Homeschool mid-year: reflecting on what’s working

Written by contributor Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

We just finished up school for the year. No, not the school year. We finished for the calendar year. We’re taking the whole month of December off. We did that once before and it didn’t go so well – the kids got very restless.

We’re trying it again this year, though, as part of our year ’round school schedule – six weeks on, one week off with a longer break during the summer and at Christmas. I do plan to make some changes this time, versus the last time we took a long Christmas break.

For one thing, there are several homemade Christmas projects I’d like to try this year and all of the kids are old enough to help. They may not all want to {*cough* the boy *cough*}, but I think that two of them will. I’d also like to make time for some service projects – cooking some meals for others or maybe serving at the soup kitchen.

As we plan for a more productive Christmas break, I can’t help reflecting on how the first half of the school year has gone. Honestly, it’s been one of our best years in a long time. I really think a big part of the reason is the new curriculum that we started using this time last year, but there’s more to it than that.

Year ’round schooling

So far, year ’round schooling has been a great fit for us. It meshes perfectly with the layout of the curriculum we’re using. Not only that, but it seems that a break is never far away when the kids or I start feeling like we need one. Having a week off every six weeks makes it so much easier to schedule doctor, dental, and hair appointments.

We also start new books every six weeks (biographies and historical fiction), so even though we may be studying the same general topics, there is something fresh to our studies. Even though my older daughter is not using the same curriculum, I’ve started scheduling her schoolwork this way, too. She enjoys it just as much as we do.

Mid-year curriculum changes

Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis

The winter doldrums. If you’ve homeschooled for more than a year, you’ve probably experienced the winter doldrums sometime in late-January or mid-February when the tedium of winter starts pressing in. Because we switched curriculum mid-year last year, we were able to avoid that. I think we’ll be able to avoid it this year, too, since we’ll be starting the next volume of our curriculum in January this year.

It may not work for everyone, but arranging your schedule so that you can change things up in January might be just the thing to give your homeschool a mid-winter boost. It doesn’t mean that you have to completely change curriculum, but perhaps it would work to change to the next level or the next topic in what you’re currently using. You might even just plan ahead to add in something new and fun around this time – a new extracurricular study, for example.

For us, that means we may change grade levels mid-year. Because of the year ’round schedule, that’s not a big deal. Since we’re not taking a huge chunk of time off at any one time, there isn’t much worry about forgetting things or needing a lot of review.

Built-in catch up days

Built-in catch-up days provide another huge benefit courtesy of our new curriculum. It’s built around a 4-day school week, leaving the 5th day open for outside classes, catch-up, or enrichment activities if everyone has stayed caught up. Again, the younger two and I have enjoyed this so much that I’ve started scheduling my oldest child’s school week this way.

It’s so freeing! I’ve been able to let go of that stress of unexpected road bumps or even unplanned opportunities messing up my neatly-typed lesson plans. There’s room for that!

After 10 years of homeschooling, I still appreciate being able to take some time in December to assess what’s working and what isn’t…especially the years when there is more that is working than isn’t.

What’s working for you this year?

About Kris

Kris, who blogs at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, is a homeschooling mom to three amazing kids and wife to her unbelievably supportive husband. She enjoys photography, running, and drinking sweet tea. You can connect with Kris on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Comments

  1. Heather says:

    We are schooling year ’round as well, and decided to take between Thanksgiving and Christmas off. It doesn’t mean we aren’t still learning! We are just shifting our learning from a lot of book reading to more baking, crafting, and Christmas book learning. I like that you do six weeks on one week off, we don’t really have a set schedule like that, just take off whatever time we feel we need to. Of course my kids are in the pre-school age group, so it might be a little easier for us to take time off when we need to. Great post!
    Heather’s latest post: Jesus Pure & Simple

  2. Emmalina says:

    I love the way your organise your year, we’ve done something similar this year (though on an informal basis) and I think I will make it a firm routine in the new year. I like that we can go at it for a month or so and by the time we are all feeling tired we can have a break! I’m also just reading your review of your curriculum and getting pretty excited! This looks like just the kind of thing that would work for us history and literature loving peeps and my son starts 3rd grade next year. Thanks for the recommendation : )
    Emmalina’s latest post: Flourless Chocolate Cake

  3. Janet says:

    This is great advice! What works best for us is definitely FLEXIBILITY. Whether its mid-year, mid-week or mid-moment. Sometimes something needs to be put down, put away or even skipped for the sake of sanity. The true blessing of homeschooling is being able to change modes and methods any time we want or need and even different approaches for different kids. Thanks for another great post.
    Janet’s latest post: A Little Mess

  4. Heather Mac says:

    Great article. Winter is the worst for me! I struggle typically with attitude – mine, to be more exact. I love the idea of starting something new. We love our new curriculum so we won’t be changing there, but perhaps changing daily schedules or adding some extra-curriculars during the winter would be good. Thanks for the ideas.
    Heather Mac’s latest post: FREE Resource for Serving as a Family During the Holidays

  5. Super encouraging post! As a first time homeschooler (kids are 5,2, and 1) I feel I have spent the majority of our first “semester” trying to figure out what works best for us. Love the idea of 6weeks on/one week off. I did not intend to take a “summer break” so I love the idea of having breaks built into the “school year”!
    Christie Elkins’s latest post: I HAVE EARS!!

  6. As usual, great, clear, helpful post. Thanks for sharing your experiences. We are rounding out our 1st year. B/c we started home schooling in January this year (due to taking my oldest out of kindergarten mid-year) we have not experienced the “winter doldrums” but then again, we are still working out what works for us overall. Good thing though is that the kids are still learning and enjoying home school while mommytheteacher figures it all out. :) thanks!
    Stephanie Rich’s latest post: Baby Steps to Becoming More Green

  7. Great post & good idea for avoiding those February doldrums. February is the WORST at my house. Thanks for sharing. :) Merry Christmas! We’re taking much of Dec off as well. :)
    CharityHawkins@TheHomeschoolExperiment’s latest post: Rhythm of a Year: Holidays

  8. Jessica says:

    I hear you on the winter doldrums. I’ve always wanted to do a J-term…keep up with math, but take a break from all our other subjects and immerse ourselves in a unit study that we really enjoy, complete with art and projects and all the other stuff I intend to do, but somehow never fit in.

  9. Samantha says:

    Kris,
    Hi! It’s Samantha from To Be Busy At Home though I’m just busy at home now and have stopped blogging. I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth and am still homeschooling. Life just got too crazy, crazy busy for much computer time at all. I have been wondering………what do you plan to use when you have finished all of the Trail Guides to Learning. I know you really love that curriculum. Have you thought about what you will use? I know there are only three levels of that curriculum currently.
    Samantha

  10. Melanie says:

    Hi Kris! :-) My 10 year old daughter and I will be starting POP after Christmas as well. Too bad we don’t live closer to one another. I’m really looking forward to the 6 weeks on/1 week off schedule. We’ve always schooled year round but haven’t taken our breaks this often before. I think it will be a nice change. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. It’s nice to hear from someone who has gone through a year of TGTL and is continuing on with it.

    Blessings,
    Melanie

  11. Melanie says:

    Oops! Just realized I said we’re starting POP when I meant POS. :-)

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