Taking a Holiday Break (but not too big of a break)

We are half way through our second official year of homeschooling and we are still finding our way. I suppose we’ll always be finding our way.

It’s good to keep a beginner’s mind, yes?

We’ve learned a thing or two over the last year and a half – like the benefits and challenges of homeschool breaks. It’s not always as simple as it looks. Or so we have found.

The holidays are a perfect time to express our homeschool style. Many of us do this in the form of taking an extensive, well-deserved break from routine lessons.

It can be wonderful to embrace long festive days together as a family – filled with baking, crafts and holiday outings. Sometimes we just need time and space to be in our separate corners and regroup. I’m willing to step out on a limb and speak for the group here – I bet we’ve all been on both sides of this fence at one time or another.

Last year we took an extended break and enjoyed ourselves so much, doing all sorts of crafty, festive things together. The break was not a problem.

The problem came when it was time to get back to work, back to routine. Things felt completely out of sync, disorganized, and we were unmotivated. We hoped to feel rejuvenated and ready to go… instead, we had lost our mojo entirely and it took a full month to find our groove again. That’s a long time; especially considering the break was nearly a month long as well.

I guess we can add it to our list of homeschooling mistakes.

I’m approaching this year differently. I’ve come up with a few options for a holiday break, also known as our desire for a mid-year pause.

Part time school, for an extended period of time.

  • Take a few days off completely to celebrate and generally relax with friends and family.
  • On “school” days, focus on two subjects or lessons per day. That’s it, just two.
  • Drop into this. Four to six weeks would be nice.

A typical ‘school’ break, about a week and a half.

  • This is something most of us are familiar with.
  • It’s a nice break, but is it enough of one?
  • Does it allow us to live up to the full potential of homeschooling? To follow the beat of our own drum?

An extended break, perhaps the full month of December.

  • A lot of homeschoolers do this, it’s exactly what we tried last year.
  • It didn’t work out for us (realized in hindsight).
  • The break was fine! It was the coming back to routine that was too a big a transition.

So which approach am I going with this year?

You guessed it! Part Time School, for an extended period of time.

For a good long while, we’ll be dialing it down, just not all the way down. We’ll  take nearly two months for part time school, with a few solid days off for each holiday. We’ll have plenty of time to unwind and live more spontaneously in the day to day, while keeping a small dose of familiar homeschool rhythm. And when it’s time, hopefully easing back into a longer day will happen a little more gracefully.

Disclaimer: As homeschoolers, we know that taking any kind of a break does not mark a stopping point for learning, often times the very opposite can happen! I’m speaking about general routine and planned lessons, a break from that. 

A bit of routine with plenty of interest led living. Sounds like a good fit for us.

How does the idea of part time school as an extended holiday break sound to you?

About Heather

Heather follows the mantra “a life that is led simply and deliberately is a life fulfilled.” She is a dedicated yoga teacher, artist, holistic health coach, mother and wife. Heather’s blog Beauty That Moves is enjoyed by readers for its kind honesty, shared beauty, and simple guidance.


  1. Great post…we’ve had bouts of sickness since 2 weeks before Thanksgiving….so we’ve been on a “math and reading” schedule for longer than I had ever planned. Which messes with our planned Christmas break. To be honest though…I don’t care. Typically I would…too much. I’m a perfectionist and I drive myself and those in my midst nuts with “how it should be”. Yes, we should be about 3 weeks further along in our plans…but what can I do at this point? Try and catch up for the sake of catching up? Wonder how much learning would actually take place? I am cutting myself a break and we are taking the next 2 solid weeks off…no school period. Not in the official sense at least. This momma needs to mentally forget about it all…and they need me to just be there mom during the holidays I think. Then the week of the New Year we will do just like after summer break…start with 2 subjects a day then keep adding a subject till we are back on schedule within the second week. Jumping in all at once has proven to make for cranky kids and even crankier mom. We are “ease into it” folks I suppose. 🙂

  2. This is the exact approach we’ve fallen into this year – so far so good.

    What I’m loving about this strategy is that we’re going deep into the subjects we’re covering. What I’m also loving is that it does feel like somewhat of a break from all the planning I typically take on when covering multiple subjects. I think my daughter is feeling this same relief.

    Lastly, it has left us with more time for gingerbread houses, nativity scenes and general holiday pleasure.

    Thanks so much for this timely post.

    Cari’s latest post: Christmas Revised

  3. I homeschooled three children, two have graduated from college and one is a junior in college. I always needed, as did they, a complete release of the school work for at least three weeks. What we did do though was transition slowly back into school. Those times of putting up a tree, baking and making gifts for family and friends were about the best times I can remember. I couldn’t spoil them with even a hint of the school work. Interestingly enough, my kids were always ready to get started but just not at full speed. What I know for sure is that the beauty of homeschooling is it’s adaptability for your family rhythm and looking back, the details don’t really matter.

  4. We had the same problem with the extended break; loosing our mojo and not getting back into the swing until late February. Of course it didn’t help anything that we had a major snowstorm in Atlanta that practically shut down everything shortly after the holidays were over. I decided just before
    Thanksgiving to switch to part time homeschooling and it has been working
    very well for us. Thanks for giving me confirmation of what I was feeling.
    Dionne, the Tea Priestess’s latest post: Divine Depth

  5. I agree with you that it is so hard to get back into the swing of things after a break. We have been “doing school” Monday to Thursday most of the fall. We actully started with some math review and reading lessons at the beginning of August, just a half hour a day, which really made starting up full swing in September so easy. We are still doing math, spelling, reading, and science (her favorite) every day, just little bits mind you. Then we spend the afternoons doing our own thing, alone or together.
    Yet… I am already planning ahead to all of the wonderful learning we will do in January! I LOVE beginnings.

  6. We’ve been doing the same. Trimming back for December. Doing our morning routine (got a young one) with calendar and then just a quick nod to a subject. I chose this route for the same reason as you – I find it hard to get back into the routine if we’ve totally broken it. We’ll probably return to the full routine in a couple weeks, in the beginning of January.

  7. Not being a homeschooler, I can see how the starting up again might be a challenge! For my boys the switch back to the classroom means stepping outside of the setting where vacation takes place — probably easier for all in a lot of ways.

    One more reason to admire all you homeschooling families do.
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: Hugo Cabret in Book and Film

  8. I just wrote about how we take a Homeschooling Break! We started in July and have had a new baby too so we are due for a whole month off 🙂
    Aimee’s latest post: How To Take A Homeschooling Holiday Break

  9. That’s a great idea, especially for the summer break! Two months is too much time to be “doing nothing”. I know we still learn, but they need some type of structure or actitivies during the day.

    I decided to take a full vacation during the holidays, but I’ll try to at least do something for two or three days. At least piano, one sheet of Math and bible verses memorization. This will keep them on track. I also want to read to them a lot. My parents are here so this fills their days and I want them to enjoy them.

    This an excellent article that I have to bookmark for the summer vacations! Would you post it again for the summer????!!!!!!!

  10. We’re never formally made the decision to do “part-time school.” But we’ve fallen into something similar at times, when my kids have taken on big projects. They’ve found something major to focus on, and we let that happen for a while, without worrying so much about “covering” a bunch of topics. Of course, when you take on a big project, you naturally end up incorporating a wide variety of topics and types of learning into what you’re doing.

    A few examples are when my daughter explored the history of food in the U.S. in the twentieth century and made a big display for our homeschool group history fair, or my son filmed and edited a documentary based on interviews with a family member who is a WWII veteran. Both of my kids were teens at the time and spent weeks on the projects.

    Right now my ten-year-old is beginning to write an epic story that he’s been mulling over for (literally) years! Combine that with holiday making and music and lots of reading and we call it homeschooling!

    Part time school over an extended period of time sounds intriguing, Heather. But I’m inclined to combine it with a project, because there’s nothing like having extra time for a project…
    patricia’s latest post: “don’t put this on your blog!”

  11. Sounds like a great idea! Sometimes you just need that little bit of momentum throughout the holidays to make getting back into the routine a little easier. 🙂
    e-Expeditions’s latest post: 5 Writing Prompt Websites

  12. Great post! After 5+ years of homeschooling, I have finally figured out what works for us, too. We are doing “Lite School” for the 2 weeks prior to Christmas, then taking a little over a week ‘off’ entirely. Then we will have a few days to transition back before the regular work load starts again. Merry Christmas!

  13. Sarah in GA says:

    We have done much the same thing this year. The week before Thanksgiving (when I got sick and we were gearing up for a week out of town) we started doing only 2 subjects a day, plus we are on a 4 day/week schedule. It has been nice to have some structure still, but a break from our regular work. My husband is a Middle School teacher, so we try to stick to his schedule as much as possible, using our no-school days for days when he is also on break. This keeps us on track with the requirements for attendance for our State as well.
    We have been traveling, reading lots of good books, baking, watching Christmas movies, and attending special plays and concerts. I am sure we will be ready to dig back in to more school work come January.

  14. That is kind of what we do! I take a full break for 2-3 days and then we go back to school as otherwise we have such a hard time starting up! I will do some light days though…to get back into it!

  15. Last year we had 2 days of school, 2 fun days and 1 errand day in the weeks leading up to Christmas, then about 10 days off. We equaled about 6 weeks “off” in November and December. This year we are taking off the whole month of December, but we have themes for our days. We have Baking Day, Craft/Sewing Day, Errand Day, Library, Laundry and Lego Day, Decorating Day, Cleaning Day, etc. These help us to have a focus for each day and keep some loose structure in place. We also continue to have storytime everyday after lunch. Hopefully when we return to school in January we will ease into it the first week and be back in our routine by the second week.
    Suanna’s latest post: Baking Day 2

  16. This is our first year to HS so we are really newbs. I did take into account how hard it would be to get back to our regular routine if we took an extended break so I told the kids we’d do the same as we have always done in the summer when they were all in public school. We call it “school light”. So in the summer the kids don’t lose all they were taught through the school year we do one to three subjects a day 3 to 5 days of the week. We will do this until the eve of Christmas eve, working in craft days and baking days. Then we will take from Christmas eve through new years day off. Then back to the regular school schedule we have come up with. It’s so nice to know there are other HS mom’s thinking the same way 😀

  17. This is really in keeping with what I’m expecting to do. Right now I have two more focused days of school when my littlest is at preschool, one day where we do music lessons and then chores and then see how it goes and one day with some structured learning and the rest art or cooking etc, we’ll that’s the plan anyway! With my partner home for the holidays it is actually a great time to get some one to one time with my eldest, do lots of reading, keep some of our ‘core’ work going but also have family time. I find homeschool gives me something to pin my day on, I don’t want to lose it completely.
    Emmalina’s latest post: Fuzzy Day

  18. Sounds great, but with a dad who is a PS teacher, a sister in high school and another sister home from college, my son is going to have to go full time until break so I don’t have a mutiny on my hands.

    We have been doing 4 days all year anyway with Friday set aside for experiments, review, games, and catching up on anything we missed during the week. Works great for us!
    Heidi’s latest post: Homeschool Latin

  19. We take time off and enjoy full flexibility from our usual schedule. It is more difficult to get back into a full schooling schedule when we’ve had a long break, but we ease in gently over a few weeks.
    I like to have something up my sleeve for when the days drag without purpose and children become too aimless. I like my children to be busy with something for hands or hearts – making gifts, doing a big project or craft. Also, it is a good time to listen to audio books while busy with a hobby. Right now my youngest is hard at work preparing for the Nativity Puppet show we put together while older siblings were away. You can read about it on the link below.
    Nadene’s latest post: Nativity Puppet Play

  20. Thank yo for all of the great ideas and input. As a first year homeschooler, I can definitely use them! 😉
    Debbye @ The Baby Sleep Site’s latest post: Are Crib Baby Aquariums Bad For Your Baby’s Sleep?

  21. We live in a regulated state where a certain amount of days are required. This always adds stress to my plate, especially during the holidays when I feel the kids deserve to have a break.

    My son’s iron will makes it difficult though. I give him a tiny little break and it takes 2 weeks to get him to want to do anything at all. I am planning to do a few days “off entirely” and hopefully we can work through the next couple of weeks with mini-days.
    cat’s latest post: Your a Mean one… Mr.Grinch-

  22. Since I have a 5 and 2 year old, I only do school part-time anyway. But I often wonder as they get older if I’ll feel the need to do more each day or let us conquer different subjects on different days. Since I’m going to try project-based learning, we may be able to cover a wide array of subjects one project at a time. I’m going to keep to our schedule right up until Christmas since I require so little formal lessons of my 5 year old anyway. But we’ll definitely take the holidays off and some other days here and there since we’re planning some family outings on my husband’s winter break.
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: What qualifications are required of parents who homeschool?

  23. Great post! This is our first year of homeschool and we opted for the full on month long break….I am hoping that we don’t regret it!

    I am going to link this post into my blog also! Thanks.

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