We school "9-and-4".
Nine weeks of school,
four weeks of 'break'.
That's roughly two months on, one month off - year-round.
There is no "summer vacation" OR 2-week "Christmas break" at our house.
We school year-round because it has made a huge difference in our home education journey!
The intent of this post is not to convince you that year-round schooling is the BEST or ONLY way to educate children;
your children are not my children. and you are not me.
I'm writing this because I want to share why it works for us, and to encourage you to consider it as an option if you have never seriously thought about it. You might come to the conclusion that it is not right for your family. That's great - do what fits your schedule, your outlook, your lifestyle!
But if you have ever felt frustrated, anxious, or hopeless by feeling locked in to the traditional school calendar, this could be a liberating change for your family!
And certainly there are other year-round options:
- 10 weeks on, 3 off
- Just planning to do about 36-38 weeks' (180-200 days') worth of school (depending on state requirements), and spacing vacations and days off accordingly when you need them
- Trimesters: 12 weeks on, 5 weeks off, with 1 floater vacation week to put wherever you want
- 2 weeks on, 1 week off with 1 floater vacation week per calendar year
...and many, many more! Depending on the state you live in, you may need to begin and end by certain dates. Once you have made sure you are abiding by the law, get creative!
Here are 7 reasons why we chose the year-round option (in no particular order):
#1 - The Four Seasons
We take the months of January, April, July, and October off, generally (this year we had to fudge the schedule a bit because of my daughter's surgery, but by July we'll be back on this schedule again). This means that we get to be outside and enjoy the peak of each glorious season that we experience here in New Hampshire. Foliage walks in the fall, and puddle-jumping and gardening in the spring; snowforts in winter and beach days in the summer...without the guilt of "oh, but we really shouldn't be out here, we've got school work to do!" And it makes the 2 months where we don't play outside as much bearable because we all know that a break is only ever just a few weeks away.
And let's be honest: snowforts and puddle-jumping is school work, if you're able to seize the teachable moments!
#2 - Summer Brain Drain
"If you don't use it, you lose it!" Brain Drain is the bane of public and private school teachers across the country. I know, because I remember spending the first month or so of teaching on reviewing what my students had learned the previous school year, but forgot over the summer. It's because they went almost 3 months, some of them without much mental stimulation at all; but even the ones whose parents invested in their education over the summer lost some of what they'd learned!
When we only take a few weeks off, I find that I spend maybe one day reviewing math & grammar concepts, but we just pick right back up where we left off. And four weeks is a perfect time for our family; after that time frame I start to hear the "can we do school?" again, and I know we're all refreshed and ready to get back to the books.
#3 - Learning is a Lifestyle
I've mentioned it before, but the idea that learning is relegated to September-June, Monday-Friday, 8:30-3:30 in the confines of a building with peers is just simply heartbreaking to me. When we are "doing school" every day - whether inside reading or outside playing and experiencing life - my girls develop the mindset that learning is always happening. Which is a good thing because learning IS always happening.
#4 - My Kids LOVE School
Honestly. Even in the couple of days following E's cecostomy surgery, I got asked a few times "when are we doing school today?" - as she was recovering horribly. It took weeks before we actually started up again, because caring for her health needs took up so much of our day (added bonus: if you miss a month or two, it doesn't have to be a cause of major anxiety. Get out the calendar, cut back on breaks for the rest of the year, and ta-da!). But the fact remains that the girls WANTED to be doing school. And that is music to this homeschooling mama's ears! They very seldom grumble when it's time to do school - they just enjoy learning!
My husband and I are voracious readers and love to learn new things. As we model a lifestyle of excited learning, they follow. Having a whole summer off would drive them batty.
#5 - Grades Don't Mean A Thing
Chronological grades, that is. The education system in America places kids in grades by age, not necessarily by readiness, and I believe this has discouraged too many children and hindered or withered their innate curiosity.
Not necessarily too slowly, not necessarily too quickly.
But when we as a society force children into playing the comparison game, they quickly learn that they are "far behind" or "average" or a "genius" based on a random set of guidelines, crafted by man.
That doesn't make sense to me. When well-meaning people ask my daughters what "grade" they are in, my girls don't really know. I order the material that they are ready for and we just work at it until they are ready to move on. By not having a set "start" or "end" to our school year, I play down the grade level comparison. No matter where they are, we just keep rolling. They're just learning at their own pace.
#6 - Live Free or Die (or: Legally, We're Free To)
We live in NH. (Live Free or Die is our state motto. I know, it's wonderful. Thank you, Gen. John Stark)
The way our state laws work at the time of this writing, we are in the clear to school the way we do, with regards to our academic year. I am not familiar with many other states' laws concerning the length of a homeschooling family's year, but I am aware that some place restrictions on the length of time (for example, you might be required to begin your year after August 1st and undergo testing or evaluations by June 30th of the following calendar year). If that is the case, you should always obey your state's law and work around that as best as you can.
#7 - It Works Best For Us (Right Now)
Year-round schooling - 2 months on, 1 month off - it just fits our family's lifestyle, feelings about education, schedule, and learning/teaching styles. We no longer struggle with feeling fed up with doing school. My daughters rarely fight about having to do school work. There is joy, and they are retaining so much of what we are learning together.
However, we're not sworn to this for the rest of our homeschooling days - and if you choose to try it, neither are you! We take homeschooling year by year, child by child - if this ever becomes a hindrance we will go back to the drawing board. But for now, we are seeing our daughters thrive and blossom both academically and spiritually.
What does your academic calendar look like? Do you school year-round or follow a more traditional schedule?
because it's what's needed here,
for His glory!
In case you are interested, I found these articles as I was researching for this post. This is most definitely not an exhaustive list, but an interesting place to start:
The history of the September-June school calendar in America:
Six Reasons Students Get Summers Off
History of the Summer Vacation
For a look at the reasons behind wanting to maintain a 'traditional' school calendar (strictly from a public-school point of view, but still interesting):
Coalition for a Traditional School Year
For a comparison to other countries' school years & days:
School Years Around the World
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