By: Mindy Scirri
If you are a new homeschooler, what you may be most surprised about is the amount of flexibility you really have. If your children were in traditional schools prior to homeschooling, your initial homeschooling schedule may look very much like a typical school day. You may follow the common school hours, Monday through Friday, from August/September to May/June. Gradually, you begin to learn that some lessons can be moved to the evening or even weekends.
Once you get a handle on the amount of flexibility you really have, you may consider homeschooling all year long. Is this the right option for your family? What are the schedules of other family members? Do you have one child in traditional school while you are homeschooling another? How could your vacations look if you didn’t need to follow a traditional school calendar?
Let’s take a look at year-round homeschooling’s pros and cons as well as some ideas for how to make it work:
Benefits of Year-Round Homeschooling
If you can get past the thought of “school all year,” year-round homeschooling does have some real benefits:
- Reduced Daily/Weekly Work: Year-round homeschoolers have the option to take the 180-day/36-week curriculum and spread it out throughout the entire year. This means that the school week or school day can be shortened. Especially for children with learning challenges, shorter work periods may be more effective.
- More Breaks: Rather than having one large 10-week break for summer, year-round homeschoolers can spread those 10 weeks into more frequent breaks throughout the year. This may help to chunk learning into smaller periods, which again can be especially important for learners who struggle or get overwhelmed.
- No More Summer Slide: Although the degree to which skills “regress” over the summer is controversial, there is some evidence that some types of rote learning (i.e., math facts) can decrease over long breaks. Making breaks shorter and more frequent may help you avoid spending time reviewing at the beginning of each school year.
- More Flexible Planning: By changing the overall school calendar, you have more flexibility with how you structure instruction. You can factor in your child’s preferences and experiment with days and weeks that do not follow a typical school day containing each subject. Doing so may reduce burnout and boredom while maximizing your child’s learning.
- Better Vacations: Changing your school breaks from the traditional calendar allows you to travel when others are in school. That way, you can find cheaper rates for flights and hotels, and the places you love to visit may be less crowded.
Challenges of Year-Round Homeschooling
Despite its benefits, there are also some potential challenges to year-round homeschooling:
- Less of a Summer Break: You and your children will not have the traditional long break between grade levels, and your children may complain that other kids get a summer break. This may be especially true if you live in a climate that has four seasons, and your children look forward to specific summer activities. Some children may also need more closure for a grade level. If these seem like potential challenges for you, try arranging a clear celebration to indicate moving from one grade to the next, allow for changes during summer months (lighter workload, sleeping in, more creative/outdoor projects), and flexibility to include summer activities.
- Keeping on Track: Because of the extended schedule, year-round homeschoolers may feel like they have more time, and they may become less structured. The danger is that they may actually fall behind. Careful planning can help to lessen the likelihood of falling behind, but you also have to be disciplined to make up time when you make last-minute changes to the schedule.
Options for a Year-Round Homeschool Calendar
Although the thought of planning a year-long schedule may seem overwhelming, you probably already do this to some degree. You may already plan family vacations or other events that are months in the future.
Here are some common options for your year-round homeschool calendar:
- 6-week school sessions with week-long breaks in between and longer breaks around holidays, family vacations, and summer
- 5-day weeks throughout the year with regular weeklong breaks and 2-day weeks in the summer months
- 4-day weeks with 3-day weekends all year
- 5-day weeks with Wednesdays off and Saturday classes all year
The possibilities are endless!
How to Plan a Year-Round Homeschool Schedule
Once you have a general sense of the type of year-round homeschool calendar you want to try, here are some specifics for planning your year-round homeschool schedule:
- Plan Longer Breaks: Do you still want a longer break during the summer? What about around a certain holiday or several holidays? When can you plan a family vacation? When do other members of the family have time off?
- Plan Shorter Breaks: Would you like to plan some shorter breaks around, say, birthdays or minor holidays? Do you feel that your children need more frequent shorter breaks throughout the year? How about some long-weekend road trips?
- Think About Instruction: How do your children learn best? Will they do better studying all subjects every school day over the full year? What about studying some/all subjects every other day or for six weeks at a time?
- Make Sure Breaks are Breaks: Be sure that you and your children really take breaks when they are scheduled. Breaks should not be used to catch up or get ahead or to plan for the next session. Everyone needs time to relax!
- Be Flexible: Even the best laid plans may need to change sometimes. As long as you make up any missed time, you will get it all done, and the flexibility will be enjoyed by both you and your children.
Now that you have some information, talk with your family. Do some more research and ask homeschoolers who have chosen this path. You have a lot of options, and that flexibility is one of the gifts of homeschooling. Do whatever is best for your family!