Sunday, January 3, 2016

How Year Round Schooling is Working for Us {Half Way Through!}


We live in a state that requires 180 days of school for homeschooling.  In the past, our approach has been to do a light, highly flexible school schedule during the summer with the primary goal of "banking" some days so that we'd have greater flexibility during the traditional school year.  On paper, this worked pretty well - if we had a sick day, a snow day (snow is so rare here that it warrants a day off!) or just wanted to take a day off for some reason, we could do so secure in the knowledge that we had started our school year 15 or 20 days ahead.

Even though the math made perfect sense and we never had any trouble completing our 180 days, I was always stressed when we took a day off.  "Mom guilt" would kick into hyperdrive and I would feel like I wasn't doing a good job if I wasn't schooling every week Monday-Friday.  On the flip side, our summer break never really felt like time off because we were trying to fit in a day or two of schoolwork a week.

I found myself looking towards this school year (2015 - 2016) with a bit of dread and weariness.  I realized that it had been a very long time since I'd really felt like I had a break - between schooling during the summer and feeling guilty if I took a day off during the year, I'd been on duty non stop for years!

I began looking into different ways of planning our year and hit on something that is working really, really well so far!  We are exactly halfway through our school year and it's been one of our best so far!

Here's what we are doing:

6 weeks on, 1 week off
6 weeks on, 1 week off
6 weeks on, 6 weeks off (!!!!)
6 weeks on, 1 week off
6 weeks on, 1 week off
6 weeks on, 6 weeks off . . . and done!

I printed out a year at a glance calendar and began trying to figure out how to schedule this.  It worked out best for us to start the first week of July which put our first 6 week break starting the week of Thanksgiving and going through the first weekend in January.  Our year will end mid-May, giving us half of May and all of June for our summer break.

Here is what I love about this.

1.  We are never more than 6 weeks away from a break.  This makes the year feel like a series of sprints rather than a marathon.

2.  Those breaks are scheduled in advance which gives me permission to really embrace them.  It also makes it easy to schedule doctor's or dentists appointments and other things that I'd prefer not to deal with during school days.

3.  It's highly motivating for all of us - the teens know that if they fall behind, they are going to miss all or part of a break!!

4.  It helps me manage my home so much better.  Like most of you, I wear a lot of hats and it's challenging (impossible?) to feel like I'm on top of everything all of the time.  With this schedule, it's OK to let certain things fall by the wayside during our 6 week terms because I know I'll be able to dedicate a solid week or more to building up our freezer meal stash, catching up on sewing projects, getting ahead on work-related projects, deep cleaning and organizing, etc.  I used to try to cram these things in after school was done each day, during the weekends, etc. and it was really stressful.  This isn't to say that I can ignore all of those things during our school terms, but the pressure isn't nearly so great because I'm able to get a LOT done during our weeks off.

5.  Somehow this has helped us get more done than ever before.  We use Sonlight and I broke up everyone's IG's into 6 binders.  When I'm looking at such a short time period, it's easier to see the big picture of what needs to be done during those six weeks and somehow that's translated into more hands-on projects, more field trips, and all sorts of other extras.  I think that when I was trying to look at a year at a time, it was harder for me to know if I really had time for as many extras.  When my sights are set on where we need to be in 6 weeks, it all seems much more manageable.

6.  One reason I tried to keep at least a little bit of schoolwork going during the summer is because I was trying to avoid "summer slide" - the dreaded loss of skills from lack of practice.  Our one week breaks are long enough to refresh without any risk of children forgetting things, and I think the same will be true for our 6 week winter break.  (I'm writing this on the last day of winter break, so I guess tomorrow will tell!)  I did encourage everyone to play educational apps during break and had them do XtraMath at least a few days a week to stay sharp.  Add to that the fact that I read outloud at least an hour most days and they all had quiet reading time most days, and I'm pretty confident about how tomorrow will go!

7.  Even though we are dedicated to sticking to this schedule so we won't miss our breaks, there's still room for flexibility.  After starting, we realized that we needed to take a week off on what would have been the first week of a term.  We adjusted by doing a 7 week term, taking off the week we needed, then doing a 5 week term. It kept us on track while giving us the flexibility we needed.

At this point I can't imagine doing things differently.  I wasn't sure how the children would react to starting full time school in July when all of their friends were still out, but they were enthusiastic when they saw all of the weeks off on the calender - and they LOVED being off for so long during winter break!  We've had several of their friends ask their moms to do the same schedule and a couple of my graduates laughingly asked if they could have another year of school with this schedule.

Even though it's January, it's not too late to switch to a schedule like this if it appeals to you.  If you are halfway through the year, you can go ahead and pick up with the last 3 terms of 6/1, 6/1, and 6/6. Start your next year when it works best for you, even if it means summer break ends up being a little longer or a little shorter than 6 weeks.

How about you?  What scheduling tips work best for your family?


  1. Got any advice for those of us 1/2 way through the year and 10 weeks behind.,:'(

    1. Does your state require a certain number of days and/or a specific start by or end by date?

  2. Thank you for sharing!! We began doing 6 weeks on, 1 week off this year as well (actually two weeks at Christmas) and we are loving it!!! But our summer looked a bit different ... I'm going to think about incorporating the two 6-week breaks ...


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