Why Year-Round Homeschooling Works For Us

This is the story of how we became year round schoolers and why it works for us. Some of the content I covered in a recent post about why we don’t take summer break but I will expand here.

Close up of calendar page

When we first began homeschooling {Kindergarten for Agent E, 2011-2012} we followed the traditional school calendar because that was all we knew. She had attended preschool for two years—September to June—and it just made sense to continue the pattern. 

In June 2012—just as we were wrapping up that first fateful experiment—we moved from Naples, Italy to Jacksonville, Florida. I fully intended to take off June, July, and August and start up again in September. After visiting relatives we had not seen while living overseas {and a trip to Walt Disney World} I thought we were settling in to a nice, relaxing transition period. Agent E was not having it, however.

Newly six—and ready to enter first grade with zest—she demanded to know why we were no longer doing school. I had no good answer for her {other than because it’s just what people do}, and she really wanted to get back to our routine, so we dove back in the first week of July 2012. At that point she was still my only student {Agents J and A were only four and one-and-a-half, respectively}.

Somewhere around June 2013, we took another brief hiatus and then picked up again by early July. We enjoyed having an established schedule, and quickly learned it worked best if it continued year round without too much time off to mess it up. It was not a conscious decision per se. 

Once we settled into this new pattern of schooling “all the time” with more frequent, shorter breaks, it became second nature to us and just made sense. Along the way we added Agent J, and then Agent A, to the agenda, and they just kind of went with the flow as well.

Of course, homeschooling “year round” can mean many different things, depending on who you ask. Some folks might go for six or eight weeks and then take a week off. Others might take the entire month of December off, or condense summer break into six weeks instead of three months. For us, it means we very rarely take long breaks, instead preferring to muddle through most weekdays unless we are sick, traveling, or hubby is off work {because, hello, distracting}. 

Probably the longest stretch we take off is when we are wrapping up one grade level and moving to the next. And even that is often just a week {maybe two} to reset and order new materials. This year it worked out to be eleven days. 

As a military family we also move frequently, so longer breaks happen then by default as well. When we moved from New York to California, for example, we ended up taking six full weeks off; a month at my mom’s in Pennsylvania and then two weeks to unpack and acclimate once we arrived. 

We also tend to just take off the actual holiday {or perhaps one additional day, such as the Friday after Thanksgiving} and “do” school the rest of the holiday week. This usually ends up giving us many more “school days” on our calendar, although we don’t work as long on any individual day, so it more or less evens out. Instead of the typical expected 180 days at five hours a day {~900 hours}, we generally include more like 225 days at four hours a day {also ~900 hours}.

On any given “school day” we do approximately 1.5-2 hours of written work and an 1-1.5 hours of joint reading {all three grades}. One or two times a week we watch an online Spanish course {about 20 minutes each}. All three Agents do a significant amount of independent reading and art time, and we watch documentaries related to our studies together in the evening. The oldest Agent also rotates practice for three musical instruments and sewing projects. 

So how do I determine exactly when we are “done” and ready to move up a grade level? The short answer is, just when it feels right. I know; not helpful . . . but true. 

Sometimes an outside entity {e.g., the Navy telling us it is time to move} influences our decision, but often we just get to a point—usually after 9-12 months—when it just seems appropriate to start wrapping up. Maybe we are nearing the end of several spine texts. Or maybe we know the next topics we want to cover will take way too much time to get involved in now. Or maybe we are just tired of school and want a bit of do nothing time. Often it coincides with a longer planned vacation or a deployment starting or ending.

Basically we have learned to listen to the rhythm that we have created. Because we never stop for very long, we do not have to deal with “summer slide” or forgetting skills during a long break. It also helps to keep things consistent in other areas of life, since we are not contending with a “school” schedule and a separate “summer” schedule. 

Do you homeschool on a similar schedule? How does it work in your family?

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