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.
Photo 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.
Photo 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?