Answered! Your Burning Questions About Year Round Homeschooling

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I recently asked my Facebook readers what burning questions they have about homeschooling. Overwhelmingly, there was much curiosity about year round homeschooling. So, here are your burning questions answered!

Insight on how a year round homeschooling schedule works

photo credit josé fco rodriguez on flickr (text added)

How do you accomplish year round homeschooling?

There are many different ways to accomplish year round school. It’s even been suggested to me that what my family does isn’t really year round schooling because we take off six weeks in the summer and in December.

Whatever. It sure feels year round when you’re starting school in July.

What we do is six weeks of school, followed by one week off. We typically start the second week in July, which gives us time for three 6-week sessions before Thanksgiving. We then take off the week of Thanksgiving until the first Monday after New Year’s Day. This usually gives us time to finish the last three 6-week sessions before Memorial Day. Then, we start the cycle again in July.

For those who would like to school year round, but don’t like the idea of six weeks on/one week off, I have previously shared other potential ways to schedule your homeschool year.

What are the pros and cons of year round homeschooling?

I have seen only the benefits of year round schooling. I really can’t identify any cons. I asked my kids. The only thing the girls could think of was not getting a longer summer break. They both agreed that this schedule is pretty awesome.

Josh said the only thing he doesn’t like is that sometimes our breaks don’t coincide with those of his public school friends. (I don’t hear much complaint about that except when they’re off and we’re not.)

How do you convince your kids to school during the summer?

The first year was the trickiest, when we were starting school in early-July, rather than mid-August. However, everyone liked the idea of a week off at the end of every six weeks, so all the kids were game to give it a try. We all love that week off so much, that it’s never been hard to convince everyone to get started in July after that.

There is always a little grumbling – even from me – because our summer break goes by so quickly, but we all know it’s worth it, so we press on. Add to that the fact that it is too miserably hot in the summer to do anything else, and it’s not a hard sell.

How do you balance year round schooling with summer activities, camps, and playing with public school friends?

That really hasn’t been a problem for us. Church camp is in early June, so we’re on our six week break at that time. Megan attended a gymnastics camp last summer. It is a one-week camp, offered 3 different weeks, two of which don’t conflict with our schedule, so she chose one of those two weeks.

My kids public school friends are cousins or friends from church. We just arrange play dates with them as we would at any other time of year.

We do Kids Bowl Free in the summer. To me, activities like bowling, gymnastics or swimming are a good fit for PE during the summer months, as long as they only take up a few hours of the day and don’t completely derail the whole school day.

Ever since we started year round schooling, we have arranged our schedule with a built-in catch-up day on Friday. This is a lighter school schedule day that can be used for afternoon play dates (which became “social outings” once the kids hit middle school – “play date” is so elementary-sounding, apparently) or to make-up schoolwork from earlier in the week that may not have gotten completed. This ensures that there is still room for fun during the summer.

How do you do year round schooling without burning out yourself and the kids?

I can honestly say, without a moment’s hesitation that schooling year round has been, for me, a much more effective way to combat burnout than the more traditional school schedule we were following before. We know that we get a break at the end of every six weeks. This allows time for routine appointments such as hair cuts, eye exams, and dental and doctor appointments, without disrupting the whole school day, along with some much-needed downtime.

After two (or has it been three?) years of year round schooling, I cannot even imagine going back to a schedule that has us doing weeks at a time with no end in sight.

Not only does year round schooling provide sanity-saving benefits, but it allows for flexibility, too. If something happens that causes you to need a week off, you can just adjust your schedule and either make that week up during what would have been your week off or during the long summer or Christmas break.

How do you handle sick days with a year round schedule?

We have been very fortunate not to have too much sickness, so this hasn’t really been an issue for us. Depending on the severity of the sickness, we carry on with school as much as we can. I’ve yet to have anyone so sick that we couldn’t curl up in bed and enjoy reading aloud and Bible study.

This is another place where having a built-in catch-up day comes in handy. One sick day can be absorbed in that built-in day. Several sick days can either be absorbed in several weeks worth of make-up days (no light school Fridays for a few weeks) or by adjusting your weeks off or long break schedules.

What do you do with the make-up day if nothing needs to be made up?

We learned the concept of a built-in make-up day with Trail Guide to Learning, which offers a light school day to allow room for things like co-op and outside classes. Trail Guide offers enrichment activities for those days if you don’t need a light day for other activities.

That is a concept you can carry over to your homeschool. A light school day (or catch-up day) can be used to catch up assignments that didn’t get done or to do things that otherwise might fall through the cracks. Some ideas include:

  • Art
  • Artist or composer study
  • Music classes
  • Independent reading
  • Self-directed learning
  • Delving in deeper to a topic that has captured your kids’ interest
  • Hands-on learning activities
  • Documentaries or DVDs related to your current topics of study or just topics of interest
  • Speeches and presentations
  • Research
  • Biographical studies (of people related to, but not directly covered in your topic of study or just those you’d like to learn more about)
  • Social outings with your homeschool group
  • Field trips
  • Service and/or volunteer opportunities
  • Home Ec – cooking/baking, sewing, household management
  • Wood shop – designing and building

Basically, the concept of the built-in make-up day is that learning is still taking place, but it’s not something that can’t be skipped without derailing your entire schedule.

What does your weekly schedule look like on a year round school schedule?

We have some subjects that we do daily (or four days per week, leaving the fifth day for enrichment) and some that we rotate. Our daily subjects include:

  • Reading – both independent and read-aloud
  • Math
  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Bible study

The subjects we rotate include:

  • History (two days per week)
  • Science (two days per week)
  • Writing (2-3 days per week)

Rotating some subjects allows us to spend longer blocks of time on those subjects, which allows us to get more done without feeling rushed.

I had heard about year round schooling for many years before we tried it. I never could quite wrap my mind around it or how it would work with summer birthdays and, well, just summer. Having done it for several years now, though, I would list it somewhere in the top 5 of things I wish we’d done from the beginning.

Do you have more questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them. Do you school year round? What questions have you been asked?


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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. Thanks for a very informative post…just wondering what are a few of the other things you wished you were doing from the beginning? As a new homeschooling mum I’m always interested in hearing from experienced homeschoolers with regards to lessons learnt on the journey.

  2. Thank you for answering all our questions. I’ve discussed it with my husband and we are going to give it a try. Our kids go to camp in July, plus VBS so that month is going to be our month off. We have a trip to Disney planned after the end of the first 6 wks so I think that is enough to sell the kids on the idea!

  3. I like how you have your year-round schooling set up. I may try that because we have said we do year-round schooling, but really we do occasional schooling all year long. I fell into the trap of “Oh, we school year round, we’ll just make it up another time.” Now we are scrambling to fit our 180 days in before our beach vacation at the end of June…

    So having a ‘set schedule’ for the year-round schooling sounds like a fantastic plan! And I like how you have the Friday “catch-up day”. My husband has every other Friday off and I think that we will set that aside for field trips and the other Fridays can be our Art and other Enrichment classes.

    Great ideas! Thank you! 🙂

  4. We homeschool year round too, although we don’t do it in set chunks of time. We have seen only benefits as well, most notably the lack of “summer slide” in more difficult subjects. The best part for us is being able to take a few days or even weeks off when distant relatives and friends are in town, guilt-free and without missing an academic step. Being able to try out more of the interesting-looking curricula out there’s a big plus too!

    I really like your idea of leaving the 5th day for enrichment! I may just have to tweak our schedule to may that happen here too. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Kris, I LOVE your blog and have been enjoying it for quite some time! Thank you for your willingness to share and dedicate your time to this! It is very helpful and MUCH APPRECIATED! I LOVE YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR and that YOU ARE REAL! THANK YOU FOR THIS! After much prayer, we too will soon be starting year round schooling. I am a FAN of Charlotte Mason homeschooling which is how I got to your blog to begin with. We have been using My Father’s World and Sonlight during our homeschool journey, but I still feel like something is missing. I want to get us as close to the Charlotte Mason method without having to create my own curriculum. I had looked at the Trail Guide to Learning before, but decided against it because of it stopping at grade 8. Searching for a curriculum closer to the Charlotte Mason approach, I keep coming back to Trail Guide to Learning. My biggest hesitation is switching curriculum again knowing that as of now, they offer nothing past eighth grade. I’ve seen your blog and their website concerning more to come. Then as I am researching more this morning, I find that Debra Strayer passed away. I wrote them yesterday asking if they know when future curriculum will come out. Understandably, I have not heard back yet. My question to you is, do you know/have you heard when future curriculum will come out? If they do not come out with curriculum in time for your kids for high school, do you have any Charlotte Mason based curriculum that you recommend or are looking at? Are you still using Teaching Textbooks and are you still happy with it? Thank you for your time, attention and input. May God continue to BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!

    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Jenny. Yes, we love Trail Guide to Learning and we are still using Teaching Textbooks. I do know that Geography Matters plans to continue Debbie Strayer’s work. She had notes for all future curriculum laid out, but, understandably, it’s taking much longer to produce without her dedicated input. I know they are hoping to have the first middle school book, Journeys to the Ancient World, available sometime in the 2014-2015 school year, but nothing is definite yet and there is not an anticipated publication date yet.

  6. I love this idea, especially how Fridays are light days. In my area, summers can have days where it’s insanely hot — too hot to be outside. We could play outside in the mornings and then in the ridiculous afternoons do some learnin’.

    My local district follows a “balanced calendar” where they start at the very beginning of August and end the first week of June. I sorta wanna follow that in a way, but loosely.

  7. This is very similar to how we did it this year. We started the first of August and took a month off in December., with six weeks on, one week off. Oh, how I love it! It makes things soooo much more flexible and manageable. This is our 2nd year of homeschooling (9 and 12 yr olds) and its been so much better than last year. Thanks for your great website and all the information you share!

  8. We do six weeks on, one week off, starting in July, too! I absolutely love it and wouldn’t do it any other way. I do think it is the best change to make to counter burn out. Usually we get most of our school done before lunch, but in the summer we are outside in the morning and then do our school after lunch when it’s hot.

    Plus, we have time off to go to the park or take vacations while everyone else is in school. 🙂

  9. Thanks for all these details about how you do this, Kris. I’ve thought about this for so many years, but haven’t been able to wrap my brain around how to do this. Now this coming year my daughter will be doing a HS level Biology class with another homeschooling family who does a form a year-round schooling and they start at the beginning of July and my oldest is hoping to take a summer class at the community college. So maybe I should see if I can work my two younger ones into that schedule too. I think I’m going to get a calendar and a pencil and see if I can do it!

  10. Our first experience with year-round school was in public school before we started homeschool. It was a 9 week on 3 week off schedule with a slightly longer break for Christmas and in summer. I fell in love with it, so I keep it up when we started homeschool. It keeps me and the kids from getting burned out. It was also very easy to adjust when our move to Bangkok, Thailand prevented us from starting school until Oct. last year. With 3 week breaks we have also been able to adjust for the kids to be off for Thai holidays. We just take a week off then shorten our scheduled break. Actually our scheduled break was in March (and was only for 2 weeks because we spent week at a resort for a conference). I asked the kids if they wanted to take the time off then or wait until the Thai new year (Songkran) and Easter. They decided to wait and take the time off now so this week we’ve been playing with all the Thai people water fighting in the streets (Songkran is a 3 day watered festival, and it’s a blast!) We also do school Tuesday-Saturday. I know that sounds weird, but my husband is on pastoral staff at an international church so his weekends are packed. Monday is his only day off so we take it off to spend time with him. Saturday is our light day so by the time the kids have any activities they are done with school. It works out great for us. I love the freedom homeschool gives us!

    1. That is wonderful that you’ve been able to work out a schedule that fits your family’s unique situation! That is one of the tremendous blessings of homeschooling.

  11. I have been toying with the idea of schooling in 6 week blocks with a week off in the middle. It seems I need a break to catch up on life about that time anyway. We usually stop school around memorial day and then start something fun in late July – not full curriculum, but a unit study that the kids are interested in or science experiments. The kids are usually ready for something structured at that point in the summer and we still have time to hit the pool in the afternoon! Thanks for showing how it all works for you.

  12. I love the idea of this schedule, but I have a high schooler who is looking at taking some math and science courses online. We have also been considering joining a co-op. I can’t see how these situations could work with anything but a traditional school year calendar. I would welcome suggestions. Thanks!

  13. So I love the year-round idea, but the one hitch I keep coming back to is co-ops & classes. My oldest two kids are in a two-days-a-week class this year where they do several core subjects (math, history, science). I’m trying to figure out how it would be possible to work around that … I love the idea of a break every six weeks or so, and I definitely would love the shorter summer break, but I really love this class my olders are doing this year, especially since I have a couple of youngers who are still learning the basics & require a lot of time. If we were to start math (for example) earlier in the summer, it would throw off the schedule once the class started in September … Any thoughts?

    1. We don’t do co-ops, so we don’t have anything like that to throw our schedule off. When my son was working with Lexercise for dyslexia therapy, they encouraged us not to take breaks from therapy because it would slow his progress. So, on our break weeks, he would still have his therapy once a week and his online games (part of the program) each day for 15-20 minutes. It wasn’t as much fun as getting a whole week completely off, but it was still refreshing because that was all he had to do those weeks.

      So, all that to say, you could probably follow a year round schedule for your homeschool, but still have your older kids continue their class schedule for their outside classes. Perhaps not having to start those core classes during the summer would offset having to do them on your break weeks. Does that make sense? It might not work, but it’s a thought.

  14. I just stumbled upon this post and it’s something I’ve been considering switching to for the past year (we’re only in our second year of homeschooling) but the only things that trip me up are our homeschool group meets on Wednesdays so we would have our light day in the middle of the week and summer swim team practice is in the morning. Plus we have several weeks of camp at different times during the summer for different kids. My oldest daughter has church camp for girls the middle of June, my oldest son has scout camp the middle of July and all my kids have cousin camp sometime in July.

    Any suggestions on how to make this work? We recently did 6- week-on-one-week-off cycle and got to go on a weeklong ski trip which the kids loved. We also have a Disney trip planned at the end of September so I was planning on starting six weeks before then.

    1. Perhaps you could work your summer vacation around camps. My kids have church camp in June, but that’s during our summer break. We take 6 weeks off during the summer and between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. You could always squeeze in a few days or a week here and there between camps, rather than taking the whole six weeks off in a row.

      Also, my kids are now working independently of each other, using workbooks, so this summer, their vacation days are not so dependent on each other’s schedules. If your kids don’t school together, that might be something to consider. Hope that helps!

  15. We started on August 3rd and we will have an 11 day break for Christmas/New Years. For makeup days, like when we’re sick or lazy, we have Saturday school. We’ve had one so far and it wasn’t as odd as I thought it’d be. It was just another day. Our day is very easy. We do Math, English, and Science. Then we have a gym activity for 30-60 minutes, an hour lunch break, and History.

    Our summer is from May 27th to August 1st, about 8 weeks, so we will be doing summer enrichment. I told my son that I don’t care if it’s reading one approved book a week, a six week swim group, a weekly or biweekly club or volunteer activity, a Spanish class with a better instructor than me, karate, yoga, Boy Scouts…He must pick three new enrichment activities (that we can afford) and stick to them for at least 6 weeks. I want our summer to be about trying new things, giving those new things a fair chance, and being free of academic pressure for a few weeks. I want summer to be social and running (and learning) because we want to; not because we have to.

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