.

We searched online for instruction. And by golly are there a lot of tutorials on beginner guitar playing! We picked a couple of promising ones and set right to work, with the goal of learning four chords and a song by the end of the month.

For most kids, I would say reminders and encouragement are key to success in reaching their goals. Left to their own devices, they may just conveniently forget about their project. Hold them accountable and make sure they spend adequate time on it.

For my part, it was so much easier to say, “practice your chords!” than “do your homework!” It’s something fun that we can all sing along or listen to while continuing our own activities.

Considering this was a break, I didn’t want it to become an overwhelming nightmare of a task. To this end, I made sure the practice sessions were almost daily, but short. 

At first, we learned together, and strove to learn just one simple chord at a time. As we progressed, we picked up an instruction booklet and went through the exercises to learn some basic skills on note reading, timing and strumming patterns, and continued practice on a couple of songs.

sheetmusicPhoto by Jon Bragg

By the end of our little break, we had reached our goal. We learned not four, but six chords (A minor, A major, C, D, E and G if you must know) and a couple of songs (Three is a Magic Number, Lean on Me). It’s not perfect and no, there are no record deals lined up, but it was enjoyable and can easily be built on.

Intersession is a fantastic way to add a little break to your school year and works really well between semesters.  I can’t wait for another session in May. Want to give it a try? It’s as easy as one, two, three:

  • One: Set a time, preferably between semesters when everyone needs a little recharge.
  • Two: Set an attainable goal, key word attainable.
  • Three: Follow up.

If anyone has done something similar, I’d love to hear about it.

How do you keep yourself and your children motivated between semesters?

About Amida

Amida is the mom to three darn kids. She used to stress about state standards and test scores but has since come to her senses and enjoys blogging about her family's journey into unschooling.


  1. We do this every February and I call it “The Room of Requirement” (shamelessly ripped off from the Harry Potter series!) Basically whatever we need to catch up on, February is there to provide the time. This year is going to be an independent piece of writing for my 12 year old and more animal fables and a huge Charlie Brown cardboard house to color for my 8 year old. The atmosphere is more relaxed, and yet I feel like I am filling in “gaps” that become apparent during our first semester.
    I like the idea of intersession for December. That month is always so funky!!
    Great post.
    Sheila’s latest post: Habit: Reflective Friday

  2. We did this for 6 weeks over Thanksgiving and Christmas break. I witnessed so much learning happen in that time that it gave me the final push I needed, so that we emerged from Christmas break as year-long unschoolers. We’re loving every minute of it!
    Shelly’s latest post: Weekend Review- Kenzie Is Mobile!!

  3. Intersession is brilliant! We are on the cusp of a new baby joining us. Perhaps the route I we should go!

  4. This was encouraging to read. I am at the beginning of an “intercession” in our homeschool year. I am a part of Lori Pickert’s Project Based Homeschooling Master’s class. I love the idea of project based learning but have struggled to implement it. In theory it’s a priority of mine but I haven’t scheduled it into our day for fear of missing the other subjects, even though I think projects are just as important, if not more. I decided to put all other subjects on hold for the 6 weeks of class so that I can make projects a priority.
    It’s helpful to hear that others have done this as well!

  5. Thank you so much for this idea. January and February are so busy for us with Volleyball and Cheer Competions that I feel beyond overwhelmed with classes. I fear that my kiddos are falling behind due to the lack of actual class time. However, this would be the perfect plan for these two months. Well a version if it anyway. Again, thank you. I think we may just make it through next month with this as our goal.

  6. I think this is something I have to try. I was trying to come up with ideas to think outside the box, to make things easier for the rut we experienced around November and December (we had started homeschool stuff in August so we could have June off, since June and July are the best months to be outside where I live). I think this is a great idea. Also it makes sure those things happen that never happen- like you said those things that we want to learn but they never get done. This is a great idea, thank you.

  7. we aren’t “officially” homeschooling until September but for our first year, I am planning on only planning lessons for 3 weeks of every month with 2 weeks off around Christmas/new years. that week will be used to catch up on anything that has been put off including housework, projects, and sleep!

  8. We are having a rough year this year. We’ve had to rebuild our home after being hit by a tornado last spring and doing a lot of the work ourselves. 🙁 This on top of having an almost 2 year old at home with my 12 year old. I’ve had to focus on one subject for the past couple of months due to time restrictions and having a lot of my resources packed away. It’s been nice because I feel like she isn’t getting too far behind (I chose math as the subject) – she was already ahead in her other subjects, still getting that daily practice in the math processes (which as a dyslexic she needs), and doesn’t require a lot of time on either of our parts. She still has reading but that’s for fun. She reads the books she is interested in and she fills me in on what is happening now. 😉 When we get moved back into our home, we’ll pick up with the other subjects and continue to the end of the year.

  9. how funny that you gave a name to what has been “playing” around in my mind as of late! we have decided to do nothing but a daily math page, spelling, and then all of our energy gets to be given to science! any experiment, book ,nature hike, rock climbing, exploring, night sky watching, animals etc. all of our reading, dvd watching, art etc. will be SCIENCE! this is my boys favorite…it will almost seem effortless to do these things…now if we could just make it through the meltdowns over math…sigh!

  10. I am so happy to read about the adventures of a family with an older homeschooling child. My son is 13 and I’ve been struggling with my decision as the ‘high school years’ are creeping up. Most of the homeschooling sites I have seen have amazing ideas for younger kids, but for high school, not so much. I too start the year gung ho and I lose steam about the holidays, however I don’t lose the passion, I just lose some of the structure that I begin with. Every once in a great while I will ‘check’ to see if my sons are doing grade level work that I know that PS curriculum is doing and then that’s almost enough for me to say “ok, they really are learning the same stuff in unconventional ways and it’s sticking, so now back to having unstructured days.” My kids are learning what I consider to be lost skills – such as baking and budgeting. I have liked letting them have a lot of say in their education – it makes it theirs. 🙂

  11. hi there! , Is extremely good producing extremely so much! percentage we all carry on your distance learning additional somewhere around this page upon AOL? I would like an expert with this method to fix my own dilemma. Possibly which is anyone! Looking forward to assist you to.

  12. Hi Amida! I’m considering incorporating guitar into my kiddo’s homeschool and so glad I came across this. Such cute pics btw can’t wait to do this myself with my LO. She is so good at singing and always interested when my husband strums some chords for worship on his guitar. She asks to hold the pick and strum in his place… now onto teaching her the structure behind it all. I’m a pianist so I’ll need his help in teaching how to place fingers and such. But I think she’ll really enjoy it. Taking your tips to heart. Short sessions! 🙂

    – Christy

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