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 – until we used Trail Guide to Learning.
Now, more than 5 years later, we’re still reaping the benefits of a built-in catch-up day even though my kids have outgrown the Trail Guide series.
Planning optional activities for review and further exploration is one of the most important things I learned about catch-up days from Trail Guide to Learning. Those optional enrichment activities mean that productive learning happens whether you need the make-up day or not.
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 to 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 homeschool 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. When we did Trail Guide, the fifth day usually included some fun review, such as games, crossword puzzles, or word searches. Having a study day 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 have work to complete, but it would be a lighter, more relaxed day.
Now that the younger two are in high school, we still enjoy that sense of calm on Fridays. 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. We’re currently enjoying a small co-op with friends.
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
I’m sure I could have planned a built-in catch-up day before Trail Guide to Learning. However, I wasn’t sure how it would work until I saw it in action. If you’re not using Trail Guide to Learning or another curriculum with ready-made lesson plans, try these tips to plan a 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 related to your topic
- Go on a 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 with 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?
updated from an article originally published February 7, 2012
This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.