How to Homeschool: Plan Your Calendar


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A lot of homeschooling parents are fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of folks. I guess I am, too – to an extent. When it comes to planning our school year, though, I am very much a planner.

10-days-april-kris

Our state requires that we include 180 days of school in our school year. I like to have those 180 days mapped out so that I know what our school year is going to look like. I like to know when we’re doing school and when we’re taking off.

That doesn’t mean that I’m inflexible. Our calendar isn’t set in stone by any means, but mapping out our school year at the beginning of the year helps me to plan.

My older daughter is using Switched on Schoolhouse. I like to use their auto-assign feature. In order to do that, I have to plug in our school calendar at the beginning of the year.

Also, I like to make sure that we’re always giving ourselves room to finish school by the end of May – when Brianna’s birthday occurs. She likes being off school by her birthday – and I do, too, since mine is less than two weeks later. (For the record, the other kids’ birthdays are school holidays, too. Since Josh’s birthday is in December, we usually try to wrap up for Christmas break by his birthday.)

mom binder[5]

I like to use the school calendars on Donna Young’s site. I usually start by marking off my ideal school year. Then, I add up the days to see how close I am to 180. I usually wind up having to add 5-10 days. Once I figure out the best places to take a few less days off, I’m set for the year.

The upcoming school year will probably be a bit different. I’ve thought about year ‘round schooling before, but I never could quite work out all the details with holidays, summer birthdays, and our local homeschool convention’s late-summer schedule.

However, we’re using Trail Guide to Learning now and it is set up as six six-week units – perfect for a six-weeks-on-one-week-off schedule, with long breaks for summer and Christmas. I fully expected balking from the kids when I said the words “year ‘round schooling,” but all three of them have actually said that they like the sound of our proposed schedule.

Does that mean I won’t worry about a calendar this year? Nope! I’ve already been looking at the calendar, as a matter of fact – trying to figure out when we need to start to ensure the Christmas break lands where we want it to. I think I’ve got it figured out. I’m excited about this new possibility.

My suggestions for effectively planning your school year calendar include:

  • Know how many school days are required by your state’s homeschool  laws
  • Mark off days that you know will not be school days – birthdays, holidays, family vacations
  • Consider when you’ll want breaks – The middle of February tends to be a huge slump time for homeschoolers and public schools, alike. We took a four-day weekend in mid-February this year and that really helped alleviate a lot of the burn-out we’ve felt in the past.
  • Leave yourself some wiggle room – On the forms that I have to file with our county school superintendent, I declare our school year from August 1 of one year to July 31 of the following year even though I always plan to be finished by the third week in May. That leaves me some catch-up room if we need it.

Do you plan your school year in advance? What tips would you add?

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8 Comments

  1. I'm like you….and love to have things planned out, but when I put ink on paper…it is suddenly scribbled through. My struggle…in the past has been allowing the children to learn things they are interested in…that are not in 'ink'…I would stress over staying on schedule….but, then I started using a pencil with a little different plan, but a plan….how do you do that?  So, my tip…is pray, identify God's desire for our family and each child… make a general plan for the year. Then…each month sit down, pray…and create your month plan…and use a pencil.

  2. This is going to be our first year and I was a little stressed about figuring out our calendar at first. It was more of a should I make a solid one or not? thing. My husband and I sat down and decided it was a good idea to make one and know that there would be some wiggle room. We decided a year round schedule would work best for us, with a bigger break during Christmas not the summer.

  3. Kris, I need to plan more diligently. Since I follow a curriculum schedule (Ambleside Online), I knw what readings we're supposed to cover in a year. But many AO'ers school year round or don't follow a traditional schedule, say September til early June. Basically, I keep count of the days we have school (for our attendance forms the state required), and in the spring calculate how many more days we need to get done, keeping in mind what readings we need to complete as well.

  4. Great thoughts.  This next year, we're moving to six week then one week off schedule.  I plan on using the week off to do a field trip and planning for the next six week term.  I have enough days covered by our schedule (CA requires 175 and I have 177 planned).  Add in a few field trip days and we're over our requirement.

  5. Being in a state with very lenient homeschooling rules is wonderful…but we too have a 185 school day (which includes the 10 teacher days). We've chosen to go on a year round format–taking breaks when needed. It was pretty much a no brainer for us. Our son loves school (for now! LOL!) and we already finished our Kindergarten curriculum. I even added in a couple weeks of reviews….so we are gearing up to go ahead and start 1st grade next week. I would imagine that with the summer coming up that means it will probably take us longer as we go on family trips and campouts during the summer. But there just wasn't any good reason NOT to do it! So for now, our family will be year-round schooling.

  6. Next year is the first year I have to report attendance, since my son will be 6.  I just started planning out my calendar last night!  My first attempt came up 15 days short…

  7. My state does not require a set number of days, just a minimum number of hours. I used to try and keep track of hours but found we were way over the requirement. Since I don't actually have to turn those in, I stopped tracking since it was so tedious. I do keep an average per week though and easilt meet the requirement. I loosely plan my year but am very flexible and adjust regularly. We are a 4 -day in class a week kinda family, Fridays are for extra classes, activities and errands.

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