I’m often asked if I give my kids time off during the school holidays. Depending on who is asking and how much time I’ve got, I sometimes answer ‘Yes’, or ‘No’, or ‘Well they’re learning all the time, so if something interesting comes up during school holidays then we go with it, I don’t stop them!’
The truth is that the kids do some of their most effective learning during the school holidays.
When the school term is running, we do a lot of activities. There’s karate, Girl Guides and acting, as well as several home education groups we attend. Add catching up with friends and going to the zoo or the museum when we get the urge, and we don’t end up spending a lot of time at home. Even if we are home for part of the day, there’s often somewhere to be at a specific time. A fun and enjoyable activity is great for learning, but packingup and leaving what we are doing at home can often interrupt a great activity that was already happening.
In the school holidays we have very few scheduled tasks. And I notice every
break, that after a couple of days at home with us not trying to be anywhere at a particular time, that the type of play changes and the kids become immersed in much more creative play. There’s also so much more time to really become involved in an activity. Sometimes it’s playing Lego, writing a story, playing with their toy animals or dolls, making up a story on the run and really being those characters, reading a book, looking at a character guide or non-fiction book and really exploring the information, playing a game on the Playstation or iPad, doing puzzles, playing outside on the swings and trampoline, cooking, craft, and sewing…
They do these activities, and more, for hours at a time (sometimes they come back to it day after day). Even if we do go out, to a park, the library, the pool, a picnic, a friend’s house, there’s usually not a time limit. Whatever it is the kids are doing, without the pressure to have a break at a certain time, the activity or game continues for as long as they are interested.
When this happens the learning can become much deeper and they can really take the time to consolidate their learning. Sometimes during the term I feel like they are flitting from activity to activity and while they are obviously learning while they do that, and they often do come back to things that were interrupted, having the longer flow means that they can get as much out of it as they want and move on once they feel content. There’s no loss of concentration or forgetting and having to go back a bit to catch up. Their learning is less disjointed and I feel like they make bigger leaps of skill and development during the school holidays.
So yes, I do give my kids a break during the school holidays – but not in the way most people think. I give them a break from time-dependent activities. This gives them time to slow down, and really get into the things that they love, without interruption. Which means they learn more deeply and contentedly and are then ready to start a new term of activities and get-togethers and learn in a different way again.
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