Why We School Year Round

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:

1. Flexibility

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.

2. Consistency

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?

About Lora

Lora Lynn earned her stripes becoming mom to seven kids in seven years. She’s lived to tell about it and shares her mothering know-how with comedy, common sense, and a whole lot of chocolate at Vitafamiliae. Through infertility, high-risk pregnancies, adoption, and life as a homeschooling, twin-raising, stay-at-home mom, Lora Lynn writes with humor and honesty on what’s most important in all the crazy – a life defined by family.

Comments

  1. I love schooling year round. We don’t plan our breaks, we just keep going until we feel the need to stop. Most of the time that means only schooling about 3 days a week because of our Messy Life. :)

    I also love knowing that my son (and myself!) never really stops learning. Even if there isn’t anything formal planned, we still discuss the most recent topics of learning. When we take bigger breaks, our discussion topics dwindle!

    • We homeschool *exactly* the same way: we just keep going until something comes up or we want to take a break. :)

      When people ask us what grade my teen daughter is in, both of us sort of pause and have to think about it for a minute. lol When I finished homeschooling my son, it wasn’t because we really planned it. Things were dwindling down, and we decided on a good stopping point before he turned 18. Then he got a job and started college classes.

      I plan to homeschool my toddler this way – I pulled my older two out of public school to start homeschooling them. I have ADD, so I am only able to keep up minimal scheduling in my life, and homeschooling year round works well for us. Our life *is* messy. lol
      MJ’s latest post: So You Want To Attract Some Ladybugs?

  2. Veronica says:

    Our school is “The Lifetime Learning Academy”. So year round school is what we do too. We end up doing on average 3 days per week. As an older parent with 3 grown (plus 8 grands) and 3 at home (ages 11 and the twins age 7), it is a hard job to keep things going smoothly, but our messy life works for us. When the twins begin reading well, I am hoping it will be a bit easier.

  3. Loved this.
    Jessica’s latest post: Yah Higha

  4. Our family is in our first year of home educating. Beginning in January, we started a 6 weeks on, 1 week off routine. We have loved it! I use the week “off” to plan for the next six weeks, tackle those items on the to do list, etc. Although the week is off, we still read and do math. I view learning as a daily process, not a 180 day process. Do you really ever stop learning? I hope not!

  5. Amanda p says:

    Thanks for this article, I really desire to school year round since we will have 5 kids 6 and under (we’re finishing up our 1st yr schooling here), but how do you get around state requirements or turning in paperwork in June like everyone else?

    • Amanda P – This might be something you’ll have to research a little about your own state’s laws, but I don’t think you have to start when public schools start just to count the right number of days.
      Lora Lynn’s latest post: This Way Of Life Accommodates Our Crazy

      • I had the same question. I also wonder if you feel burn out or have a sense of start and stop. I know you said you take a week off every so often. I guess the real question is if you “start” in June, what did your schedule look like in May?

        • Great question! There are several ways to look at this. First, our core curriculum assumes 4 nine week units. So I will finish those in a rough nine or ten months and then we might take it easy, just doing math and reading. Or we’ll have some major life crisis (like having another baby or moving) and I’ll blink and it’s June again and somehow we’ve taken a longer unplanned break from school. I don’t plan to have one “crisis” a year, but it seems to work out that way. We can also plan on taking a much longer holiday break which lengthens our school year.

          Another way (which I did this year and I’m glad I did) is that I slowly ramped up into our schedule. I took a month just adding in one subject a week before we even picked up our core curriculum. The kids barely noticed we’d “started” school by then. Our full day of school didn’t really feel that full by the time we completed it because we had slowly adapted to filling our time with school. It was a great luxury and I plan on doing it again.

          The kids really like the continuous schedule and routine. They hardly know what to do with themselves when they have two full weeks with no school. I’m not saying they LOVE school, but they are home all the time so being home with suddenly nothing to do is weird for them.

          Thus far, we’ve not experienced burn out. Most of our family finds relief in the knowledge that life will pretty much stay stable year round. There’s not a lot of upheaval in May or September, so when there’s crazy upheaval at other times (because this is real life after all), it doesn’t feel like we’re going from one crisis to another.

          Hope this answers your question! :-)
          LoraLynn’s latest post: So Happy Together

  6. Great reasons! We homeschool year ’round with the except of a few weeks in the winter (when FL is finally cool to play outside) and during summer for VBS and art camp.

    I learned the 1st year that taking off for the summer meant we had to relearn a lot of skills. I buy supplements so we’re not constantly buying new curriculum – and try to work in more field trips and fun while public school kids are in school – and open the text books when they’re out of school & places are too busy!!
    Stef @ The HSV’s latest post: Guest – High School Locker – Elizabeth

  7. We homeschool year round, too. It just works so much better for us. In Texas, there is no state oversight or regulations, so we don’t have to keep up with days or anything like that. But we have found that it is just a better way to educate them. We adopted two little boys from Siberia almost 7 years ago and they, especially, do better when there aren’t long breaks. They are still needing so much remediation that we can make great use of the extra time. We do take off a week here and there for family trips, etc. I have been homeschooling for 19 years now and our school has never run better than it does going all year.
    I Live in an Antbed’s latest post: Though the Battle Rages

    • Good to know info..As we are considering Texas as our possible future home.. Just another good reason to write down for the pros’..list ;). We also homeschool year round..starting this year… I love this article! It hit’s the nail on the head in all aspects of our homeschooling life.

    • I live in Texas, too. And while I’ve always loved my state, I grew to love it even more when I started homeschooling. We have a rocking awesome HSLDA that fights for homeschooling rights like crazy.
      Kell’s latest post: The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle

  8. We homeschool year round too so that we can take breaks as necessary without worrying about getting hours in. We start in July when it gets too hot to be outside much and then take a fairly extended break sometime in the fall and again in December and April. We may not always do it that way, but it’s working well for us right now.
    Erin @ Mama in Progress’s latest post: Um

  9. I love this! Often, I find my self locked into homeschool needing to resemble public school. I love the flexibility homeschooling provides. Thank you for sharing even more options.

  10. This is our first year of home schooling, but I really warming up to the idea of all year home schooling. My kindergartener just started her first grade math book this week. It seemed like the right thing to do, she is enjoying it . Also right now, we are doing school four days a week instead of the traditional 5. This allows us to have a field trip/library/errand day in the middle of the week.
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith’s latest post: 7 Quick Takes Friday Volume 32

  11. Little Bit is my first and I plan on homeschooling him. He is 15 months old now but I am already thinking about curriculums and when to “do school.” We are blessed enough to have my parents live next door. They take Little Bit every Monday on Tuesday. Grandparents and Little Bit already adore this time. If I school year round I can continue to let him head out with Nana and Pap Pap on those days. I think that having that kind of time with his grandparents will be invaluable to his character development. Year round it is! Thanks for sharing your experiences!!
    Amy’s latest post: Toddler Talk Thursday- Toddler Easter Baskets

  12. We also school year around. It’s so foreign to me not to. Life is year-round. Learning out of school is year-round. Home school should be year-round.

    Staying in the same routine keeps kids focused. It is hard to get back on task on Mondays after only two days off. I can’t imagine taking off three months!

    Also about two years ago we made Fridays “Choose your Own Learning” days. The kids are free to choose anything they are interested in. Silent reading, art, math, social studies, science, anything. And yes, they do choose traditional subjects like Math!

    • That is a great idea about the “Choose your Own Learning” days, Heather! Thanks for sharing that! I had always planned to homeschool year round to avoid the stress of getting everything done and clocking enough days per the law, but I tend to lean heavily towards the “academic” subjects and forget the others. I think that this idea may be a great way to work in those art and music experiences that I would love for our little ones to do!

  13. We have went to homeschooling year round. Thank you for reminding me that we can take a break to clean the house that has been bothering me and making me cranky! ;) We homeschool 4 weeks on, 1 week off with extra time off in December and June. We even mostly school 4 days a week with the 5th day light and wrapping up extras and doing activities. We read literature and nonfiction books in the evening before bedtime and on the weekends too. Wonderful post!

  14. I like the idea of schooling year round and we kind of do it our own way. I like to have all my curriculum for the next year by the time we finish up the curriculum for the current year. Then when the kids get bored and I’m tiered of trying to find things for them to do we start school. Then we go as long as we can before we take any breaks. Last year we finished in May and Started this year in July. We will finish in about two weeks this year and we are moving and having a baby within the next 2 months, so we will see when we start up again this time. I loved being able to have most of the month of December off and be able to do some fun school things for Christmas, rather than having to focus on the textbooks.
    Suanna’s latest post: Is your room clean

  15. I have always wanted to do this but when it came down to it…I just couldnt compete w/ the neighborhood kids and the slip and slide!
    My kids are young but they still know that summer is approaching and annticipate to live in nana’s pool w/ their cousins (who go to school.)
    So that’s where I get stuck- my sister’s kids and my kids are best buds and want to spend the summer playing together…
    Any other mom’s had this ‘problem’- I’d like to try year round but I dont want them to feel like their missing out…

    • I semi teach year around. We have a lot of school kids in our neighborhood and a pool in our back yard. We just go lighter in the summer. On a regular school day we do a whole math lesson. In the summer we do half of that lesson. I have also found that we can be done by lunch and the other kids sleep late so we are all ready to play at about the same time. I think the love of family and the friendship of great cousins may be as important as anything else they can be taught.

    • School during the summer can look different than the rest of the year … the kids might not even know it’s “school” … but Mom can feel better knowing that learning has been worked in enough to qualify as year-round homeschoolers. Notice that these posts include different schedules but they all consider themselves year-rounders. It doesn’t always have to be textbooks, workbooks, written work, Math/Reading/Spelling (etc) to be considered “school.” They don’t have to be formal lessons. Are the children learning, exploring, getting exercise, drawing, playing imaginative games, etc? If so, consider yourself a year-rounder! (That said, I did not take into account the ages of your children. I suppose for older children (middle school on up) then year-round school might look different.)
      Jane’s latest post: Sonlight Curriculum

    • Keeping in mind we haven’t started our first year but I plan to let them play outside 1/2 the day and do school work the other 1/2. In the summer, it will be the same…

  16. We are year round learners. We have lessons 3 days out of the week with other projects and volunteer work in between. This is how we have been doing it for a couple of years now. It seems to work better for our family.
    Rana’s latest post: This Moment

  17. I agree w/Diane! We don’t plan our breaks either. We allow them to occur naturally. They usually occur mainly in the spring and the fall when it is beautiful out and we would much rather be outside playing then inside studying. The heat of the summer when everyone is complaining is when we got the bulk of our schoolwork done last year. It was great! Then I NEVER feel guilty for taking a non-school day. We move at a much slower pace (HAVE to w/our size family) and it makes for much more peace!

  18. We learn all year round-of course- but our formal homeschool year follows the public school, for the most part, as my husband is a teacher. Generally we shift gears by the end of May, putting an end to most formal work (things like math texts and essays), preferring to get outside more, still enjoy plenty of arts/crafts/music, reading, journaling and so forth. I do think that this schedule allows us to be more in tune with the seasons where we live: deep hibernation through one half of the year :) and a lighter, more carefree/outdoors life during the second half.

  19. Schooling year round makes the most sense for us. Daddy works all year, and there’s less to review because the kids are holding on to it and using it more. I love it! We do 25 days of school in a 6 week period and take off a week or two. Thanks for the encouraging post.

  20. I taught elementary school for 13 yrs, and I can attest to the fact that curriculum is written with the assumption that, during the summer, kids have forgotten much of what they learned the yr before. At least the first six weeks is a review of last yr’s skills.

    A consistent routine with several short breaks, instead of one long one, is best as far as retaining material and making progress.

    And not wasting time.
    Emily’s latest post: Concentrace Trace Mineral Drops Review

  21. We school year-round for moments such as right now … we had taken off extra time in December because it was time for a break and to make room for extra activities (every group we’re involved in was having Christmas parties, we had pageant rehearsals, etc), and finally, when it was time to restart, both kids got the rotavirus and were down for over a week. I got them back to health and was ready to start (again) when I hurt my neck and my daughter came down with something else (sinus infection, maybe?). I feel like we’ll never get back to school, but I’m still reading to them, and bringing educational videos home from the library, and when they’re healthy enough, they are still going to their activities and groups that include educational opportunities. I don’t feel like we’re missing too much when I see it in terms of public school children being off for 3 months in the summer. Times like now are why we go ahead and do our school work … in the air conditioning, during the summer, and take time off as needed.
    Jane’s latest post: Sonlight Curriculum

  22. This article and all the wonderful comments about year round homeschooling have been inspiring. I have a Kindergartner and a Pre-K starting the next school year and I have been seriously considering starting school up in mid-July when life in Kansas is officially unbearable. I think it will benefit my children in school as well as my one year old, and entire family for that matter. Thank you so much for sharing this article!! :-)

  23. We started homeschooling year round, too. I love having daily routines rather than rigid schedules. If learning is part of our everyday rhythm, I am much more inclined to open up the books and put the nose to the grindstone. I also transitioned to year round school time to take advantage of our beautiful spring and fall weather. Texas summers are brutal, and we can’t be outside all day. I take advantage of the deathly hot times to work on learning concepts.
    Kell’s latest post: The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle

  24. We have a “summer school” routine that keeps two or so core subjects going and I add in something fun or simple to go with it. That only takes an hour and a half to two hours a day, and we give the rest of the day for playtime, outings, dejunking, etc. Having that little bit of routine helps the whole day go better!

  25. I’ve just started homeschooling and I’ve been considering year round. I love the idea! I only have 2 kids but of course I’d love more flexibility and less re-teaching. Thanks for the post!

  26. Thanks for this post. I am toying with the idea of year round schooling as well. We currently live in Scotland but will go back to the states in a few years. Here, they don’t take a big summer break like we did in NC, but take lots of small breaks and 6 weeks for summer. I find it tough to keep the kids in while all the other kids in the neighborhood are playing right outside our window. I think my solution is going to be part days during the 6 week summer break and then in winter, when it’s cold and wet and the days are short, we can get loads done! Thanks again for the encouragement.

  27. We school year-round as well for many of the same reasons you listed! One exception is my high schooler. She does a “normal” school schedule as that fits better with classes that she takes out of the home but even then she takes a break when we do family trips in the fall. With my younger kids, year-round is necessary for my sanity! Loved this post!

  28. Rebecca says:

    I would love to know what curriculum you use that has 4 9 week units! Thinking of going to year round schooling for my 4 boys.

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