I attended a private Christian school in our small town as a child. After my fifth grade year my mom pulled me and my younger brother and sister out of school to begin teaching us at home. Homeschooling was a fairly new idea in that area at the time. The only time I saw groups of homeschoolers larger than about 8-10 people was at the yearly state homeschool conventions.
There weren’t nearly as many curriculum options back then, and you never heard about co-ops (unless you lived in a larger city). My mom would purchase either A Beka, Bob Jones, or Saxon curriculum for us to use each year and we would complete the necessary work. I actually completed the final two years of high school in one calendar year and was able to graduate early after taking the GED, which was required by homeschoolers in Louisiana. Homeschooling came naturally to me. I am an introvert at heart and prefer to do things on my own and at my own pace.
When Ron and I had to begin thinking about how we wanted to educate our children, homeschooling was at the top of our list. Although we have nothing against public or private schools and are thankful they exist, he didn’t like his own school experience and wanted to make sure that his kids could go at their own pace without being left behind or held back. I’ve always wanted to homeschool my kids because I wanted to choose how and what was taught as well as being able to make the Bible a foundation of our schooling. This is now our 8th year of homeschooling. Zoe did attend public school for her first grade year, and while it worked that year — because it also coincided with the year Samuel was born — it just hasn’t been something that God has called us to do again. I have always said, though, that we take it on a year by year basis and we plan to homeschool until God tells us to do otherwise.
Our homeschool style has changed over the years. I started out believing we were supposed to copy the style of “regular” school. I ordered textbooks, bought charts to hang on the wall, made a schedule, and forced poor Zoe to sit still at a desk and work for hours on end. We both hated that year. I look back at the pictures of her crying while completing a worksheet, and I remember thinking this was not the way it was supposed to be. I was definitely not fostering a love of learning that year. As the years have passed we’ve done all sorts of styles like classical, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, etc. I’ve also discovered that each of my four children have different and varied learning styles. What works for one doesn’t always work for another. While I like to use curriculum with multiple children, sometimes that just isn’t possible. For years now, though, we have all done Bible, history, and science together and then everyone studies the other subjects on their own according to their learning styles.
Last year was a crazy year. I felt like it was probably our weakest homeschool year to date. We started out strong, but then Ron got sick, I got sick and was out of commission for weeks, the holidays rolled around, we put our house on the market, etc., etc. We somehow managed to get our 180 required days in, but it felt disjointed and I thought there was no way anyone actually learned anything (even though they miraculously did). As a result, when I began making plans for this school year I knew we had to do something different. That’s when I read about homeschooling on a year-round schedule.
Basically a year-round schedule looks like this: six weeks of school followed by a week off. You do this three times before Christmas and three times afterwards to arrive at a total of 180 days. The kids work hard for six weeks then get a whole week off to rest. It’s a great way to keep everyone, Mom included, from burning out. I began my planning by printing out monthly calendars from July to June. I started at Thanksgiving week and marked that as a week off and counted six weeks up from that and marked a week off at the beginning of October, counted six weeks up and marked a week off at the end of August (which just so happen to coincide with the week we moved into our new house), counted six weeks up and marked July 11 as our first day of school.
We live in the south and late summers are pretty miserable. My kids don’t like being outside anyway when it’s terribly hot so I decided that it wouldn’t hurt any of us to use that time to begin a new school year. We always have plenty of time after school to go swimming or hang out with friends — flexibility is the beauty of homeschooling. Our long winter break is from Thanksgiving until the first Monday of the new year, which is about six weeks. Beginning on January 2, we’ll do three more courses of six weeks on, one week off and finish up in early May. Summer break will be about six weeks before we begin a new school year.
When I brought this idea up to the kids I heard quite a bit of grumbling. The whole “ year-round schooling” sounds awful, but once I explained it to them and mentioned that they’d have a long winter break, which we began this week, and a summer break, they were on board. I never heard them complain about having to do school in July, and no one has hated school (for the most part) this year.
This new schedule has worked out beautifully for our family and we’ll definitely continue to use it. It has left plenty of time to do projects or schedule appointments on our weeks off and there’s padding in the middle and at the end of the year to make up for any days that we do decide to take off, like birthdays. Obviously this won’t work for everyone, but I’m so glad we’ve found something simple that works for us. Now I’m off to plan holiday activities for our winter break!