Breaks as needed

Package of fifteen white soft fabric balls, labeled "Indoor Snowball Fight."
Soft fabric "snowballs" make a great short break.

Kids need a lot of breaks, to rest and reset their brains, and to move their bodies. Exercise isn’t just about getting the ants out of her pants: it provides a near-term mental boost for learning new concepts, and in the long run it plays a role in brain development linked to sensory processing and integration.

We take a 10-15 minute break between activities, and I feel out if she needs it to be self-directed time (read: petting the cat) or if I need to encourage something more physically active.

Sometimes in the middle of a lesson it’s clear that we’ve hit a wall, and a brain break is needed. We experiment with that: a two minute doodling break, a five minute snowball fight, a three minute dance party, a 10 minute swing break, a 15 minute walk outside, whatever. I try to make the decisions around these kinds of breaks collaborative, so she feels a sense of ownership of them, and so that over time she’ll have develop her own sense of her limits and how to effectively manage them without getting too far off her goals. I believe that knowing how and when to say “I need a break” is a critical skill, and I also believe that her knowing she has that option is a big factor in our not having school resistance issues (knock all the wood).

We break for the weekend. I can see the difference between her fresh Monday brain and her taxed Friday brain.

Winter, Spring, Summer break: it’s awesome not being stuck with scheduled vacations at the same time as everyone else. We went to Yosemite in the fall, and practically had it to ourselves. It felt decadent to get to take her to Hawaii for a week this winter without having to worry about her missing school. We’ve taken a couple of week-long breaks when I’ve sensed we needed them (Wanda then spends the week asking to do school work, and I kind of have to steer her towards giving her brain a break).

I don’t think we’ll stop for a multi-month summer break: I like that we’re able to keep our learning momentum going, and getting outdoors and playing is stitched into Wanda’s learning anyway (or was, before *waves hand around in the air*). If we were to take a big break, I’d rather it came in September, when San Francisco finally gets sunny. In August—when SF’s schools start their year—summer weather hasn’t yet arrived, and that's always broken my heart.

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