After yesterday’s post I had two readers ask for more information about how year-round homeschooling works at our house. Year-round homeschooling can work so many different ways. I’m sharing how it works for us right now. Here are the questions:
Kris - I wanted to ask how do you homeschool year round? I was thinking of doing it but have no idea where to start.
Emily - I would love to know what your year round schedule is. You may have posted it before, I'm still new to your blog. We, as of now, go the traditional route. And with a baby due in early August, we will probably finish in May/June and begin again in Sept. Although we do review days every week in the summer, they are laid back. I'm intrigued about the year round schedule. Thanks!
First, and most importantly, we see learning as a part of our everyday life. That means you will find us doing homeschool in some form all year long, even on holidays or weekends. We do not take a long summer or winter break. At most, we take a week or two off, even after having a baby. That part is not my idea, it is my children’s - see this post. Caleb, baby # 6, was 9 days old when my children insisted we get back to the homeschool routine. They had done something similar after Oliver was born, so I had some independent work prepared as well as our ever-present reading aloud.
Second, we do not need 7 hours of seatwork to get done. Our local public schools begin with 7 hour days in Kindergarten and still don’t get everything done (but that is another topic all together….). Makayla, in 4th grade, can easily finish her entire day of schoolwork before lunch. The only thing that might not fit in that time is reading because she prefers to read for several hours at once. (A girl after my own heart!)My Kindergarten-ish children take 30 –40 minutes to do all their seatwork. The rest is experiments, reading to mom on the couch, and having fun exploring our interests.
What this means on a very practical level is that even in summer we can get a full day of schoolwork in and still spend hours outside or doing our own thing. We never face the ‘boredom monster’ of summer because we always have interesting learning feeding our minds with plenty of time to just be a kid in the day too.
We don’t schedule out the whole year of breaks and school. We choose a few breaks, like the week of Christmas or a family vacation, but the rest of the year we do school until we feel like we need a break. Then we take off a week, or even just take a long weekend off. Refreshed, we move back into school the next week. It’s a more organic approach, but may not be for everyone. Some prefer to know they’ll work for 4 weeks and take a week off. Do what works for you!
How do I know when a school year is done? I have two ways I gauge it. First, I have a single sheet of paper with numbered boxes to check off for 180 days. The typical public school calendar in my area runs close to that, this year they scheduled 178 days(and have taken quite a few days off for snow and ice). Beginning in June I marked off a day every time we did homeschool. To decide if a day ‘counted’ as a whole day of school we had to have done our essentials that day: Gospel, Math, Reading, Unit Study. A field trip also counts as a day.
The second way I know a school year is done is based on what we need for our portfolio. In Ohio there are two reporting options, standardized testing or having a portfolio of the child’s work evaluated by a state-licensed teacher. We choose the portfolio option. Our reviewer gave me general guidelines for the amount of work she looks for in each grade level for the state-mandated subject areas, so I use that as my goal. What we cover (content) is not dictated, so you’ll see that we are not necessarily covering the same topics the local public school 4th graders are. Let me give you an example. For history/geography/government in 2nd grade and above the goal is:
- 4 large units OR
- 8-10 smaller units OR
- some combination of large and small units OR
- a textbook based curriculum, finishing most of the book.
We use unit studies and so when I sit down and look at the items in Makayla’s portfolio I can count the units she’s done in the area and see if we’ve hit the goal. We do a mix of large and small units. Since June we have done:
- Thanksgiving and Pilgrims
- George Washington
- American Government (jobs of president, congress, how a bill becomes a law, etc)
- Greece (modern-day)
- World Survey/Statistics (If the World were a Village)
- World War I
- American Civil War
- California Gold Rush
- The history of Kites
Some of those units were quite large (a month of solid work), while others took less time to complete. Looking at the list I feel comfortable that she has done plenty of learning in the social studies area for 4th grade.
Each subject is similar, with goals to meet. Because I keep a portfolio it is easy to look back and see if we’re lacking in any areas. For us right now we still need some science, art, and at least one more solid writing piece to meet the goals I set. When that happens our year is over.
It’s true, we don’t line up with the public school calendar. Makayla will begin 5th grade in April. But at home, grade level doesn’t matter. She won’t really even know it. I just start putting things into the portfolio for her new grade. For other purposes, like church classes, we go by her birthday/age for now.
Our year-round schedule means that in a few years she will likely be doing work a year or more above her technical, age-based grade level. 4th grade took about 10 months from start to finish. With no extraordinary circumstances Makayla will be ready to begin 6th grade next January(she’ll be 10.5), when her public school counterparts are just barely halfway into their 5th grade year. That’s not a big deal. However, if you follow it out several years, switching grades every 10 months with no summers off puts her at age 15.5 when she begins 12th grade.
What will we do then? I haven’t really thought about it yet. I suspect somewhere along the way things will naturally slow down as the material becomes more difficult and the amount of work involved becomes greater. Maybe she’ll just move into dual-enrollment with the local college. There are so many possibilities, including starting a small business, apprenticing, working, or taking time for concentrated studies in areas of interest.
Whatever we do, homeschooling works for our family, and following our family’s lifestyle with year-round homeschooling makes total sense. We’re not following the artificial schedule imposed by the government because it doesn’t fit our needs. Instead of just following the public school schedule take time to think about what schedule would best fit your family. Maybe you need a spring planting and fall harvesting break, while summer would be prime schooling time for your family. I’m all for doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t!
Now it’s your turn! Share how your homeschool schedule goes in the comments. Do you take regular, planned time off, school year round, follow the public school schedule, or do something else all together?