Whether you homeschool on a traditional schedule or prefer year-round schooling, at some point, your family takes a break or there's an extended holiday or a vacation. Books, schoolwork, activities, and appointments are pushed aside for slower days, travel, sleeping (right?) and much-needed downtime. Perhaps your homeschool routine goes completely out the window (raising my hand) or maybe you try to keep a few daily anchors in place. Either way—vacation time is a needed break for all.
And then it happens.
A few days before vacation ends that panicky feeling sets in and you find yourself scrambling to get all.the.things back together before you dive back into your normal homeschooling days. You start pulling out the schedules, the calendars, the curricula, and the chocolate. Even if you are the kind of person who plans out the entire year, life still happens and vacation-mode-mama (or dad) brain can derail your best efforts.
How do we set ourselves up for a smooth transition back into our homeschool rhythm and routine after a holiday or vacation break? Check out these 5 simple steps to get back into your homeschooling routine without losing your mind, losing your cool, or losing all your chocolate stash at once.
1. Pick a re-entry date: Get out the calendar (preferably before your vacation/holiday) and circle the actual day you will "go back to school." Why? Because if you're like me, you need to see the date circled in red marker to hold you accountable. I used to think that I would just instinctively know that it was time to get back to our daily rhythms, but the truth is I am not that organized and I love downtime. However, my kids actually like routine and begin to crave it. I try to be mindful of all of our needs when I chose the "re-entry" date. Be sure to do the same! Do you have classes coming up? Field trips? Appointments? Take all of these things into consideration. Then get your calendar, get your red (or purple or sparkly orange) marker and circle your date.
2. Clear the clutter: Whether you have holiday decorations laying around or vacation laundry stacked up, spend some time clearing the clutter. I like to scan the main areas where we tend to gather for homeschooling (the kitchen and family room for us). What needs to be cleaned up? Do I need to get rid of any books, games, or leftover projects? Does the furniture need to be rearranged for a more conducive learning environment? Are we running low on any supplies?
I like to do this step alone. I know kids are perfectly capable of helping. But, I also know that I can get a tad bossy when I'm in the zone on a decluttering mission. I grab my earbuds, put on a podcast, and get to work. If you're feeling really ambitious, you can go through your whole house.
After you declutter, be sure to find a place for any donations you have. Put items in your car and make a plan to drop them off at a local donation center. Have items to sell? Snap the photos and post them. I keep a large box of homeschool supplies to donate or sell and then a few times a year, I post items on local homeschool Facebook groups or take items my local homeschool store to sell.
Lastly, don't get caught up on making all your spaces "just so" or perfectly perfect. Clean spaces, supplies, and books back in their places and comfortable places to sit and work will make for an easier transition.
3. Plan (but just one week): I am not a plan-the-whole-year-in-advance-homeschooler. I've tried, but it doesn't work for me. That said, I always have a simple plan in place for the first week back from a break. I grab my planner pages and my calendar (the one with the BIG RED CIRCLE). I quickly jot down the other things that are on the schedule for that week. I do try to make sure our first day back is relatively low key.
Next, I review my monthly plans to see where we are for various subjects. I might just focus on math and language arts for the first week back and maybe set out a new game or have a documentary lined up to watch. By keeping the plan simple, we can ease into things and nobody has to cry. Hopefully.
4. Secure the snacks (and your favorite hot beverage): Food is a love language in our home. Now that my kids are older, getting them to gather around the kitchen table for joint homeschooling time is a bit harder. When they were little, I could place new crayons and color books on the table and fresh containers of Play-Doh and they would come running.
Now, I try to make sure I have a "fun" breakfast and special snacks when they come down for breakfast on our first day back from break. I also make sure I have my favorite tea on hand and ensure that my dark chocolate stash ready to go so that I can be my best self. Chocolate and all.
Don't forget to have lunch prepped or something easy on hand to eat or for the kids to fix. Lunch always sneaks up on me and my kids keep wanting to eat it. Plan for a picnic lunch outside or even on the family room floor.
5. Have Fun: I admit that I am not always the fun mom. Especially after vacation, I tend to want to just dive back in as if the break hadn't happened.
You've got your fun breakfast, so how about some fresh flowers or a fun table cloth or twinkle lights or a new game? Can you pop on a movie to watch after lunch? What if the first day back is just gameschooling or reading aloud and art projects? What if it's math and cookies and then a movie? Have the kids plan something and let them be part of the process. You can even create a back-from-break ritual and that will help make things even easier.
Heading back to your homeschooling routine doesn't have to be a drag. With a bit of preparation and snacks, your first week back can be productive without being overwhelming. Do you have ideas to share with us to make this transition easier? Comment below and let us know.