Today is not the first day of school for us. There is never a first day, never a last day. It's not that we don't take breaks (Oh, we take breaks); we just never consider attaching a start and stop date to learning.
I think the brain needs to keep going. Just as I feel like I have to start from square 1 (or, at the very least, square 1.5) when I leave a writing project alone for too long, so too do most kids back track after long breaks.
The lovely thing about homeschooling is that we can change things up quite a bit while maintaining the educational experiences necessary for each child's particular educational goals. My eldest, for example, spent the summer exploring a variety of avenues to help her progress in violin. She took a break from formal one-on-one lessons and tried some classes. She played songs from musicals and enjoyed learning some Irish fiddle. She tried her hand at the mandolin and mastered my Ukelele before I could barely learn "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (punk). She got to keep her musical brain active while enjoying what felt like a break.
This can apply to all subjects. For us, summer vacations have always provided the perfect timing for such exploration. Their bodies are so active during summer that it would be a shame to waste all that wonderful oxygen shooting up into their brain (I have no idea if that's a real component of learning -- but it sounded good). I discovered this quite by accident when my eldest had just turned seven. She struggled with reading, having maintained what would be considered a pre-school - kindergarten level of reading for several years despite her desperation to read on her own. As summer approached and I sensed that neither of us was thrilled with the way reading was going and that none of the 20,000 approaches we had tried were proving effective, I declared a summer "break". Instead of doing any of the more formal reading lessons we had been doing, we decided I would continue reading to her and she would listen to books on CD as much or as little as she wanted. We spent that entire summer on the beach, complete with lots of running and swimming and cartwheeling. I read a ton of books to her (which I had been doing all along) and she listened to the entire American Girl series on CD. By the end of summer she was reading the AG books on her own and quickly progressed to the Harry Potter series.
We have all enjoyed the variety provided by summer this year. My youngest became an independent reader of chapter books and quite the speller. She gained a tremendous amount of confidence in hand-writing. She learned a plethora of information about neurology. My son read several book series, a new thing for him as he tends to read more manuals and resource books. He also delved into religious exploration on his own. My eldest spent the summer researching botanicals and a variety of animals and voluntarily putting together a research project about them. She also finished her life book, essentially her autobiography.
Today, as we watch parents walk their kids to their first day of school, not much has changed. My kids are sprawled out all over the living room floor. One is reading a book from the I Wonder Why series. One is snuggling with her pappa and a book before he heads off to work. One is doing her favorite activity, a workbook (true story -- she has always loved workbooks). Later we'll go to the orthodontist and then the gym, where I will work out and the kids will play basketball. This afternoon, after a bit of math and history, we'll attend a play about Marie Curie. We still plan to hang out at the beach while the weather is nice and extra-curriculurs will start up soon enough.
While thousands of kids set out their clothes last night and woke up early this morning to pack their school supplies into their backpacks, we... didn't. And though I sometimes watch the parents walking home after dropping their kids off with a cup of coffee in their hands and a smile indicating the next few hours will belong to them -- and cry a little inside -- I wouldn't have it any other way.