Between deciding on a method of homeschooling, choosing curricula, signing up for co-ops and activities, and planning field trips and library visits, one question about homeschooling often gets pushed aside: How often will we do it?
The trite answer homeschoolers could use is "we are always learning." But just as some families have sit-down lessons and use a formal work/text program, others will leave official lessons behind and let their children lead the way down a path of educational enlightenment.
Throughout it all, the mainstream public tracks its days, weeks and months by the traditional school year calendar. As I write this, the news is full of spring break suggestions for college students and kindergartners alike. Summer is seen as the professional teacher's vacation and the dual-career family's logistical nightmare.
And who hasn't gotten caught up in the "back to school" sale season in August? Yes, even homeschoolers. Some organizations even host "NOT Back to School" events to celebrate the beginning of another (home)school year!
There are, however, some public and private schools, as well as a growing number of homeschoolers, that use a year-round school calendar. And some homeschooling methods work incredibly well on a full-year program.
The most obvious method would be "delight-directed" learning (sometimes referred to as "unschooling"). Because a formal curriculum may or may not be integrated into a delight-directed family's educational program, the family is not held to a set number of pages per day or lessons per month to complete the school year. Less obvious but just as appropriate for year-round schooling are unit studies, lapbooking, relaxed homeschooling, Charlotte Mason and Waldorf educational methods.
Why do these particular methods work well for year-round homeschooling?
These methods allow the flexibility to take breaks when needed—by the family as a whole, by individual students or by the parent teacher.
Charlotte Mason and Waldorf programs feature activities such as nature walks and nature tables, allowing for an exploration of the outside world that is fluid and focused on what is happening in the family's immediate area, as well as their greater region.
A wall calendar can be an excellent starting point for planning an entire homeschool year. Simply look at the holidays and research local events, online resources and library catalogs. This creates an excellent unit study or lap-booking program. In fact, by adding a few resources for specific subjects as desired, the home educator could easily create an excellent educational program on just about any budget.
While there are many other benefits to year-round homeschooling, one of the most important is the ability to revisit skills and lessons as necessary for specific learners. If a child struggles in a certain area, year-round schooling means there is significantly less pressure to learn everything "on time." One can even declare a break from all formal lessons and let the child decompress.
When is year-round homeschooling not appropriate?
While year-round school sessions can work incredibly well for some families, other families need a more mainstream calendar to accommodate work and family responsibilities.
If children are coming into home education from traditional schools, there may be camps and other activities that take place only during mainstream breaks. If there are few other local homeschoolers on a year-round calendar, it can be difficult to schedule group events during months that other families use for vacation time.
Home educators using more traditional curricula may find themselves trying to create "busy work" once the regular lessons are completed. High school students may need to focus on the traditional school year calendar as they prepare transcripts and get ready for college schedules in quarters and semesters.
Year-round schooling works exceptionally well for families with young children or those with more flexible home education beliefs. As homeschoolers, we really do learn every day. It is a personal and family decision, whether your ideal alternative is a year-round or traditional school calendar.
Melonie Kennedy is a military wife and a mother of two whose work has appeared in multiple magazines, books and e-books. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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