Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae
The simple answer to the question of why we school year round is: Because Life is Messy.
Which is the utter truth. The house gets messy when everyone stays home. The house gets messy when we leave. Sickness, travel, visiting relatives, potty training…they’re the stuff that makes life interesting. But they also interrupt the daily routine of life and school that we work so hard to achieve.
When we began setting up our family routines to include schooling my oldest boys, a friend gave me some wise advice: The school schedule should fit the family lifestyle, instead of the family lifestyle being crammed into a school schedule.
The best way for us to make school fit the family is to make school a part of our family lifestyle…all the time.
The benefits of schooling year-round:
By giving us more wiggle room in our school schedule, I don’t have to fight so hard to “get it all done.” If the babies are crazed or the house is in utter chaos, it’s okay to admit that our time would be better spent doing housework or soothing sad babies.
My kids will learn better the next day if we all feel like our home is calm and orderly.
By not taking excessively long breaks, my children are less likely to forget their schooling.
We don’t waste as much time re-learning important skills because we don’t give them enough time to forget. We keep their little brains in tip-top shape, year-round.
3. Time for training
Some days, we just need to work on life skills. Maybe that’s practicing our manners or training on a new chore chart. Or maybe it takes a group effort to potty train the toddler.
At our house, we learn EVERYTHING together!
4. Less stress for Mom
I don’t sweat the small stuff as much. Like any busy mom, I like to check things off my list and cross things off the calendar.
But the flexibility of year-round schooling means that I know we’ll finish our curriculum for the year, whether I check everything off my list today or tomorrow.
5. We can say yes to more one-time opportunities.
Part of having less stress means I don’t have to agonize over the unique opportunities that come our way. If I want to say yes, our longer school year usually means I can. I don’t have to worry that taking a field trip will get us off schedule.
6. Life becomes learning.
I once heard a homeschool dad say that while they legally counted days according to their state laws, he preferred that his family just look at every day as school. “There’s something to learn all the time. I’d hate to limit learning to 180 days a year.”
I think fostering this attitude in my kids is vital to creating lifetime learners who know how to think and learn.
For our family, we start in June. This takes advantage of the momentum and excitement I’ve garnered from recent homeschool conventions and curriculum purchases. Why not go ahead and start while I still like the sight of that shiny new math book?
In the Deep South, it’s nice to use the hot summer months to delve into our studies. When the weather becomes bearable again, we take a few days off to enjoy it.
I plan to do nine weeks of school with a week off. In theory, this means we would still finish in 38 weeks or so, but that doesn’t take into account Our Messy Life.
Sometimes a trip crops up that we want to take or we decide to take all of December off for Christmas. With lots of little kids, I have to assume we’ll lose a week or two every time someone picks up a germ. (We share everything in this house.) Sick weeks can add up quickly!
This year, we took off another month while my husband and I traveled to adopt our daughter. I had the reassurance that no matter how long it took us to adjust to a new baby, we were almost done with our curriculum and I had lots of wiggle room.
Now that we’ve finished our core curriculum, I continue to expect my kids to plug along on their afternoon bookwork like math and handwriting. These are subjects that I do not want them to quit practicing. Plus, it keeps the routine of our lives steady until we’re ready to dive into new materials.
Some families do nine week units and take three weeks off in between. Many plan a fun project during the three weeks off to avoid the ill effects of “idle hands.”
Others divide their year into trimesters. The first 15 weeks, they do five days a week of school. After a two week break, they do another 15 weeks of only 4 day weeks. The last 15 weeks, they only do school 3 days a week. This gives them flexibility to schedule routine appointments or take tangents when a child shows interest, yet still keep the routine of learning as part of the family lifestyle.
The beauty of year-round schooling is the flexibility it offers. Learning doesn’t have to interrupt a family’s lifestyle. Instead, learning can become the lifestyle.
Have you tried schooling year-round? What are some ways you make it work for your family? What are some other ways your family incorporates learning into your lifestyle?