Year Round

A few years ago, we accidentally started homeschooling year round.  When summer came around that year, we were behind, so school continued.  Anticipating the same happening again the following year, we only took a short break that summer and got started on the following year in early August.  In doing so, I realized how much sense schooling year round made for our family.  I think that frequent shorter breaks facilitate learning for some of my children far better than infrequent long breaks, but there are other reasons that we have adopted this approach.

We like to take breaks during the fall to enjoy the weather.  Fall days just aren’t the time to coop yourself up indoors with books.  And actually, I don’t just mean school books.  I mean any books.  It’s not that I am against reading, but I prefer that we save that for nighttime, or for frigid winter and hot summer days!  When the season begins to shift from summer to fall, the last place I want to be is inside, trying to hammer out school days.  This is the time for day trips, for hiking, for watching the colors change, for getting the garden and wood pile ready for winter. Yes we school, but I like to have some room for taking a day here, a day there, maybe an entire week of if we want to.

We also tend to take a long break in the spring to focus on getting the garden in the ground.  Honestly, when the flowers start to bloom and everything starts to be saturated in green again, I just want to be out there in it, soaking up as much sunshine as possible to make up for the winter months indoors.  Because while my children continue to spend a lot of time outdoors during the winter, I don’t.

I know families who like to take the entire month of December off.  We haven’t managed to do that, but we do take an extended break in the weeks surrounding Christmas.  Of course, that’s pretty typical.

Year round schooling makes the schedule more forgiving during years when a new baby is due, or mom is struggling with morning sickness or something else pregnancy and baby related.  Last summer we ended up taking off nearly two months rather than just the one that I had planned on because of the death of a close friend.  You just never know what life is going to hand you, and how it might affect your school year.  Knowing that taking a few weeks off won’t ruin our school year is a real comfort for me, and keeps me from getting anxious when we aren’t doing school for unexpected reasons.

Last week was a regular school week for us, but the week prior was taken off by my younger children to play in the snow, and the week before that we all took off because of illness.  I didn’t stress about it, because we aren’t strapped to a tight schedule.  We aim to school roughly 36 out of 52 weeks of the year.  A couple of my kids are using a boxed curriculum this year (Catholic Heritage) and that is where the 36 comes from.  For my other kids, we aim to school until they finish that year’s math book.  Typically by that time, they’ve done enough of everything else for the year.  If we end up being able to take the month of July off in its entirety, great!  Then school will start back in early August.

This year we joined a homeschooling co op that meets during the typical school year months, and that has put a small cramp in my flexible plans.  We only meet three days out of the month, so it’s not that big of a deal though.

Next year, Seth will be in high school and his schedule won’t look the same as everyone else’s.  He’s pretty independent and very self motivated when it comes to academics (insert Hallelujah chorus, so far he’s my only child with that kind of motivation) so I am not too worried about the transition, though I am sure we will have our bumps as his course load will be heavier and more challenging.

Anyway, I thought I ought to share this little piece of our homeschooling life, in case you have ever thought of  year round schooling.  I imagine that many of you already do the same.  It was a very organic process for us, one very much facilitated by the nature of home educating a large family amidst life’s hurdles.

Comments

  1. We school year round as well and fell into it organically as well. We school like farmers or gardeners. Planning and dreaming in the winter for me. This is when I do my planning for the year, but also we do our review work, like math review and daily reading. We may also be doing some catch up. Spring is new beginnings at Easter. Starting fresh when I have the most energy of the year and feel revived or resurrected. This continues through the summer with breaks after blocks. We still swim and go to the park and live. So in summer we tend our school “garden.” Fall is for harvest the seasons of spring and summer, so even though we are still schooling, we are also wrapping newly learned things up, cleaning up and also enjoying the weather here in KY. And back we come around to Winter again, time for planning and dreaming and reviewing.

  2. We are only on our third year schooling….with my oldest in 2nd grade. But I quickly learned that here in northern PA where we have hard winters that by end of April/early May there is simply no way to keep my kids nailed down for school. But by August they are getting bored by their usual summer games. So we start early August and are done by end of April. Or that is teh plan. We roughly do 6wks on 1wk off plus holidays and illnesses. We took this week off because we had so many appts that it didn’t make sense to bother. I am a winter lover, but I have had my fill and I am looking forward to the great thaw and some warmer days!

  3. Dear Ginny,
    Lententide greetings. I have read your website for the past four years or so and I find so much consolation and empathy with you as a homeschooling, creative, and Catholic mother and wife. It seems there is always a tension between what we know the educational system is and then what we want our children to learn from being at home. Your joy and faith in the midst of the beauty and trials of it all are very inspirational. You seem like such a kindred spirit that though we have never met-I feel like we are part of the Church militant together amidst the voices of children (both crying and singing), the beauty of earth and of making things. Thank you so much for this post. It helps me realize once again that capitulating to the beauty and fruitfulness of each season is what is very important and that my children’s learning will be higher because of it.
    God bless, Rosie

  4. Hi, Ginny! We are in the market for a camera and I’m wondering what kind(s) you use?

    Thanks!
    jamie

  5. We loosely follow year round homeschool as well and it is very freeing to be able to take short breaks when life events happen. I was so thankful we had the flexibility to take a break when we lost our baby Wendell – my seven year old daughter mourned for him just as my husband and I did, though in her own way, and I couldn’t imagine having to send her back to school after only a few days off. We needed the time to be gentle with ourselves, all three of us. We even got to take a long weekend trip to the beach to heal and love on each other. It wouldn’t have been as easy to take that time to mend without the flexibility of homeschool and I felt grateful.

    Even in less heavy things, like busy times around Christmas and spring planting and lambing season, it’s nice to have flexibility. And for vacations! My husband has teenage sisters and his parents were lamenting how it was so hard for them to plan trips during the school year since the girls have so little time off from school. It made me glad we don’t have that worry!

    Thank you for sharing more and more of your homeschool life with us. It’s so great to read the many different ways different families have adapted homeschool to their own needs. Whether it’s a method similar to ours or one quite different, I always find a lot of inspiration.

  6. I personally feel that schooling, whether it’s at home or not, should take place year round. There are opportunities to learn everywhere and I think it’s important to teach our kids that new ideas can be found in every moment, not just when you’re sitting behind a desk in a classroom.

  7. Cassandra Elaine says:

    My children are very young and homeschooling year round just makes sense. I’m choosing curriculum at the moment and it’s nice to be able to flow naturally from one thing to the next without struggling to predict what they may learn/lose over the summer. It’s hard to tell how much an early reader will develop over six month period but I can plan for the next couple of months with less margin for error.

  8. We ended up making this decision, too, with our middle school-aged daughter. I wish our local public school would go year-round as well (where my middle son goes)…and take those breaks every six weeks. I think he would do a lot better (A LOT) if the switch was made.

    Are Robins harbingers of spring where you live? They definitely are here in the upper midwest (although some have been overwintering in the area more and more). I haven’t seen a Robin yet, but I do so hope to & soon.

  9. I’ve always wanted to homeschool year round, but I find it difficult in the midst of all the summer activities. Do you have any advice about that?

    Also, I spend a lot of the summer planning for the next year. Do you have any advice about that?

  10. I am a retired public school teacher. Studies have shown that all of our children would benefit from year round schooling. Children lose more than 50% of what they have learned during the school year over the three month summer break. Public schools spend weeks at the beginning of every school year reviewing the previous year. I have become a huge fan of home schooling, however, I am still concerned about home schooling high school students. I don’t believe that the majority of parents are capable of teaching higher level math and science courses. I would love to see some statistics from colleges and universities on the performance of home schooled students in college. I applaud what you do and agree with you that all learning does not take place from a textbook.

    • The high school thing is a little daunting though I have close friends who did it and their kids are in college or beyond now. Honestly, I am far more concerned about what my kids would be exposed to in a public high school. Thankfully, Jonny and I are both college educated and have degrees that were heavy on the math and science–those are actually our strengths. I am far more concerned about teaching writing!

      • Ginny, I chuckled a bit when I read this comment because your writing is anything but lacking…in any area. Your writing is what touches so many and makes us feel as though we have made a fast friend. I love reading anything you write. In fact, my dear mother passed away a week ago and my grief as left me feeling very empty. It has given me comfort to “come home” to your posts and read what you have to say. You have many, many wonderful things to say. Don’t worry about teaching writing! You are a natural. 🙂

        • Dear Shannon, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your mom. I understand that pain. (And I really appreciate your kind words regarding my writing.)

  11. Dear Ginny,
    the first time I read your blog,I was surprised to read about your home schooling programs and loved it very much. I have learned a lot from you ever since and follow your posts every day to know more about how you handle the home schooling and appreciate every effort you make in this way.
    but one question has always bothered me : since your children dont go to common schools, dont they lack in social relations and communications? although home schooling has several advantages, but I believe making new friends and coping with others is one of the great advantages of general schools. can you explain me more about this?
    thanks in advance,
    all the best,
    Marjan

  12. Love seeing my bags in your post:))))))

  13. Love reading your blog.

  14. The first picture in this post is STUNNING! It makes me feel like I have the sun shining on my face.

    • The light yesterday morning was incredible, and there was just no way I could really capture it. Everything was coated in ice, but the temperature was balmy. The ice was melting from the trees so quickly and it sounded like rain hitting the icy ground. It was so beautiful!

  15. Jeannine says:

    Ginny,
    I really appreciate you sharing about homeschooling and the comments as well. I have homeschooled in the past but not for long and may again soon. I would love to hear more!
    Jeannine

  16. Amazingly we did the same. Now my children are in middle/high school we have swapped to an internet based charter school. It is sooooo NOT ideal and doesn’t allow for swapping around school days/months. We are really feeling it now as I am doing a great majority of the planting etc by myself while they sit hunched over a computer. I wish I had found a better highschool alternative for our family.

  17. As a mixed family (we’ve always had one in school and the rest at home) I have always wanted to school in a more relaxed way year round, but it just never works. I have the best intentions, but with one home all summer, it’s so hard to drag the other to the school table. The second to the last is graduating high school this year, so if I homeschool my youngest high school (which we will probably do because we have no all-girls Catholic high school), we can go to year round. I would much rather have my breaks in fall and spring than the hottest months of the year. Your plan makes perfect sense.

    PS I’ll have to look into Kolbe, but my girl is not a diligent student. I don’t know what I’ll do with her!

  18. We had been year-round schooling for many years and then this past year, we took the summer off and I was not a fan! It was SO much harder to start back up again after so long a break and the kids had lost so much of what we had worked on! Also,I agree with you, autumn in all its wonderful beauty is not the time to try and start hitting the books again!

  19. So glad you found something that works well for your family! 🙂 God bless you and all of your children and Johnny of course! 🙂

  20. We homeschooled year round too. I also made it a priority to do school everyday (the days we were homeschooling) as it is very easy not to do school. This worked for our family and when sickness or life got in the way we just rolled with the punches.

  21. I have been thinking about schooling all year for the first time in 17 years of home schooling! I was wondering if you ever did the six weeks on and one week off plan. That seems promising as well.
    I truly truly love the first picture on this post! The tree is amazing. I love trees in their “bare bones”.

  22. Hi Ginny
    I’m a 5th grade teacher at a Catholic school. I so wish we went all year long with breaks in between. When the students come back in September it takes weeks to get them back in “shape’. We teach cursive writing and just about every student has forgotten how to do it over the summer. Three months away from school is just too long. I love your blog…. in my next life you will be my mother!

  23. I started homeschooling while my husband was in the military. We worked year round and took time off when he was home from deployments. The flexibility allowed us to spend more time with daddy when he was home.

    Last summer was the first time we took the whole summer off (due to a move and other travel) and I really regretted it in September. It took us a good 2 months to get back into a routine and get their minds working again. I usually keep the work light during the summers, but as long as they keep up with math a few times a week and do some reading the transition is much easier. Another bonus is that we seem to get more done than we need to. We have consistently moved ahead in math so that my 4th grader is now working through a 7th grade math book. That is possible because of the 4 extra summers he has had to work on math and the fact that we haven’t had to deal with those adjustments every September.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  24. Yes, it is much the same for us. This year I have had a very difficult pregnancy, so the year has been rather light. Baby #5 due soon, and we’ll catch up this spring and summer. 🙂

  25. I guess it depends on what ‘reporting’ you have to do for your education department to some degree too? I don’t take any ‘breaks’ as such as we don’t really do school or teaching. I don’t have to provide a report for anyone so I am free to do as I please, making sure that my children are learning along the way of course! 😉

    • We do have to test annually, which is a bummer, but not so bad.

      • We just moved to Virginia and so we’ll have to test this spring too. I’d love to hear your thoughts on which tests you use. I was looking at them all the other day and just got overwhelmed and gave up 🙂

        • I’m in VA; I used Seton last year for the first time with my first-grader and it went really well – very straightforward.

  26. My wife sent me this blog to read (since I’m the stay-at-home one and the primary homeschooling parent), and I feel compelled to comment. My wife and I have discussed the fact that it is beneficial to change your mindset about education when you homeschool. “School” doesn’t just take place between 8 and 3, it’s really all day, every day. Embracing this mindset means that you have more freedom to homeschool as it fits your family.

  27. I’d be interested to hear what you are using for high school. I’ll be homeschooling Elizabeth next year, also first year of high school. I’m piecing together what I think will work for her (us), and she’s also highly motivated. We are super busy in the summer though so I doubt we’d school year round. During the school year, my stepsons have too much homework to do anything fun, so we pack our summers to the gills.

    • Joy, I’m planning on enrolling Seth in Kolbe Academy, which is a classical, Catholic school. He’ll work from home, but be graded by them, and get a diploma.

  28. Charlotte S says:

    This sounds like such common sense home schooling. Love it!

  29. We do year round math and writing/handwriting. And in the summer I try to do more of the fun stuff like art and science experiments that get pushed aside for more book learning during a typical school year. I love homeschooling because any moment can be teachable, and sometimes off the books or in your down time is when the best learning is done. It’s the habit of learning that is best about homeschooling for us.

  30. I think it’s a great approach. We homeschool partially, in addition to using an alternative school. It’s a 50/50 split between “school hours,” technically, but we never really stop at home. We work through the summer as well. We love to be busy, there’s really no time when there isn’t learning going on in some form, I think.

  31. Oh – how do you like Catholic Heritage?? I was just looking at some of their things last night for next year….particularly the grammar. I’ve floundered with grammar and writing and have yet to find a program we love. I’m considering Catholic Heritage and Rod and Staff. Any thoughts? We haven’t done year round, but maybe we should consider it. I feel like I need more breaks during the year – mostly baby related. But then again, by the time summer rolls around I’ve been so burned out I can’t imagine not taking a nice long break! But maybe I wouldn’t be so burned out if I took more breaks in the year. This year is also only our third and we’ve moved three times due to military, so that is part of my frustration. Anyway, thanks for planting this thought in my brain….something to consider. :-). Is Seth going to continue homeschooling for high school? If so, what type of curriculum do you plan on using? Thanks for posting this!

    • I think Catholic Heritage is a good fit for a few of my kids, but not all. I’ve used a portion of their materials for years, namely the spelling and grammar. I have to confess that those are subjects that I don’t take too seriously, but their workbooks are easy enough to have the kids work through so I feel like they are doing something. I’ve also used Rod and Staff Grammar a good bit. It’s kind of the other end of the grammar spectrum. Pretty hard core. My kids totally hated it of course. I’m not sure they retained anything despite spending hours diagramming sentences and working through lengthy lessons.
      I also find that I need a break from thinking about school all together as well, so that is why I do aim to take a slightly longer break during the summer to just not think about school at all. But, I think that the stress relief I get from knowing that every unplanned week off doesn’t mean messing up the schedule does alleviate some of that burnout. I think the bottom line is that homeschooling is going to be stressful for some of us no matter how we do it! Seth is going to homeschool for high school. Right now my plan is Kolbe. I want him to get a diploma, and to have some outside accountability.

      • Ginny
        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! And also for your thoughts on the two programs. Rod and Staff might just be a bit too much for my kiddos. I tried First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease when we first started, and it was anything but “Ease”! It was more Writing with Tears for my kids! I liked it all because it was very structured and in some ways I am an “everything has a place” (ie I LOVED diagramming sentences as a kid – dorky, I know!) kind of person….when I’m not in crafty mode 🙂 Anyway, it was just way too much for them and we ditched it the next year and went the totally opposite direction – Waldorf. I loved so much about Waldorf, but it was too much for me to try to pull it all together on my own with a toddler and baby on the way/newborn. This year we’ve been kind of middle of the road….still finding our way. I’m seriously going to have to consider the year round. I love the summer break, but need more flexibility during the year. And so far we’ve moved every summer, so that is probably why I’ve felt like my summers are not long enough. Anyway, thanks for all the info!

    • Hi, Laura, I don’t mean to butt in but we have been using this grammar system and I really love it. It’s super simple and workbook style so it travels well. (we travel a lot as well, but are not military). It is a spiral learning approach so they review every day what they have already learned.

      http://www.easygrammar.com

      • Olivia, Seth is using easy grammar this year too! I have several friends who use it as well.

      • Olivia, thanks so much for this recommendation! I’m definitely checking it out!! Ginny (if you have time), what do you think about Easy Grammar v. CHC? What about them makes you choose them for different children? I know you are busy, so if you don’t want to delve into this, I totally understand 🙂

  32. We homeschool year round too. I always have done it this way (my eldest is 25 and homeschooled all the way through) because, philosophically, i guess I just always felt that **learning** doesn’t have to be boxed in to X number of hours or weeks ….. As the years have passed and life has changed (dramatically), we now incorporate my disability from a brain tumor and my 12yo’s chronic medical condition …. We all have compromised immune systems, we fall ill, very ill, every 8-12 weeks. So we miss a week or three that often …. Once well again we simply pick up where we left off. Just at breakfast today, ill again, my 15yo daughter was reflecting on the blessing of homeschooling, and doing so year round. Time is a gift. It’s amazing, really, just how much time there is, over the course of a full childhood. 🙂

  33. After a rough few years of job changes, several moves, new school districts, new curricula etc, I feel like this is our first “normal” school year. We will be doing math and reading practice year round this year because we are “behind.” Who knows, maybe we’ll like it.

  34. We essentially used to homeschool year round. There is so much you can do in the summer, that you can not do in the winter. Our best homeschool summer, was the year we decided to explore water under a microscope! We spent our summer searching for the murkiest water holes and learning about all the little bugs that lived in it that were only visible with a microscope.

    And afterall……isn’t homeschooling really about developing a love of lifetime learning….and once you have the desire for knowledge, you can not turn that off just because it is summer! 🙂

  35. We do exactly the same thing, for the same reasons. We’re in Virginia, too, so summer can be brutal – a good time to stay inside a bit and enjoy the AC with some books. And fall is too gorgeous to miss. I’m in the office one day a week, so we typically do school the other four weekdays, but on beautiful weeks or weeks we want to go slower we might just do school Tues/Thurs, which is lovely – still some structure, but also plenty of freedom. The flexibility and the sense of being “ahead” of the schedule are such a comfort to Mama, and the structure is really beneficial to the boys. We don’t follow the official schedule, but there is a part of my brain that still cares very much about Being Ahead and Doing Well On Tests and Checking Off The Lists, and I’m always trying to keep my balance between that side and the side that shouts “go play outside! go for a walk! let’s take a field trip!”

  36. We’ve kind of done something different every year but I think your approach makes the most sense for flexible family life! Especially for us northerners. I’m trying to use these difficult weather months well so that when the spring (and new baby!) comes, we can feel free to take time off and finally soak in some good weather without guilt. I plan to add a few more core subjects in during the summer as well. And I agree about the reading!

  37. I JUST opened our homeschool and got approval from the state. I sincerely stressed when I saw their recommended year because we have been doing year round since my oldest was doing preK. She’s getting ready to start second grade now.
    It just makes sense. For example…yesterday was a beautiful reprieve from fridgid snowy weather. We enjoyed a balmy 66 degree park day. And it was wonderful to not have to worry about being behind on school.

  38. My kids go to traditional public school but this summer I am planning on incorporating “summer school” in our home. My older one has requested some help with their math and the other needs the continuity. So we will be incorporating that. Also organically and as my work schedule permits. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing. Even though I don’t homeschool this does give me hope to incorporate some of these techniques.

    • Summer schooling and after-school teatime are two things I recommend highly! You will treasure those times…I do! And, now, I’m homeschooling two of my four children that still live here. Some advice: set do-able goals (such as a book list that isn’t too long), add in some math games, and make sure YOU love what you choose to “teach”…though I like to think of it as “experience together” rather than teach. I chose to not test over any materials, since public schools tend to over-do testing.

  39. We live in Arizona where the summer months are the hardest, which is the opposite of most people in the US, so it was natural for us to do a different schedule than most. We have always done year-round schooling (Which sounds like a long time, but my oldest is 7, so that means about 3 years!) and it works well for us. There are interruptions in every season of the year, it seems, so this gives us the most flexibility. Plus the other benefit of year-round schooling is that my kids don’t forget math during the off-season. We just transition from one book to the next. Thanks for sharing…I’ve been looking forward to your thoughts on homeschooling. 🙂

  40. We do summer schooling as well, although it is much more laid back than during the “typical” school year months. I also like the flexibility it allows to take days off during the year. Besides, life is a big learning experience, right? So my kids are actually always learning.

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