Why Year Round Homeschooling Is Good for My Sanity

Posted:
May
07
2013

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.

10 reasons why year round homeschooling can work well

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.

It’s predictable.

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.

It’s convenient.

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.

Wiggle Room.

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?

This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday and iHN Network’s 10-in-10.

 

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Kris

"Kris Bales is the classically eclectic, slightly Charlotte Mason homeschooling mom to three amazing kids, the Christ-following, sweet tea addicted wife to one unbelievably supportive husband, and the formerly obese, couch-potato-turned-healthy runner of a bunch of 5K races and two half-marathons."

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34 thoughts on “Why Year Round Homeschooling Is Good for My Sanity

  1. Jackie

    Great Post :-) I’m a lot like you so when I read your posts like this it makes me feel more “normal” :-) I like the 6 weeks on /1 week off because I find I get burned out and start to question whether I should be homeschooling by about week 3 ;-) LOL (And I’m just doing PRESCHOOL!!!) Thanks for sharing your wisdom !

    Reply
  2. Rana

    For the past two years I have done 3 weeks on 1 week off with my littles all year round with breaks in between. This year we are going to change it to 6 weeks on 1 week off with a bigger break in Dec,Apr,and Aug. for my sanity.

    I love year round schooling it just makes more sense to me and works better for our family.

    You are crazy with the “Sweet Brown” stuff! Lol!!

    Reply
    1. Kris Bales Post author

      That Sweet Brown thing just makes me laugh every time I hear it. I think it’s mostly because even my husband, who doesn’t do the online thing AT ALL unless it’s something somebody else showed him, has heard that and goes around saying, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” :)

      Reply
  3. Eddie - The Usual Mayhem

    We homeschool year-round too and since we started doing it about 5 years ago it has left me much more relaxed about getting things done. Before that, (I’m also a little OCD) I panicked whenever we fell slightly behind because of illness and dreaded visitors for the interruption it caused. Now we’re all happier and the kids actually enjoy summer because they can take their schoolwork to the beach or the woods.
    Eddie – The Usual Mayhem recently posted..Dig Into GardeningMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Kris Bales Post author

      Yes, I remember asking a friend incredulously, “How do you ever get school done,” once when she was talking about how often they had visitors. That should tell you how OCD I used to be about my schedule. I still am, probably, but now I’ve got room to talk myself into allowing the flexibility.

      Reply
  4. Kristi

    We’re starting TGTL this year, and what you’ve done is EXACTLY what I had thought about doing. We only started homeschooling in November 2012, so I still feel like a newbie. I’m so excited to know that the schedule I’ve been planning to use really does work!!

    I’m also interested in your study of historical time periods. Do you use a specific curriculum for that? I’ve been thinking that (and writing/grammar) may be places I need/want to supplement.

    I’d love your input on that. Thank you for making me feel 1) normal and 2) like a newbie with a plan that might really work!! :)

    Reply
    1. Kris Bales Post author

      The WWI and WWII study is for my senior. We used the Uncle Eric books with the Bluestocking Press study guides. And, I’m glad I made you feel normal. ;)

      Reply
  5. Stef Layton

    YES!! FL is just too hot to be off ALL summer and too nice to be schooling in February!! Also, the boy lost too many skills w/ 3months off straight!!

    Reply
  6. Amy

    I taught school and I wish all the schools would get AC and go to year around schooling. The kids forget so much over the summer. Plus it better prepares them for the working world to go all year. I’ve switched to year around homeschooling, but I don’t have predetermined breaks. We just take breaks when we need them. A day here, a week there, as long as I get my 900 hours done in a complete year, I’m good. It reallly helps with preventing burnout and like you said it’s good for housekeeping. I told my husband a tidy house is good for my mental health!

    Reply
    1. Kris Bales Post author

      Yes, that’s exactly how I feel about a tidy house — and I like the word “tidy,” too. That conjures up a mental image of livable and uncluttered, but not necessarily spotless. Livable and uncluttered tends to be the standard here.

      Reply
  7. Christy

    Okay, you’ve convinced me! I’ve been contemplating year-round for years and all of your reasons just make sense to me. After homeschooling for 13 years, I tend to experience mini burn-outs about every six weeks anyway. ;)
    Christy recently posted..Banana Chocolate Chip MuffinsMy Profile

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  8. Bonnie

    Dear Kris: We have been doing 6/1 week since Maggie was born. I was ready to quit school too. Then I told the Lord if He wanted to have me still homeschool. Then He needed to show me a plan. I read an article by a Lady who did this. She called the week off Sabbath week. I really like that term. Because it is a week of rest physically and mentally. We also take off eight weeks for the summer and then start up in July. My kids don’t mind at all. But we start gradually.

    Reply
  9. Demetria @ Christian Homeschool Moms

    I’ve loved the summers when I homeschooled year round because we never felt rushed to finish by May something-or-other.
    I love the idea of 6 weeks on, one week off. It’s manageable (whereas an entire 3 months off in the summer just throws everyone off course because we’ve already developed new habits of NOT doing school!), and it gives me just enough of a break to catch my breath. I think we may adopt this in our home too :-)

    Reply
  10. Sara

    Love the post!

    We homeschool year round too, and it gives us the flexibility to do two days a week of “full” school days and three days a week of “light” school days while I go into work in the afternoons.
    Sara recently posted..Simplifying a bitMy Profile

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  11. Diana

    We school year-round but with a 3 week break scheduled in the fall and a week in the spring. I’ve found that we take a week or so off every 5-6 weeks, but not having it scheduled makes it easy to take time off (whether a week or just a couple of days) when we need it. I struggle with health issues, including fatigue, so it’s nice to be able to use my energetic days for school and my not-so-energetic days for breaks. :)
    Diana recently posted..Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

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  12. Mindy

    We homeschool year round also and you are so right about the awesome benefits. I like the idea of doing the six weeks as a unit – I might have to start thinking that way. Thanks!

    Reply
  13. Claire

    As you know, we school year round. We do something similar, but instead of taking a week off we have a fun week where we do lots of fun educational activities. I’m only just realising how much the fun weeks take out of me. I think taking a whole week off to do nothing sounds like Heaven! We’re talking about next year at the moment and I think I might do just that. A holiday every 6 weeks…..(happy, happy face!)
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  14. Tiffany (As For My House)

    This post gives me some great new ideas… thanks!

    We began “year-round schooling” sort of by necessity, when we had a year with too many enforced breaks and hurdles (learning disability showing up, severe illness, death in family, etc.) to finish “on time”. We just took the time off when we needed it, knowing we’d be able to keep going through the summer.

    Then, of course, we realized that a shorter summer break was better anyway, and it was good to be able to take time off during the year (even if hopefully for happier things in the future!). So, here we are.

    I use Sonlight, which is not set up that way per se, but we just take weeks when they happen (aiming for 6/1, also).
    Tiffany (As For My House) recently posted..Aloha SpiritMy Profile

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  15. Dana

    This is very appealing. I’ve decided to do 3/1 but I hadn’t really considered 6/1. We normally do 4 days/week and then crash a couple times a year losing about a month each time. With 3/1, I was planning to teach 5 day/week, but now I’m wondering if with 6/1, I could do my usual 4 – which we really, really like. Hmmm… do you school 4 days or 5 days/week with 6/1?

    Reply
    1. Kris Bales Post author

      Our curriculum is set up on a four day week with the 5th day being a make-up/enrichment/light school day, so that’s what we do.

      Reply
  16. Alecia

    We homeschool year round and overnight to accomodate the husbands 3rd shift work schedule. We are up during the day long enough for early morning appts (that most people dislike) and library, groceries, etc. Like another person said year round allows for so much to get done.

    Reply
    1. Morgan H.

      I’m excited to see that someone does some of their homeschooling at night. I’ve been contemplating how homeschooling will fit into our family schedule and briefly thought about doing some school at non-traditional hours, but wrote it off as something that could never work – now I know that it might be possible :) Thankfully we have a while to work that out since 1) I’m still in nursing school and don’t actually have a night shift job yet and 2) Our only kiddo (thus far) is only 10 months :)

      Reply
  17. Jackie B.

    Thank you for sharing this post! I first read this when you originally posted it, and read it again today. We began school last week and will also be doing the 6 weeks on/1 week off thing. Your encouragement has been much appreciated!

    Reply
    1. Kris Bales Post author

      That’s great! Six weeks on/one week off has been so good for us. Aside from being a little bummed that summer break was over too quickly (for me and the kids), there was no grumbling when we started school this week. That’s always a good sign. :)

      Reply
  18. Kimberly

    We do year round as well. We’re lucky that our state has no rules. :) Last year we took September off for all the canning & preserving I do and December off because of Christmas. We also feel free to take of other days simply as needed. I am thankful for this freedom. We’ll also do school on Saturdays if needed, so it all works out. Not doing school in September about made my former student/classroom teacher brain explode! But it was still less stressful than the year before when I tried to do the preserving and teach at the same time and freaked out on the days I just couldn’t manage both.
    Kimberly recently posted..Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart!My Profile

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  19. Rachel

    We will start homeschooling this fall with our 5 year old. I’ve been contemplating year round school, I have the feeling it will work better with our family and we are always kind of learning anyway. I was trying to figure out how that would look, knowing we would need breaks. I really like the idea of 6 weeks on, 1 off.

    I have to say I have spent the last 2 days looking all around your blog. Your weight loss is very inspiring! I also love your answers to the typical homeschooling questions. We are fortunate to go to a church with 4 other homeschool families with kids that are older than mine. It has helped, but we do get questions from our friends who aren’t homeschooling. Seeing some of your answers has helped me think about how I will answer some of those questions.

    Reply
    1. Kris Bales Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Rachel. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog. Best wishes for a great homeschooling year!

      Reply
  20. Joanna

    Kris, do you take 4 weeks off at Christmas plus 6 weeks off in summer in addition to the 6 on 1 week off schedule the rest of the time? I ask bc I currently do a month off at Christmas and something like 6 weeks off in summer, then a week off here and there when i am burned out but never really considered that to be year-round schedule…
    We also thrive on routine and I am feeling anxious to begin again. Blessings, Joanna

    Reply
    1. Kris Bales Post author

      Yes, we start the week after July 4 and do six weeks on/one week off until Thanksgiving. We take off all of December and start back after the first of the year. We do the 6/1 schedule until the end of May. It has worked out great for us.

      Reply
  21. Ashley Sears

    If I could triple like this post I would! We are an eclectic unschooling family, and our school year is year round. When I tell people that they look at us like we are NUTS! Schooling year round works so much better for our family because they kids don’t lose what they have learned during the year. Thanks again so much for this awesome post!
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