When we first started out on our homeschool journey, I mostly stuck to the traditional schedule in terms of the months we spent doing schoolwork. This was easy because for a couple of years we only really had to do assignments two or three days a week to accomplish a school year. Then we progressed past Kindergarten, and it was time to get serious. We found ourselves falling behind a lot when we’d take unexpected days off for one reason or another. We were simply scheduled too rigidly. I had read about the benefits of year-round schooling over at weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com and decided I really liked the idea. So I implemented it the following school year and haven’t looked back, though I have tweaked it to fit our upcoming commitments each year as well as account for what might not have worked so well a previous year.
What Does a Year-Round Schedule Look Like for Us?
Typically we begin our school year the first full week after the 4th of July holiday. Heat is one of my personal sensory triggers so we tend to avoid being outdoors much during the day for most of the latter part of summer and early fall when I know I’m just going to be miserable trying to do anything. It makes sense for us to use this time to get school done and save the fun outdoor activities for evenings or cooler temperatures in the early spring. Our fall break usually comes around the first week of October when we take off the week of my oldest daughter’s birthday.
This doesn’t mean we don’t take a day off before October, we just tend to only do so if something comes up such as illness or an unexpected day off for their dad so we can enjoy that time with him since we never know when he might be gone for weeks or months at a time. It means we’re in school for a good solid 12 weeks, but I find it’s best to do that long haul at the beginning when the curriculum is new and exciting and no one is burned out yet. Then we get back to school for the next six weeks or so after my daughter’s birthday, only taking the day of Halloween off, until the week of Thanksgiving.
At this point we take a long holiday break because the Christmas season is a favorite in our house, and we tend to do a lot of extra activities in and outside of the home to celebrate. I found trying to enjoy the season while keeping up with school always made it stressful instead of joyful, and I refused to let that become our reality each year during a time that usually brought me so much comfort. Originally this break lasted from that next to last week of November through the first week of January, but now we usually take an extra week to get through my son’s birthday the second week of January before we start back.
So, wait, doesn’t that mean we just switched out the 8 week summer break for a winter one? How is that year-round? Well, we don’t typically take the entire break off from all schoolwork. We use the weeks leading up to Christmas to make up anything we’ve inevitably gotten behind on and keep a light, relaxed schedule as we make our way through it. If something has come up in the spring that we weren’t aware off at the beginning of the school year that means we need to work ahead so we can take time off, we do a little of that, too. It takes the pressure off to know we don’t have a hard deadline for finishing up the semester, it’s just an ideal goal to have that long break if we somehow miraculously get to everything.
As we begin the spring semester, we go for about 7 weeks and take a spring break that spans the week of my middle daughter’s birthday as well as my own in early March. This allows us to get back in the swing of things knowing another break is in sight. Then we finish up the school year in a long stretch through the last week or so of May and take a short summer break through June and Independence Day. But, just like with the winter break, we use June as a buffer for anything that didn’t get done in the spring without having to be on a full schedule.
We still have plenty of time to enjoy summer activities and sign up for camps or travel, but we don’t have the stress of finishing by a certain date. I turn in grades to our umbrella school June 15, and whatever isn’t don’t by then we just do for our own benefit of the knowledge without worrying about an official record. Usually there’s only a few lessons left of anything that would need grading, or the work left is in subjects that are simply pass or fail anyway so this works for us.
What are the Best Benefits of Homeschooling Year-Round for Us?
Taking time off for things that are important to us as family. We aren’t beholden to the traditional school year calendar so we can thoroughly enjoy the winter holidays. Last year my older daughter was in a big, fancy production of the Nutcracker ballet, and the rehearsals through November and December took up hours and hours of our week. We didn’t have to worry about trying to maintain a regular schoolwork schedule, and she could fully dedicate herself to dance and enjoy the experience while I kept my sanity.
We can take off for birthdays and go do something fun for the day at the request of the birthday kid with no worries about the schoolwork that needs doing. And because we have the buffers of December and June to finish up each semester, we can easily take a spur of the moment trip or extra day off for visiting with family. Most importantly, the kids can spend time with their dad any time he is off instead of being stuck doing schoolwork during those precious hours only to be off when he’s deployed or gone training. Since we can’t always plan ahead for when he will be home vs. gone, being able to wing it goes a long way.
We don’t have to stress about holding to super hard deadlines as long as we are consistently working most days through each subject with the goal of being halfway by Christmas, and finished by June. This allows me to throw off the chains of my OCD tendencies to schedule us by the minute and go with what works. If we want to read an extra chapter of a novel together? We do it. If we want to spend all day doing science for the whole week’s assignments and then work on the other subjects the other days? We do it. As long as we are generally on track, it’s not an issue. And as the kids grow, that time management will be more and more their responsibility instead of mine which is very freeing with three children to homeschool at once. As long as they complete the week’s work, it won’t matter in what order or which days.
What are the Downfalls of Homeschooling Year-Round for Us?
As you can probably tell, we don’t schedule super rigidly so sometimes this can lead to a false sense of having endless time to “get to it later”. Don’t do that! It ends in a mad dash to catch up in December and June that definitely doesn’t add to the joy of those seasons. I have to be mindful that if we don’t legitimately have something else going on that requires our commitment that day, we NEED to do school and work through the majority of our subjects. I cannot get complacent with such an open schedule and put things off, and this is a lesson I learned the hard way during the first couple of years of implementing this schedule. But I prefer this need to be mindful to the stress of a rigid schedule because I would start to stress out, and my mental health would suffer for it, every time we’d finish a day without getting all of the boxes checked. For us, having a more relaxed approach is a better balance of our time and energies.
If you’ve considered year-round homeschooling, I hope this post has given you a little insight into the pros and cons and given you some ideas. You don’t have to follow my schedule; that’s the beauty of it. You can homeschool around the events and seasons that are important for your family and adjust fire for unexpected things that occur throughout the school year without letting a schedule dictate your every move. After all, if you’re like me you didn’t choose homeschooling so you could stress about checking the boxes of a curriculum and not be able to take time to enjoy life and your kids. For me, maintaining patience is key to enjoying my kids and ensuring they build fond memories of their time at home. Homeschooling year-round has allowed me to do that much better than in the past, as long as I remain mindful that we get work done with regularity.