One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is the freedom available to do just about everything your own way. This includes a year-round homeschool schedule. In this post, I want to share with you what year-round schooling looks like for us as opposed to a traditional school year calendar.
Some people feel a little shocked and afraid when I say that we school year round. I think that’s because they envision us having a traditional school schedule 52 weeks a year.
Nope. Not even close! For us it’s about a relaxed homeschool lifestyle, spring break that’s longer than a week, family vacation with fewer crowds, and extra time with Dad.
In my 22 years of homeschooling, I have definitely evolved in my calendar thinking. Somewhere in there, when multiple babies were being born and life circumstances interrupted our homeschool days, we naturally extended our school year to have more frequent breaks and more flexibility in our school time. Now, we are so firmly settled into a year round homeschooling schedule that my youngest kids don’t even know what a “school year” is!
The benefits of year round homeschooling are numerous.
Following rabbit trails. There are just some days when you and the kids are engrossed in something fun or interesting, and you don’t want to stop. The ability to be completely on your own schedule allows for so much flexibility where it counts! Instead of worrying that you need to “finish a lesson” or stay on schedule, you can take full advantage of the moment. You can let the whole family dive deep into a subject that has piqued their interest, answer endless questions, do more research, and just enjoy learning!
Accommodating different schedules. When your kids get into the high school years, this matters! With part-time jobs, sports, and other outside activities, you can allow the school lessons to be scheduled around their busy-ness. So far, I’ve homeschooled three teens (who are now graduated). We have had a different schedule each time, depending on their work and extracurriculars. Sometimes it meant having two or three very full days of lessons per week. Sometimes we had school early in the morning so they could complete it before going to work. Sometimes they had to do school work on the weekends. The options are endless and very accommodating when you are not trying to meet some arbitrary deadline.
Easy scheduling of doctor appointments and other errands. You won’t need a note for school, and you can make your errands fit your schedule instead of someone else’s. Knowing that you can take an extra day or two (or longer) for last-minute appointments or regularly scheduled medical visits helps you to get the most optimal appointments. I’ve scheduled dental checkups all in one day for my crew because it was easier to make one big trip than several.
Flexibility for special needs learners. This is extremely important for children who have learning disabilities or other special needs. There are often hard days and some children need more time or an extra break. Homeschooling is one of the best things you can do for a special needs learners. The calendar and the clock can take a backseat to the student’s needs, whatever they are. You can read more about special needs homeschooling in my book, Anyone Can Homeschool, and in this blog post.
An extended break whenever you need it. I can’t count how many unplanned long breaks we have had over the years. I have suffered miscarriages that take a physical and emotional toll. We have spent time in the hospital bedside of relatives. We mourned the loss of my dad and my in laws. We have moved multiple times. None of these real-life circumstances ever got in the way of school, because we are a family first. Before we became year-round homeschoolers, I did worry about catching up or being behind, but that was years ago, and now I don’t think about how many days of school or weeks of school we have or need to have. We live life, and let school be secondary.
Take a long winter break for the holidays. Now, this is something that you generally get with public school. But at our house, we take an even longer break. Often, our break begins at Thanksgiving and lasts until after the New Year. In fact, if I’ve ever had a “school year,” it is one that begins in January instead of September. To counter this long winter break, we don’t usually take a long summer break. In Texas, where we live, it’s usually too hot for fun outdoor activities before the end of June, so we tend to have “summer school,” or just continue schooling through the hot months. Fall and Spring are also great times for shorter school days.
There is no such thing as the summer slide. With shorter breaks and longer learning periods, there is little chance for a lapse in the important subjects, like language arts or math. When one school book is complete, we just move on to the next one. There’s no 3-month break followed by six weeks of review. The students simply progress to the next level and keep building on the concepts they have learned. Summer vacation doesn’t have to be canceled altogether, though; you can take all the breaks you need for camps and lake fun!
Less stress about being “behind.” This is a mindset that has to be learned. But once you understand the concepts below, you will stop thinking about being behind, grade levels, school years, and everything else that public school taught you.
There are a few concepts that will help you understand (and adjust to) year round homeschooling, and I’ve written about them in detail:
- Grade level is not the most important thing
- It does not take twelve years to educate a child
- There is no such thing as “behind” in homeschooling
Year round homeschool at our house
For us, a typical school week has three-ish school days. This is when we are busy with our school books from about 9-3. All the subjects are covered. Sometimes we take a long lunch break, and other days the kids eat while I teach history. The rest of the week still includes Bible reading, catechism, and at least 30 minutes of reading.
Our biggest breaks of the year come at Christmas/New Year, my husband’s vacation time, and for beautiful weather. Since we live in Texas, we might take more free days in Fall and Spring. Even Winter gives us some nice weather. But Summer? Ugh. It’s so hot. We can study in the air conditioning.
In Texas, there are no homeschool requirements for hours or days, so I don’t count how many days we put in each year. We don’t have a “first day of school” here. If anything, resuming studies after the Christmas season is more of a “first day” kind of thing for us. I also suffer from migraine headaches, and run a home business. This year round schedule allows a lot of flexibility from day to day and week to week.
Some other examples of year-round schedules include:
- 4-day school week
- 3 days on/2 days off
- 5-day school week for six weeks straight, and then a one-week break
- one day at a time, with breaks as needed
There are many variations to the year round school, and there’s no wrong way to do it. Our family is solidly in the “one day at a time” camp. We don’t have a “school year” or definite schedule anymore. My kids know that we will almost always be learning, with roughly three days a week dedicated to lessons. But if we need longer breaks because of illness, extended family needs, or something else, we can take time off as needed. This also allows a lot of flexibility for impromptu plans like field trips or park days with other homeschool families.
Learn to see your homeschool as a HOME and not a SCHOOL
I write all the time about thinking outside the public school classroom mindset, and that’s what I want my readers to understand about this kind of homeschooling journey. If you were running a government-funded school district with hundreds of kids in attendance, you would need a pretty structured system to manage. But homeschoolers are not doing that, so we don’t need their system.
Whether you’re a brand new homeschool mom looking to plan your first year, or you’ve been on the homeschool journey for a while but you need a change, I hope you’ll consider this break from a traditional schedule. Even if your state laws require that you count or report the number of days you school, you can do this! And depending on where you live, your summer months might be your longest break, and your winter months will be when you spend more time indoors.
Learn to see your homeschool as more of a HOME than a SCHOOL. When you do this, you’ll see that the school year doesn’t’ matter as much as the calendar year. Set up a basic plan that works for you. That may look very different from all the other homeschoolers you know, and that’s okay. You are a family!