Sunday, December 21, 2014

We're Going Lessons-Free for Christmas (and are hoping it makes us holier)

For me, one of the hard things about home schooling is the breaks.  Taking breaks from our regular school routine is very hard for me.  I haven't quite identified why, seeing as that I'm generally OK with taking breaks from other things.  I don't want the kids to fall behind... I don't want them to forget... I'll miss the schedule and routine... It will be hard to get back into the swing of things when the break is over...  I mean, really... take your pick as to the reason.  It's probably a little bit of everything.  But when an obvious time for a break in lessons rolls around, I really struggle.  

In the past we've done lessons almost all Christmas break, Easter break, Spring break, Summer... you get the idea.  "Vacation" time rolls around and I toy with the idea of taking some time off from lessons, and then I can never quite bring myself to do it.  That's changing this year, though - tomorrow, in fact, we are starting a real break.  One and a half weeks of no school lessons.

And I know it's going to be hard.  But I also believe that it's very important that we do it.   That's one of the reasons I'm writing about it here, so that I can get my plan out in the open and will feel like I'm a little more accountable for it.  

I recall reading a meditation in the series In Conversation with God on the importance of true rest and sanctifying our "down time."  God calls us to sanctify our rest just as sure as he calls us to sanctify our work.  True rest isn't wasted time, because it isn't idleness, it isn't useless, and it isn't selfish.   True rest, an intentional change from our daily routines and responsibilities, allows us to connect with God in a refreshed way.  Just as we grow in virtue if we work with purpose, if we rest with purpose it can also be an essential part in our growth in holiness.  God rejoices when we know peace, because then we can know Him better.  It delights him when we appreciate the good things he's given us to enjoy - an afternoon walk, a cup of steamy hot chocolate, a conversation with a friend.  The things we experience and encounter in times of rest can edify and sanctify us in ways our work cannot.  Allowing ourselves to rest, change our pace, and shift our focus off of our normal habits and routines gives us the opportunity to encounter God in unique, out-of-the-ordinary ways.

That's why we'll be taking a Christmas break from lessons this year.  It may set us back.  Aaron may forget how to multiply by 2.  Dominic may struggle to form the cursive letters he's nearly perfected, and Ruth might not remember all of the phonograms she's learned so far, but I will have allowed them the opportunity to rest and to be filled and nourished by they peace and joy and strength that are the fruit of rest.  

I want them to know that it is not slothful or irresponsible to leave aside our school lessons and our predictable routines.  "Vacation" has value.  

I want them to experience the rhythms of life that so often mimic the seasons of Church - ordinary times of daily tasks, responsibilities, practices and holy-days/holiday times of feasting, celebrating and taking a break from the "everyday."

I want them to take all the good that "breaks" have to offer - extra play time with siblings and friends, baking and kitchen-mess making for the upcoming feasts, gobs of free time to be creative with toys and crafts and artwork, lots of books and reading for pleasure, trips and treats and surprises that are out of the ordinary.  

Breaks, and their advantages, while not necessarily a part of the everyday tasks that God asks us to remain faithful to, are still part of his plan for our lives. God calls us to encounter him in a unique way in our down times.  He nudges us to enjoy the delights of his creation that are best appreciated during times of rest.  He calls us to refresh and rejuvenate ourselves so that we may serve him and others more whole-heartedly when he calls us back to our work.  

We're going lessons-free for Christmas break this year.  I'm convicted that it can be fruitful, and I pray that it will be.  I will pray the same for you, friends!

*   *   *   *   *   *

“Rest is leaving one’s occupation, detaching oneself from the normal toil of the day, the week, and the year. It is important that we do not wander around aimlessly; our time off must not just be empty time.
“It would be good to enjoy nature, the mountains, the sea, and the forest. And of course, it should always be desirable for one’s leisure time to be filled with something different—a new content that nevertheless still leads to an encounter with God. We should open up the inward eyes of the soul to His presence in the world and incline our inward ear to His word of truth.”
St. John Paul II 


  1. No wonder you were up so late needed to rest a bit after posting...alot to think amaze me.....

  2. Yay! I admit, I'm laughing a bit that you consider a week and a half off a break :) If it brings any peace, I doubt any of your kids will forget any of what they've learned over that short of a time and you'll be learning so many other things and creating so many memories. We're taking almost a full month ;) But yes, I share the hesitancy mostly because of the dread of picking back up again and the pull of my nature to always be doing and never truly resting. But I can't imagine trying to do lessons while in the few days before and while celebrating Christmas anyway! I hope you guys enjoy your break! (And this is remotivating me to plan another vacation before this baby comes!)

    1. Mary, I'm twitching at the thought of taking a month off :) (Baby steps here!)

  3. <3 I am so excited for your family and this break!! It used to be very hard for me to take breaks, too, but just in this last year, I have really found the value in them. It will be good for you all. What is something you wish you had time for that you never get to because of school? Do *that* during your break. (and, ahem, this introvert online friend of yours is *so* tempted to have you call her during your break...) ;) MERRY CHRISTMAS, Theresa!! <3

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Gina! The break is going well so far, and I'm considering extending it for all of next week!
      So... since I don't have any plans for a trip to Colorado soon, maybe we can chat! I'll email you :)


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