May 27, 2010

Year-Round Homeschooling

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It’s May.  High School Graduation ceremonies are either already a memory or are fast approaching.  It seems everywhere you turn, kids are full of excitement - anticipating the end of their school year and beginning of summer break.  I was once full of that anticipation too.

Before we had even completed our first year of home education, I began to suspect that the traditional school schedule was less than efficient for us . . .

We had started our homeschooling in the fall (actually mid August) just like the traditional schedule.   My oldest son was in 6th grade at the time, and was our only child old enough to technically be in school.  It seemed like it wasn’t long, before he felt lonely and missed interacting with other kids.  So, I started a group with other homeschoolers that gathered weekly.  This  gathering with friends took anywhere from a couple of hours to a huge part of the day depending on what we were doing. 

I would try to play “catch-up” with our work that we didn’t have time for on homeschool group days.  After a few weeks of trying to complete 2 days of work each Monday,  I realized that a 4-day school week was going to work better for us.  We would  school 4 days and plan social/P.E./field trip/friend time for the 5th day. We started it immediately, and it’s worked like a dream.  We no longer play catch up.  We enjoy our day with our friends.

I made another interesting observation that first year - We wanted to be outside in the Spring.  We loved to go to parks, to the bike trail or play in the yard.  We loved to plant seeds in the Spring and work in the dirt.  We wanted to be outdoors not indoors. 

Once Summer arrived, we did NOT want to be outside.  Arkansas Summers are HOT and HUMID.  They are so oppressive, sometimes it’s hard to breathe outside.  Sure, we go swim in the morning for a couple of hours but that is all we can stand.  We prefer to be in the air-conditioning during the summer months.

Hmmm…  Since we are going to be indoors anyway, why not do a little Math or Science, or Spelling?  The children are already accustomed to spending their time on academics so why break up a good thing? We could have school on days we didn’t have other plans.  We could still be productive.  My mind was humming with possibilities. These kinds of thoughts seemed to multiply in my mind.

I didn’t yet know how a year-round homeschooling schedule would work, but the one thing I felt sure of was this - If we didn’t have something to occupy our minds during the summer, we would spend too much of our time in front of a screen accomplishing very little. 

That was the catalyst of our year-round schooling.  We’ve done it for years now.  Typically we carry a lighter load in the Summer.  Sometimes only working on the basics (Math, Reading, and Writing).

So what are the pros and cons of year-round homeschooling? Here are ours:

Pros:

  • We can comfortably school  4 days each week with a day committed to other worthwhile things.
  • We don’t feel rushed.
  • We can take a longer break in December to enjoy the Christmas Season.
  • We can take breaks during the Spring and Autumn seasons to enjoy the outdoors when it‘s comfortable.
  • We take short breaks when needed for whatever reason without feeling that panic of getting “behind”.  Breaks for things like illness, trips, a need to reorganize the house, or even a mental health day are usually needed sometime during the year and we can take them and feel good about it.
  • We don’t have a loss of skills from a long summer break.  Because of this, when we start a new level, we can often skip through the first (sometimes several) chapters of review and get right to the new stuff.
  • We have less wasted, unproductive time during the Summer.
  • We begin new books and levels as the children complete their old ones. We don’t start all new things at once.  We are easily able to phase in and phase out studies.
  • Since we’ve worked during the summer, we can take a family vacation during off season times when prices are cheaper and lines are shorter, without feeling like we are going to have to play “catch-up”.
  • Learning becomes routine.  It’s a normal part of life, not so much something to get through, but a process that hopefully produces lifelong learners.

Cons:

  • It would be difficult to take Summer long vacations.
  • If your child progresses in each subject at his own pace, year round, it is very likely that you will be doing work in multiple grade levels at the same time.  We don’t school by grade level so this isn’t a con for us, but it might be for some. 
  • You (as the teacher) don’t have 3 months off to take a breather or pursue other things.
  • If you answer to someone for your school schedule, this might not be an option for you.

In all fairness, I’m sure there are more cons.  The ones I listed are not cons for our family but I thought they might be for some.

I  ♥ love ♥ year-round schooling because it works for my family.  That’s what I think is the most valuable homeschool schedule -  the one that works for your family. Don’t you?

{ Let us hear from you }

Are you thinking of trying year-round schooling?  If so, what appeals to you about it?

You can find Dana♥ and her crew by the POOL and in SCHOOL this summer – because it works for us!  Come see us @ Noggins & Nonsense.

16 comments - Add a comment below -:

Tristan said...

We love year-round homeschooling! I explained one unique benefit to a teacher friend this way: It gives us plenty of work days each year so that we can take 1-2 months off each time I have a baby. We don't take summer break, we take baby breaks. Heheh! The next baby break is set for this November/December with the arrival of baby #6. It is a wonderful time!

Shannon Watson said...

With us moving from an eclectic curriculum style to more of an unschooling / world-schooling / child-directed learning style, I keep telling the kids "Hey, it's summer vacation all year!" What I DON'T mention is the converse is also true: "Hey, it's schooltime all year!" hee I like the feeling that we are transmitting the idea that learning is something that can and should happen all the time, not just during those months that the calendar or a school board say that it's time to get an education. :)

We7 said...

I like doing year round too. One hard thing is that all thier friends are out of school and want to play. It is sometimes akward or difficult for others to understand that we are still "doing school" even though it is summer. Consequently, my kids have a hard time escaping the mentality that summer is "off" from school. Scheduling things gets tricky.

Also, we are inundated with visiting relatives during the summer, which makes it hard to continue on a regular schedule. I feel like we are at the mercy of company needs for many weeks during the summer.

So, if you are thinking about going year round, be aware that it takes some extra effort to negotiate around other peoples' expectations and desires for a more traditional summer break. If you can do it, it is really worth it though!

JRoberts said...

I think that when you homeschool, summer is tricky for your kids without a schedual. We don't "school" per sey in the summer...but we do lots of educational stuff! (we do a reading program in the summer, lots of research projects and some fun crafts and science projects that just dont fit with our other schooling stuff during the year) I am sneaky and I call it "summer fun" :)

Marmee said...

Our family has schooled year round since, well, I can't remember! We still do 5 days a week of school, but take vacations in the Spring and Fall when it is cool and before the "other" kids and are out of school. We beat the tourists and actually enjoy our vacations!

Michal said...

I like to school in summer, too, but scaled back a bit. I find that if we do at two or three subjects each day that we don't have morning plans, that we are not only more productive, but everyone gets along better. Our routine this summer will be Book of Mormon (which will double as language arts instruction) every day, a math facts worksheet on days we don't have math lessons, and then alternating history (a favorite subject of all) or math (where we don't want to lose our skills) lessons. And of course lots of independent reading. I'll also take this time to really step up the reading with my 5 year old and 3 year old.
We love that it allows us to have more flexibility for lighter school days when we get spring fever and around the holidays. We do answer to a charter school for attendance, but they only require that we study one subject a day on their calendar, and we can always manage that, so it doesn't cramp my style!
I think that year-round schooling with breaks for a day or two or week when we need them also fosters the life-long learning lifestyle I want for our family.

kim said...

We're another unschooling family, so yes, we do year-round whatever it is we do :) And I feel like Shannon, we're on summer vacation all year! In fact, its been feeling so much like vacation that as our traditional public schooled friends are all ready for their summer to start, I'm feeling the need for some added structure and routine to our lives, so our summer may end up looking more rigid than our school year has.

I really do think that if you are in an area that has hot, humid summers, spring and fall are too nice to waste indoors, or on day-long school work. We've been outside as much as possible, but the nice thing is, we're still learning so much. Science is so easy to do outside, and we take our art outside, talk about math stuff out there, and I've even found some fun alphabet games using the sidewalk chalk that are great for the young ones.

Dana ♥ said...

We7, I know what you mean. Our friends who attend public school, will call or come over and realize we are still schooling. It's an odd thing for them. Although one summer, a public school friend wanted to join our homeschool writing class, and attended all summer. He was sad for school to start back since he'd miss it.☺

Michal that's wonderful that your charter school allows you such flexibility. I know some don't. What a blessing for you.

Kim we love being outdoors in the Spring and Fall months here as well. We love geocaching, park days and sidewalk chalk. A little sidewalk chalk and you can tackle about any subject matter. ☺

Thanks to you all for your comments. ☺

Joy said...

We school year round also. In the summer, we go outside first thing in the morning and garden, play with neighbors, and relax. Then when it becomes sunburn time, we go in the house. We do a shortened version of school during the heat of the day. It works for us.

Mormon Surrogate said...

Makes absolute sense. I am new to homeschooling, but I already made up my mind that I would be doing something worthwhile to engage my kids over the summer. And Utah gets pretty hot too btw. I also have addeed outdoor activities during the Spring. And we pretty much homeschool 4 days a week as well. The actual days off vary, but it works wonders.

Rev's wife said...

We love year round schooling for a lot of the same reasons. But, for us, during the summer we do a 2-3 day school week so we can so some fun things with our non-homeschooling friends.

keri said...

Within a few months after we started home-schooling ,We realized that Year-Round was for us!!!
We live in Florida and when you said,
"Once Summer arrived, we did NOT want to be outside. Arkansas Summers are HOT and HUMID. They are so oppressive, sometimes it’s hard to breathe outside."
I literally laughed out loud....Its only May and it was 95 degrees here..So I can soooooo relate...by the end of July here you can not even walk outside with out feeling like your cooking yourself ...I am very much a indoor girl once July starts ;)
Another reason why year-round has worked for us is we do a Online Program....The web site is http://www.Time4Learning.com...Well,anyways its kinda of a work at your own pace type curriculum,Year - round schooling allows my kids to have a bit of lead way when it comes to their school work, whether they need more practice in one area or whizzing thur another,Like you said it just makes you feel less like you need to "Catch up" ;)

Laurie said...

I think year-round is great. Like you said, we can take a break whenever we want! I guess we, too, technically only have a 4-day school week - Fridays are reserved for outings. I also agree that learning is life-long; it doesn't just stop for 3 months each year. :) In Arizona, we definitely don't want to be outside in the summer, so it's nice to be able to have more outside time in the Spring and Fall.

We still take a long summer vacation (except for this year - we'll have a newborn instead!), but even then, we take a few workbooks to do on the days when we're too tired to venture out. Even (especially?) on vacation, we need some quiet time!

I've found that if we go too many days without doing work, my kids miss it.

Gabby said...

My family did year round school when I was growing up for much the same reasons - too hot of summers and wanting to take off season vacations. Our summer schedule was lighter; we only did school in the afternoon. And it was great. We still felt like we got a 'summer break' and it was always fun to be going on a vacation when all of our friends were still in school:)

Rachel said...

This will be our first summer attempting to school. Its mainly the leftover math and lang arts we didn't finish during the school year. I am glad that the kids won't have the months to forget that we dealt with last year.

My kids are begging to start their new history and science, so I guess its going to work.

The nice thing is that we can be very flexible and not stress out. When I stress, they stress and it becomes a fight. This way,I can sneak in some learning and they aren't even aware!

estop4 said...

I love homeschool yr rd!!!! This is our 5th yr school yr rd. Their work is spread out . Plus it is more flexible too