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    Home Education, Other Thoughts

    Running on Empty

    April 5, 2017 by Brandy Vencel

    It’s been a busy couple of months, and here I am, needing Easter Break more than ever. You see, next week is my annual spring blogging break (and school break, of course), and while I’m always ready for it, I feel like the parched man in the desert, rejoicing to realize he hasn’t been making his way toward a mirage.

    We all get to this place. For many of you, it was probably in February that you came to the end of yourself. We don’t call it Homeschool Burnout Month for nothing. But for me, February was full of traveling and speaking, and I didn’t have time to get burned out. March was full of Charlotte Mason Boot Camp beta testing, so again: no time. (And also: tons of fun!)

    But now, here I am. All the nights when I was doing something other than reading and generally filling my tanks back up are beginning to show.

    If you've been running ragged, it's wise to take a break week. But don't just TAKE one. PLAN one. Break weeks are worth being deliberate about.

    The question is what to do when times like this arrive. Lucky for me, it tends to arrive on schedule. (We Sabbath School: six weeks on, one week off.)

    But it isn’t enough to have a break week. I have to plan for it. In my experience, break weeks without a plan breed regret.

    So what does a good break week look like? Well, it depends on your goals. For me, I feel a few things: worn out, empty, and behind. My goals are simple: combat all those things. Here’s my plan:

    Physical Rest

    I’ve been getting up early for weeks, even on Saturdays. I rarely get to make up for staying up late (which I try not to do very often) because there are too many reasons I need to be up early. This means that if break week needs to be anything, it’s time for extra sleep. While I don’t want to sleep my days away, an extra hour each morning, or a quick nap in the afternoon, should really help.

    In addition to this, I’ve been inside too much. Here it is, spring, glorious spring, and I’ve had too many indoor tasks. This means that time at the park and time in the backyard are both priorities. To be honest, nothing makes me feel better than a few hours in the sunshine. To say I’m excited about our upcoming day trip to the beach with friends is an understatement!

    Fill Up

    I haven’t had enough time to read and think. Teaching is a funny thing — if you keep emptying it all out without replacing it, you really do turn up empty. I’ve felt it — it’s kind of like that time my car started running out of gas. I’m coasting on fumes, and this is not only dangerous (might not make it to the gas station), but also could cause permanent damage (anyone else needed a new fuel pump before?).

    While I try not to play it this close to the edge, life happens sometimes, doesn’t it? The key is to repair the damage and refill the tank as soon as possible.

    It’s pretty easy to combine that outdoor time I’m planning with a good book (or, in my case, a stack of them).

    Catch Up

    I hate the feeling of wanting to avoid my house because there is too much that needs to be done and I don’t have time to do any of it. It’s been hanging over my head for a few weeks now. I’m building a long list of tasks I’ve been putting off: oil changes, recycling runs, various errands, cleaning tasks, and more. My hope is that the children and I can knock these out in a few well-planned trips and activities.

    How to Plan a Break Week

    You probably need to take a spring break (unless, of course, you already did). I really encourage you to do so. Sometimes a break can set us straight and help us finish the school year well. But don’t just take one — plan one. This is what I wish someone had told me earlier on: that even break weeks were worth planning. It’s worth being deliberate.

    Don’t just take my goals — figure out the goals you need to reach in order to prepare yourself for the end run of the school year. Here’s the process I use:

    1. Ask yourself how you feel — are you tired? bored? lonely? What’s ailing you?
    2. Turn those feelings into goals. If you’re tired: sleep. If you’re bored: do something interesting. If you’re lonely: connect with friends or family.
    3.  Spend 20 minutes with your calendar and schedule it out.

    I still remember when Pam taught me to plan my summers. I had been sort of haphazard about them before, and it always felt like they slipped through my fingers — like they should have been more than they were. I realize now that because I didn’t have a plan, they were only a fraction of what I wished them to be — even if that only meant I wanted more time in the sunshine.

    It’s not that we need to make break week productive. It’s just that thinking through goals and making a plan helps us make it what we really want it to be.

    Are you planning a break week soon?

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  • Reply Cindy April 11, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Great post, Brandy!
    We are actually on a break week now. We break every four weeks because we go year round.
    I had the worst day today just putzing around – haphazardly moving from the dishwasher to the blog post I’m working on to a digital product I’m working on to reading a book to my daughter…
    I do not do well without a plan because generally, “no plan” in our family equates to “too much screen time” including for me. I loosen all the boundaries and next thing you know we’re all jell-o brains.
    Thanks for the reminder to be purposeful. There’s always a nugget of wisdom in your posts 😉

  • Reply Kathryn April 5, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Thanks for the reminder! We had not planned to take a break this week but the neighborhood kids are all out and the weather here is beautiful today. We were all ready to move into break mode and will be intentional the rest of the week to get outside and visit with family and friends.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 7, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      Oh, enjoy your beautiful weather, Kathryn! ♥

  • Reply Melissa Greene April 5, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Great post and timing Brandy!!!

    We’ve been on go-go-go for some time now and I feel like I’m barely staying afloat…actually I’m hanging by my fingernails, screaming for the life raft, if you know what I mean 😉

    Then last week brought on horribly sick kiddos right as I was planning our local homeschool used curriculum fair. So this week, rather than double up on assignments to catch up, we are doubling up on time. What I mean is, we are doing one week’s assignments over the course of two weeks (last week and this week). This does delay our finish time in May, but it’s been so worth it at this point.

    Our break week actually lands the week after Easter as I head off to the GHC. The kids and I talked it over and thought about using that as make-up time, but, at this point, we don’t want to sacrifice that time off so we will postpone our end of the year date to later in May. It has taken so much pressure off.

    Overall, I think the key is learning to flex the plan when you can. I used to be more rigid, but after time and again of feeling ornery because I was cramming school into an already too busy schedule, I’ve finally learned to let go. It only took 10 years ;-P This week has actually been enjoyable as far as our studies go. I’m so glad we are taking the extra time to get back on track!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 7, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      I TOTALLY know what you mean. I can’t tell you how glad I was this afternoon to have everything DONE and know we don’t have to pick up again for a whole week. ♥

      So you get to go to GHC? Have SO much fun! I just love GHC! ♥

      • Reply Melissa Greene April 7, 2017 at 5:41 pm

        Yes, thanks, I’m going to GHC in OH! It’s the closest to WI. Getting excited…

  • Reply Lisa A April 5, 2017 at 6:23 am

    Perfect timing! We have a half week of school next week during Holy Week and then Bright Week is our break week. We will be tired and need rest, but there is also a growing list of things I’d like to do. At this point it’s very vague and if I don’t plan I’m sure it will stay vague. Thanks for the reminder to be intentional with my time. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 7, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      You’re welcome! I’m glad it was helpful. 🙂

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