This is the time of year where you see so many rejoicing at the end of school. People have been asking my kids what they have planned for summer, and are always surprised when my kids reply that we school year round with only short breaks. Many moms can’t imagine why we would choose to not take a single, long break of several months.
My two will be in 7th and 9th grade this coming Fall. We have done a lot of unschooling in the past, but my two have decided they wish to use more formal curriculum and co-op classes, so that is the direction we are moving in for them. Both wish to attend college, and start dual enrollment at 16. Our county offers that program for homeschoolers and between that and in-state tuition at the local university, both will be able to get a stellar college education without going into debt.
We run our school years from July 1st to June 30th due to North Carolina’s homeschooling laws dividing a school year by these dates. Our state requires end of grade testing each year, so we complete our testing in the middle of June then take two weeks off before starting again.
Our state requires 180 days of school a year, but we tend to complete 225 or more a year using this system. As a result, the kids get the same amount of work done or more, but are less stressed with heavy loads. They also often choose to engage in academic subjects on Saturdays when they’re bored, so I never worry about hitting the minimum the law requires.
This built-in extra time is especially important with high school approaching, as there are many life skills that teens need to learn along side of academics. This also gives the adults time to run the five home-based businesses that we run, and gives the kids time to be kids and also begin learning business skills.
Here are some of the many reasons why we choose to run school year round.
Learning is a lifestyle
We don’t look at academics as a timed burden to get through so we can move onto real life. Instead learning is a lifelong endeavor. All four of us work daily to learn new skills and improve ourselves.
We model this to our children in that as small business owners, we can not keep our businesses growing unless we are continually learning. To this end, we continually work on both real life and academic skills through the year. We don’t treat classes like home-ec and shop as separate subjects, but one that is woven into daily life. We wish for our children to have practical, hands-on skills as well as book knowledge. Year-round schooling allows more time for those hands-on skills as well as the time to cultivate a home-based business for your high schooler.
When you school year-round, you don’t have to spend the first six weeks of every year reviewing what you did the previous year to help them reorient and regain skills. You get farther with the curriculum as a result, with less frustration!
Time for Projects and Emergencies
Year-round schooling allows us to take a week or two of breaks throughout the year whenever we might need it. This was especially helpful when my dad had brain surgery at a hospital hours from home and went through an extended recovery Thanksgiving before last. We were told to expect him to be released to go home in 3-5 days. Instead, he was in the ICU for five days, the main floor for five days, and in rehab for weeks, through the holidays.
Thanks to my home-based business, I was blessed with the ability to stay with Mom in a near-by hotel through the whole ordeal. I didn’t have to leave my mom there alone to try to care for him and make decisions. Jeff stayed home and cared for the kids. Once he was moved to a local rehab unit and I was back at home, we postponed school outside of literature and math, focused on getting him better and caring for him, and knew we had plenty of time to make up the missed history and science lessons at the end of the school year. We didn’t sweat it. The kids actually did their history and science voluntarily through the Christmas break (boredom is a Godsend) and we were only about a week behind schedule when school started after New Years. That was easy to make up before Spring Break.
When repainting and renovating the living room went from being a one week to a two week project due to some unforseen repairs and Mama’s big plans, it was fine. We just shifted everything a week out and changed up our future breaks so we were done in time. We often find that shifting the schedule isn’t really needed, because we have enough time to play catch-up during regular school days.
Enjoy Vacations During the Off Season
We typically schedule our trips to Orlando/Tampa in January or February, and visit Dollywood on weekdays when school is in session. The parks aren’t always open as late as they are in the summer, but we find that the lack of crowds means you can get through the whole park without waiting in lines much if at all. Most of the people visiting the parks these days are retired or have small children, and neither of those groups are interested in the roller coasters and thrill rides that my teens want to do. As a result, they can sit front seat for the roller coasters without waiting and often ride multiple times without getting off. Hotels and travel are far less expensive during this time period, too.
Flexible Time for Sick Days
When Trey came down with a virus one day into spring break, we cancelled the holiday and rescheduled it. He wasn’t up to the fun we had planned, so we simply put school back into session and let him do what he felt up to from the couch, until his energy came back. Then we could go have our fun the next week.
When a kid is sick, we don’t take sick days unless they’re too sick to function. When my kids are just mildly under the weather or are contagious but not suffering such as a mild head cold with no fever, we go ahead with school. They tend to only have mild colds and only tend to run low fevers with viruses, so we don’t stress about illness, we work around it. We watch documentaries, read living books and do art. We play instruments and get on YouTube to look up things like small engine repair or aurora borealis or watch a live stream of the space shuttle or ocean trench exploration. We actually watched April the Giraffe give birth on live stream on one of these days. We usually only wind up with a few sick days a year as a result.
Room to Breathe
If your child is struggling to get a math concept, you can give them some breathing room and come back to it in a few days. I try very hard to avoid frustration to the point of upset or tears with any subject, and breathing room is especially important in preventing the ‘I can’t do it’ syndrome that seems to crop up in all kids from time to time, especially in the more difficult subjects like math and science.
If you’re struggling with behavior issues with yourself or your kid (because we ALL know sometimes mom can get just as bad of an attitude as a teenager!), you can take a day or two to reconnect and reset before trying that subject or area again. I find that the older my kids get and the more they come into contact with others who try to negatively influence their attitude or worldview both in real life and in the media, the more time we need to connect and talk.
Especially now that my oldest is entering the age where many of her peers are engaged in romantic relationships, is an excellent opportunity to help her look objectively at the qualities and take she does or does not want in a partner. With this type of a schedule, there’s more relaxed time daily in which these conversations can naturally arise. Being able to help a teen navigate relationships is priceless, and it can often help prevent or ease heartbreak.
So to accomplish this, we school for 6 weeks, then we schedule a week off. We typically take two to three weeks off at Christmas, depending on how the calendar falls, and a full week at Thanksgiving so we can spend time preparing for the holiday and enjoying it instead of feeling so rushed. We cook a LOT of food as Thanksgiving is our main family holiday, and the only one we get to host and celebrate with extended family. Thanks to our food intolerances, we also handle most of the cooking. We cook ahead, freeze things and plan well so it doesn’t wind up being a high stress holiday, but instead can be one in which we enjoy.
We also put our Christmas tree up over the Thanksgiving weekend, so it gives us extra time to decorate. Once the decor is up and the Thanksgiving meal prepared, we start the Christmas baking and freeze the cookie doughs, side dishes and other goodies so they’re ready to ‘heat and eat’ the week of Christmas. It very much makes for a low-stress holiday season. We make few things for the holidays that must be assembled and cooked fresh. Instead, we feed the freezer for a few weeks and enjoy the bounty for the holiday, eat off of paper plates and have few dishes to wash so we spend most of the time relaxing with our family.
We can also take on more extra-curricular activities and focus more deeply on them, thanks to this room to breathe. Martial arts, in particular, is one area where my daughter is deeply focused in pursuit of two black belts. She can attend the morning classes that are smaller and allow for her to have more individualized instruction.
We also focus on service projects year-round. Year-round schooling allows us to take a weekday or regularly to work on projects we support in the community. We can help at the food bank, fund raise for causes we believe in, and help neighbors in need without stress. Last year we hand-knitted 36 hats in six weeks for a local human trafficking charity that is run by a good friend. We are doing the same this year, except we’re doing three hats a month instead of in such a short space of time.
My parents are getting older, and my dad especially is slowing down as he approaches 70. Elder care is a reality in my life, and we have more time in which we are available to help. We often schedule week-day sleepovers at the grandparents to help them with housework, and similar activities, without it interrupting our school schedule.
Built-In Catch Up or Go Forward Time
If a child is struggling with a concept and behind schedule, this allows extra time for playing catch up later, before the end of year testing. This is especially helpful in math, to cut down on any concern about a child’s pace.
But more than that, this schedule has allowed my children the ability to get ahead or to dive deep into the subjects they love. If a child wants to take an extra hour or three researching something they find fascinating, they can have it without disrupting what we need to accomplish that week. We often find ourselves on tangents, and those tangents often are learned and retained better, because it’s what they are truly interested in. I never feel like I have to re-direct or interrupt them.
A Change of Pace
My son took classes this year at a professionally taught co-op, and he’s been spending spare time researching a particular President he learned about. He has started writing multiple creative stories about Minecraft, Lego and similar interests and is asking about making his own blog with his stories. Some of his stories are over 20 chapters long and are the size of a small book. He had no interest in learning grammar until he began creative writing.
He also dove head-first into reading the entire Harry Potter series, with him finishing each 600-900 page book in 3-4 days. I promised him we could watch the movies and even consider a trip to Universal Studios once he finished the books, and I was honestly astounded at how quickly he read through them. He’d complete them faster than the library could get them in for him. I’m now planning the trip to Universal, likely as a Christmas gift for the whole family, just as we did with Disney for Christmas of 2014. We’ll just hope to avoid the car wreck and the norovirus this time. He is also working on earning multiple merit badges this Summer towards his Eagle Scout.