Why Don't Homeschoolers Give Their Kids a Break During Summer?

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

This has to be one of the most frustrating questions anyone can ask a homeschooling parent. But what is the real answer? More importantly, what is the real question? I don't know why parents of mainstream schooled children ask this question, I usually hear them complaining about having to find childcare and taking time off work during the summer break. So why the curiosity, and why does it bother us homeschooling parents so much?

Well, I can't speak for everyone, but in our case, we don't work to a term-time as schools do, so to take an entire six-week break just because it's summer, would be an odd thing to do anyway. We work four weeks on and one week off and I see no reason to break that routine. A lot of homeschooling families don't teach to a timetable as I do and the ones that do will take a break any time they feel it is necessary, just like we do. Therefore, you never really feel like you need to have such a big break because homeschooling is nowhere near as tedious as mainstream school and the rush of the school run.

It seems counterintuitive for schools to bleat on all year about the importance of attendance and more importantly, the thing I hate most in the world - homework - drumming it into families that if the children miss even one day of school, it could have a detrimental effect on their education, only to then take over a month away from any form of routine and learning. In fact, most schools will make you do everything in your power to rearrange hospital appointments that you've waited eight months for so that it doesn't cause too much disruption. In my children's last school the boys could only get their mark if they were seated when the morning or afternoon register was taken. If they weren't, they would be recorded as absent. This meant for some appointments I would take them into school just to get their mark, then wait in reception for them to be brought straight back out again. Absolute madness.

So why then, after this constant reinforcement that missing even half a day of school, or not completing homework or practicing spelling every single night, will ruin your child's education as all knowledge will fall out of their heads, does the education system give such a long break that will make it impossible for anyone to keep up with that level of educational input? Not only do the six weeks holiday cause problems for parents having to find childcare, payout money they might not have for said childcare, and try to keep their little darlings entertained for six whole weeks, they also have the added pressure of trying to maintain their reading and any other projects the school has insisted they bring back with them on the first day of term. Then, there's the mad scramble for brand new school uniforms and feeling completely stressed when everything is out of stock.

Surely staggering the six-week holiday into two, two-week breaks would make more sense? Perhaps the last week in July and the first week in August, go back to school for a week and then take the final two weeks of August off? I'm not saying that's the perfect solution, but six weeks off all in one go isn't either. Maybe all the school holidays throughout the year could be in two-week bursts to make it up instead of some of them being a week, getting rid of the six-week break completely. I don't have the answers and thankfully, I don't need to. Just like a lot of other homeschooling parents, we aren't worried that our children are going to forget everything they've learned because we don't stop teaching. We may put our foot on the brakes a little, giving extra days off here and there, but you will find that mainly, there will still be some sort of home learning. Perhaps if the six-week break was staggered or abolished completely, you wouldn't have parents all trying to buy uniforms at once, the cost of holiday parks and days out might be cheaper, with parents having more options on dates with time off spread over the year thus less demand all in one six-week burst.

With such negativity cast on the homeschooling society, it seems strange, therefore, that at this one point in the school year, the tables truly turn. Parents and education officials who may have previously proclaimed concern about the homeschoolers they know, not having a proper routine, enough learning, or more importantly, enough socialising, suddenly find their children without education for more than a month, a complete lack of routine and nowhere near as much socialising as they were doing during term time. Worse still for those children who have to go into school clubs whilst moms and dads are at work, and find that their friendship groups are either non-existent or have disappeared completely.

Meanwhile, homeschoolers will continue on in the routine they know, a routine that is largely unchanged by the summer holidays. More importantly, most meet-up groups will still continue, there are no 'term-time-only' rules in homeschooling land. So the question becomes, what's more puzzling? Striving for 100% attendance, dodging fines by only taking children on holiday during half-term, and busting your balls to fit in homework between cooking dinner and dropping off to after-school clubs, only to them abandon it all for six whole weeks? Doesn't that then make the emphasis on continuous learning a moot point? Or, is it more puzzling for homeschoolers to continue teaching in their own way? In their usual non-pressurised family-led routine with smaller breaks in between, without taking the whole six weeks off? I know which one I prefer.

Next time you ask a homeschooling parent why they still educate during the summer holidays, ask yourself why you need to know? Is it because you think children should have that long off? If so, why the incessant need for homework the rest of the year if it suddenly doesn't matter during the summer? Perhaps that's a question you need to put toward your child's school. Or do you ask because you feel a sense of envy that you can't, don't know how or don't have the time to do any form of teaching during that long break? Perhaps you've become so conditioned to making sure your child doesn't miss an ounce of school (through no fault of your own), you find yourself at odds when there's no educational routine whatsoever, and processing that feeling is harder than focusing your attention on why homeschoolers don't take a break too.

I believe that a healthy life is one in moderation. Whether that's food, alcohol or education. If taking six weeks off is the equivalent to not drinking in the week, crash dieting, or going veggie for a month then ramming school work down a child's throat, and thrusting it into the heart of the family home in such a drum-beating manner all through the year, is the equivalent to binge-drinking or gorging on a feast of meat. Homeschooling is the moderation the education system ought to model its curriculum on. No need for hefty breaks when it's all taught in moderation anyway. So why don't we take a break during the summer holidays? Every day is a break for us! It's a break from being conditioned, it's a break from societal norms and what people feel they are 'supposed to do'. It's doing it our way and we never need to take a break from that.

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