We school year-round—three months on, one month off. The shorter, intermittent breaks suit the rhythm of our family well. By the end of a twelve week summer break, all of us were craving structure and weary of open-ended days. Too, we find the heat of the summer in the south exhausting at its peak, and not enjoyable in the “we’re on vacation!” sense. So: three on, one off. The perfect compromise.
Our break months are always greeted with the kind of joyful release I remember from my own childhood. I have clear memories of riding home on the bus on the very last day of school, backpack light. An entire menu of possibilities seemed to stretch before me. That’s the same look I see on the faces of my children, who invariably wake up on the first morning of break and announce projects— books to be read, movies to be filmed, things to be built or researched or dug into like a feast.
Break equals margin. And margin equals balance.
I love that my kids give their full attention to their school work. I love that they throw themselves into math and science and the beauty of the written word. I love that we memorize the parts of speech, and play with music.
But I also love that, given a few weeks of extra space, they give their full attention to a different kind of learning— the poetry of play.
I love that the forgotten body of a long dead tree and a salvaged pallet became a pioneer home. I love that a dented tin bucket suspended on a branch became a cook fire, and a bundle of straw tied to the end of a stick became a broom. I love that teenage brothers were drawn into the play, hauling heavier chunks of log, finding the perfect large stone to serve as a heating stove. I love that I had to stop a 4 year-old from trying out his milking skills on our golden retriever. I love that all of this happened not in the window of an afternoon outdoors, but from sun up to sun down, with our chickens scratching at our feet and only the position of the sun to tell us if it was time to eat or come inside.
School is important. So important. But so is rest. So is the chance to pretend to haul water from the creek or chase a hen who has taken off with your pretend supper. I am grateful for breaks, whenever they come.