We’ve been homeschooling for over two years. (this is why we chose to homeschool and how long we plan to do it). Not a lifetime, certainly, but I’m not a complete novice anymore either. I’ve learned so much about the process and our personal style through a lot (a lot) of trial and error over this time period. I’ve had three “first days of homeschool” and they all begin the same- with a plan that outlines the structure of our day, a set curriculum, theme weeks, and a lot of go-get-em excitement. I love the energy the start of our year brings and I usually feel so on top of it.
That vigor carries us through for a while, but come mid-October, it begins to dwindle. Having a “math block” and a “language arts” block feels cumbersome and restrictive rather than delightfully planned out. We start to crave more outdoor time because it’s finally not hot as Hades outside. By this point some of the curriculum has turned stale and monotonous so I start looking for ways to make learning more fun, even if it just means math sheets with pumpkins and scarecrows on them. As we get into December we put aside regular curriculum to focus on all the joy that comes with the Christmas season. We get our math through baking and buying gifts, and a lot of reading aloud thanks to our favorite Christmas picture books, but mostly we take an academic break and enjoy being together during this special time of year.
As we get into January and the bitter cold, we do get back to our curriculum, sometimes having added in a new handwriting curriculum or something else that feels fresh, but we also crave coziness. We light candles daily and find ourselves filling downtime with reading aloud, making soup, and watching documentaries. When spring starts to arrive a few months later, it’s quite the opposite. We have cabin fever and are ready to meet our friends at the park, go hiking and just play. We push through with curriculum, eager to check off and be done with the must-dos of the school year.
Then summer comes with swim team and friends galore and though I intend to homeschool year round, the idea of worksheets sound really unsexy and we end up taking a break from all structure. YAY SUMMER!
Wash, rinse, and repeat.
As a new homeschooler, I felt a lot of guilt about this. I wondered if I was a failure. Why the heck couldn’t I just stick with my start of the year plan?
Slowly I began to see that just because our preferred structure style changed with the seasons, the learning never ceased; it just took a new form. I stopped fighting it because I began to trust how natural it was to experience this flow of the seasons and the tendencies they lent themselves too. Seasonal homeschooling. Once I said, it felt like the perfect term to describe our annual rhythm.
I also let go of the idea of needing a homeschool style label. When you first get started homeschooling it’s normal to be asked your preferred style. Do you subscribe to the Charlotte Mason method? Classical education model? Unschooling? After feeling like I needed to choose and stick with one, I finally realized I didn’t have to. We can, and do, follow a little of all of them!
Now I’ve moved beyond not fighting the natural flow of seasonal homeschooling to fully embracing it. I find so much beauty and peace in it. It’s taken becoming confident in my choices and not worrying about outside judgement on what I should or should not be doing in our home and our homeschool.
For example, December is upon and in my homeschooling circle I usually say that we take December off from school. But that’s not entirely true. While we may not be rocking our Singapore Math on the daily, the learning doesn’t stop, it just takes a new form. December for us is about focusing on time together and the act of giving. It’s about baking cookies because it’s fun and it tastes yummy and it just so happens to bring in lessons of measurements and fractions. It’s about talking about the reason for the season (currently we are doing Truth in the Tinsel) and making Christmas tree ornaments. It’s about staying in our pajamas and watching our favorite Christmas movies and creating those cozy memories to look back on for the rest of our lives. And there should be no guilt in any of that.
As I’ve become more interested in this rhythm, I’ve learned that seasonal homeschooling isn’t an original concept I thought up. A lot of people refer to it as hygge homeschooling, too.
Hygge—pronounced Hoo-ga—is a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience,” Wiking explains. “It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe.” (The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living)
This word has become part of my core goals- to live with intention and create hygge in my daily life.
I wanted to share this with today in case you’ve been there, too- wondering why you couldn’t seem to commit to a homeschool style (am I Charlotte Mason? An unschooler? A classical education fan?!) and if it meant you weren’t cut out for this. Because that’s how I felt for a while and it made me doubt my choices. Now I believe that at the core of homeschooling is the word home, and for us, home comes first. Our home life naturally fluctuates with the seasons, and therefore our homeschooling routine does as well. I have confidence that these relationships, memories, core values, and sparks of curiosity will serve my children well- even if the only math we do this month is measuring cups of flour.
Sounds like homeschooling is going really well. My only question is … does your state have education standards or tests that the girls have to be completing at the conclusion of each year? If not, how do the girls determine their progress for when it comes time to go back into the public school system whether that be high school or college??
Brittany Dixon says
Each state has different requirements for homeschooling. Here in NC, my girls take end of year tests and we get detailed results on how they are doing from the proctor.
John J. Stathas says
You have a wonderful way of assessing a situation, attuned, and then making the necessary adjustments to turn “whatever” into something fun and worth while. Creativity might be your middle name! Home school is another example of your marvelous skill sets.
Sometimes the “seasons” are even shorter. Grandma and Grandpa staying for a week after Thanksgiving? Unschooling. Mon-Wed back to class. International student needs a place to stay and a ride to the airport? 4 day weekend. Christmas celebration is all after Christmas? In class until December 24 (no official Christmas break). We even have class on Sundays if Dad is working. It’s the nature of homeschool!
Brittany Dixon says
I love this perspective! Such a great point. Every week looks so different!
We follow the seasons and the weather as well! It’s so cool to read a bit about how you do it. We take June and December off, and have big breaks in the spring and fall. That way we’re doing inside learning when it’s least pleasant outside. Some of my kids move up a grade each January, and others each July. We’re definitely doing a lot of cookie-baking this month! Thank you for sharing! 💜💜💜
Brittany Dixon says
Love to hear how you do things in your home! I love the idea of taking June and December off. 🙂
Thank you for such a wonderful blog post! I am in my second year of homeschooling and I find myself beating myself up a lot when we are not getting to the curriculum enough as I want to. Yesterday, I was reading a magazine at lunchtime and I mentioned this Carmel recipe to my son and he was so excited. “Can we make it today?” he asked. I was so torn. Between appointments and other life happenings we had not gotten to science in over a week. Should I just drop everything today and make Carmel sauce? In the end I made a compromise with my son. He agreed to do a little curriculum on Friday. Fridays are usually saved for science experiments and art projects or field trips. But, he had a great time making the Carmel sauce and it did turn out amazing!!!! Your blog made me feel like it is okay to go with the flow, go with my son’s flow and it is still going to be okay. Thank you for being so open and honest. And, no one really has all the answers when it comes to homeschool but in the end we are a bunch of parents that are doing our very best for our child/ren, no matter what! As we head into this holiday season I hope you have a wonderful time with your family. All the best!
Brittany Dixon says
Oh Jen, your comment made me tear up; thank you for leaving it! What an awesome moment and memory for you and your son! I 100% believe that is where the magic of homeschool lies, in those connecting moments when their brains are lit up with excitement and joy. Thank you for sharing it with me! You’ve inspired me for today to do the same 🙂
We are “officially” starting a seasonal homeschool this year and it was because like you said, naturally changing styles and methods with the seasons. I didn’t know it was an actual method. It was just something we found ourselves doing. I can’t wait to really allow ourselves the freedom without the guilt of doing this.
You taught me a new word I need to go look up “hygge”.
Brittany Dixon says
I’m so excited for you and your family’s journey! Those seasonal shifts make homeschooling feel even more special. Thanks for sharing with me!