6 Reasons You Need a Built-in Catch-Up Day (and How to Plan One!)
I used to hear people talk about a four-day school week. It sounded like a fabulous idea, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around how it would work. Now, more than 5 years later, we’re still reaping the benefits of a built-in catch-up day.
Planning optional activities for review and further exploration is one of the most important things I learned about catch-up days. In other words, I started planning our “regular” word for 4 days a week with another day each week dedicated to enrichment activities and other extras. By doing that, my kids are learning all 5 days a week, but we have an option on our enrichment day. If we’re all caught up on our work, we can spend that day doing fun “extra” things. If not, we can use that day to catch up on whatever we haven’t finished. Either way, the extra day allows us not to feel rushed and stressed!
Why You Need a Built-In Catch-Up Day
I discovered multiple benefits to scheduling a built-in catch-up day.
1. Less Stress
When you know that you’ve already factored in time to catch up, it relieves the stress when plans to awry. Did you have a sick kid? What about an unexpected mid-week errand or a doctor’s appointment?
Maybe you got involved in a fun project and spent more time on it than you planned. Or your kids wandered off on some rabbit trails following an engaging topic. It makes the week so much less stressful knowing that you have some wiggle room in your schedule. You can reschedule whatever you don’t get done for the next day or push it back to your catch-up day.
You do what you can, and the rest can wait when you’ve left some white space in your planner.
2. Less Guilt
I used to be guilty of skipping the fun stuff, like hands-on projects or art, to make up time when we got behind. I let the pressure of keeping up with the “core” work take precedence when pressed for time. With a built-in catch-up/review day, I don’t have to do that. We either save the fun, hands-on stuff for our lighter day or shift some of the core work, knowing that we have the time factored in to make it up.
On the flip side, staying caught up means we can do enrichment activities on Friday. It doesn’t have to be a throw-off day where nothing productive happens.
3. More Review
Use Friday (or whatever day is your light day) for review. Having an “extra” day for enrichment and study can help kids retain more by recapping the highlights while the lessons are still fresh in their minds.
4. More Exploration
You can also use a caught-up/catch-up day to dig deeper into what you’re studying. Expand your topic knowledge by exploring people, places, and events related to your current studies. For example, if you’re studying the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, read related biographies of people not covered in your main text. Or read related fictional books.
You might also try a weekly activity such as 50 State Fridays, or use the time for art, music, nature study, or field trips.
5. More Sanity
It’s a much calmer feeling moving into the end of the week when you have catch-up time built-in. When all the kids were still homeschooling, there was such a sense of cooperation on Fridays. They knew that they still had work to complete but that it would be a lighter, more relaxed day. Even when they do have work to catch up and the day may not be as light as they’d like, it’s not stressful. Calmer, cooperative, relaxed kids mean a calmer, more relaxed mom.
6. Time for Extracurricular Activities
You know all those things that you plan to do, but don’t always have time for? You know what I’m talking about – the fun stuff that you never quite get to because you’re so busy doing all the stuff you feel you have to do. Or maybe that’s just me.
With a built-in catch-up day, there is time for all those things that are part of a well-rounded education without the stress of trying to squeeze them in. In the past, Fridays have included events like drum lessons, book clubs, and sewing classes. Those idyllic homeschool days from my daydreams happen much more frequently with a built-in catch-up/review day.
How to Plan a Built-In Catch-Up Day
1. Do some review.
Plan some low-key review games and activities. We’ve enjoyed a Jeopardy-style review with topic-related questions. We’ve also drawn a football field on our dry erase board. Players move the ball by answering questions correctly. You can even make your own crossword or word search puzzles.
2. Dig into related studies.
A built-in catch-up day is a fantastic opportunity to do something related to your study, such as:
- Read a biography of a secondary figure in your history studies.
- Read the historical fiction book that was your second choice.
- Listen to music from the era.
- Study a composer.
- Do a related art project.
- Cook a meal that’s related to your topic.
- Go on a field trip. (If you can’t go on an in-real-life field trip, go on a virtual field trip!)
3. Make time for extracurricular activities.
Schedule in some time for those things that you envision when you think of a perfect homeschool day.
- Do some nature study.
- Teach your kids how to sew (or learn together!).
- Cook a meal together.
- Take music lessons.
- Meet some friends for a park day (Socialization 101).
- Teach your kids (or learn together) a handicraft, such as needlepoint, cross-stitch, knitting, or crochet.
- Complete an art project.
- Do an artist or composer study.
- Write poetry.
- Start a Bible study together.
- Try 50 State Fridays.
- Learn about a different country.
4. Don’t forget two keys factors.
- Plan fun, meaningful activities that you would like to do but often don’t have time to do.
- Make the activities the kind that won’t cause stress if they don’t get done. That way you have stress-free time to catch up when needed and fun activities to look forward to otherwise.
Do you schedule a built-in catch-up day? If so, what does it look like at your house?
This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.
Wendy is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms, Only Passionate Curiosity, Homeschool Road Trips, Love These Recipes, and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She married her high school sweetheart, Scott, 31 years ago, and they live in the South. They have three adult children. Hannah, age 27, has autism and was the first homeschool graduate in the family. Noah, age 25, was the second homeschool graduate and the first to leave the nest. Mary Grace, age 19, was the last homeschool graduate. Wendy loves working out and teaching Training for Warriors classes at her local gym. She also enjoys learning along with her family, educational travel, reading, and writing, and she attempts to grow a garden every summer with limited success. (But she's learning!)
We have a catch up week every five weeks. The curriculum we are using is based on a five-day schedule and includes Bible, Social Studies, and Language Arts all together. We use the catch up week to give extra reading time for the assigned novels, watch related movies and documentaries, and work on LA skills that aren’t covered in the curriculum.
Thank you for this wonderful post. We are making some changes in our homeschool right now and your post is so helpful. We recently went to a four day week for core activities but I have struggled with what to do on the fifth day. I wanted to do something to help reinforce what we studied that week but I wanted it to be fun too. Some of my thoughts were in your post so it really has encouraged me to move forward. It’s funny, I have homeschooled my daughter all these years (she is 14) but I still second guess myself all the time. I have just recently found your blog and could not love it more. It’s been hard to find a site that talks about homeschooling teenagers in a way that works for our family like your does. Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us.