The year before last was probably my worst homeschooling year ever. I was done. Over it. So ready for summer break that it seemed the last few weeks would never end.
I wasn’t even really ready to start back up in August 2011. By December, things were looking pretty bleak. Then we discovered Trail Guide to Learning.
Finding a curriculum that really fit us helped tremendously, but a huge unexpected blessing came when it finally occurred to me that, since Trail Guide is arranged in six six-week units, it would be really easy to transition to a six weeks on/one week off schedule. It took a little bit of convincing last year when it came time to start school the second week of July, but I reminded the kids of all the benefits we’d discussed and told them we were going to at least give it a try.
We’re nearing the end of our first year of this schedule and we love it. Not only do the kids love it, but I’ve discovered that I function much better with a year round schedule. I discovered that I’m a mom who needs the sanity-saving benefits of a year round homeschooling.
A break is always near.
When you take a week off at the end of every six weeks, your next break is never very far away. Even when we’re just starting a new six weeks, we’re all fresh and rested having just had a week off. Plus, it’s fun to start a new unit, so we have something to look forward to. (Even me because I love the books we read.)
And, after the first week, we’re already on the countdown to the next break. It’s kind of like when I’m running and I keep telling myself, “just one more mile.” With year round schooling I know we just have to complete this unit, then we’ll get a breather.
Each six weeks begins a new unit.
The Trail Guide curriculum is set up so that the students read two books – usually a historical fiction and a biography – each six weeks. The topics flow together over the course of the year, but each unit focuses on something slightly different than the last.
I liked this idea so much that I set up my older daughter’s lesson plans this way, too. She studied World War I and World War II this year. Each six weeks, though, focused on different people or events with a different biography and literature choice.
These six week units keep our learning fresh all year. Six weeks seemed like just enough time to really study a particular time period or person without getting bored. Because moms can get bored, too.
We’re not a family who likes rigid schedules, but we do love our routines. We get up around the same time every day. Generally speaking, we do the same subjects in the same order each day. Although we don’t have set times, we typically wind up starting about the same time every morning and finishing around the same time each afternoon. I work out every morning and prefer drinking my Spark while I style my hair. The kids eat pizza for lunch every Tuesday.
We’re creatures of habit.
We like a predictable routine and a year round schedule has given us that. The kids don’t have to wonder when “fall break” or “spring break” are going to be. They usually know what week we’re on in our schedule, so they can keep up with when the next break is going to be.
Predictability makes me feel more peaceful. I may be a little OCD.
It’s predictable, but still flexible.
While the OCD control freak (See? I told you.) in me would love it if the six weeks on/one week off schedule fit neatly into my whole school calendar with no exceptions, we’ve already experienced the flexibility it can offer. The week of Thanksgiving was Week 6 of that unit’s schedule. There was no way around it without starting school the first week in July, which would have messed up July 4 fun.
So, that unit we did five weeks on/one week off/one week on. The kids were a little bummed that we had to come back from a vacation to Disney and do a week of school, but since the last week in the Trail Guide units are review weeks, they didn’t really complain.
That flexibility means that I can have the routine I crave without becoming a slave to my schedule.
Oh, and I think it helped that we were taking off the entire month of December after that.
It allows for a long Christmas break.
Yes, that’s right. We took the entire month of December off. It was so nice to be able to enjoy the Christmas season without worrying about formal lessons plans. There was baking, shopping, wrapping presents, visiting family, relaxing, reading, playing games, and a little over-indulgence in electronics…but no stressing over fitting everything around a school schedule.
Because we’re night owls who don’t start school at the crack of dawn, our days are pretty jam-packed, which can make appointments during the school day rather stressful. That means that being able to schedule appointments during our off weeks is another sanity-saving aspect of year round schooling for me.
Of course it isn’t always possible to schedule everything during break weeks, but it usually works well for things like routine dental visits, well-check doctor exams, and hair cuts.
It meshes well with other curriculum.
I think I’ve mentioned that I like for things to fit neatly into my routine. We’re using WriteShop for writing with all three kids. The way it’s set up, we can either complete one writing assignment every two weeks or every three weeks. That means that whichever option I choose, it works well with our six weeks on/one week off schedule.
Curriculum that meshes seamlessly without a lot of planning on my part makes me happy, happy, happy.
It means a shorter summer break.
Okay, there was a time when this point would have seemed like a con to me, rather than a pro, but that’s part of what I learned about myself (and my kids). We get antsy with too much time off. We thrive on routine. We’ll be taking six to eight weeks off this summer. (I really lean toward eight, but I think six will fit our schedule better.) That’s plenty of time – especially knowing we’ll get another break in six weeks.
My house might be cleaner.
Every six weeks I have an opportunity to deep-clean (I use the term lightly) my house. I don’t always do it, but the opportunity is there. I do, at least, catch up on all the stuff that’s behind. That “catching up” part is huge because I have discovered that I function so much better when my house is at least presentable. It lifts my mood and makes me calmer, less stressed, and more focused. A happy mama makes a much better homeschool mama than a grumpy mama does.
I’ve learned that I do much better when I allow myself some wiggle room, and a year round schedule does that. Sick kids? Sick Mom? No problem. We’ve got time for that. Spend all day buying the first new-to-you car you’ve owned in 12 years? We’ve got time for that. A fire when you’ve got bronchitis? Ain’t nobody got time for that! (Sorry…I couldn’t resist.)
Over the course of your homeschooling, have you learned things about yourself that make one schedule or another a better fit for you and your family? What schedule works best for you?