Written by contributor Toni Anderson of The Happy Housewife
It took me a few years to realize that as a homeschooler I didn’t have to follow the public school schedule. Growing up in public schools left me ingrained with nine week periods and summer vacation. Once I realized I had the freedom to create a different schedule homeschooling became so much easier!
Goodbye nine weeks, hello flexibility!
How do you determine what schedule is best for your family? Well, if your current method is working don’t change it. If you are struggling to finish school by the end of the year, stressed out, or constantly feeling behind I’d recommend trying a different schedule.
The scheduling possibilities for homeschooling are endless, but here are just a few.
Follow the Public School Calendar
For many families this schedule works great. If there are siblings in school or a dad who works in the school system having the whole family on the same schedule makes life easier for mom. The best part, there is no schedule to create, the public school does it for you.
Labor Day to Memorial Day
If you like a long summer (perhaps you live in an area with terrible winters and beautiful summers) this is a great schedule. A longer summer means fewer breaks during the school year, you may end up doing school on Veteran’s Day, but you’ll be enjoying summer longer than most.
Year Round Schooling
Year round schooling is great for families who like a lot of flexibility. Lora does a great job of discussing the benefits of schooling year round, especially for younger children. If you like to travel a year round schedule is wonderful for taking vacations and field trips during the off season. Destinations are less crowded and you usually save money too.
Six Weeks On, One Week Off
Joy from Five J’s uses a six week on, one week off schedule, or as she calls it a no stress schedule. With this schedule summer break is only four weeks. This is perfect for kids who tend to forget everything over a long summer vacation. This schedule also gives everyone several mini breaks throughout the school year.
Four Days a Week
Do you find that maintaining your house is impossible during the school year? If so then a four day a week school schedule might work great for you. Many families use Fridays as field trip day or cleaning day. This schedule is great for staying caught up on cleaning and household projects throughout the school year.
January 1st- December 31st
Why not start the school year when you start the new year? This schedule usually allows for a month break in December/January and a few other breaks throughout the year. This is a great idea, but easiest to implement if you start when your kids are young.
Create Your Own Schedule
Does dad work nights or weekends? Is October the best month of the year in your area? Create a schedule that works for you. I’ve heard of families taking “summer” break in October and November, or doing school on the weekends and taking Wednesday and Thursday off to be with dad.
Schedules and High School
While over the years I’ve loved the flexibility homeschooling has allowed our family, I’ve realized that once the kids are in high school things change a bit.
Especially if your child is interested in attending college, things like co-op classes, dual enrollment, work, extra-curricular activities, and service projects fill the calendar. I’ve found that keeping my older kids on a public school calendar schedule works for them even though my younger children still school year round.
There are no rules when it comes to creating a schedule as long as you meet the requirements of your state and the kids are learning. It’s okay to try several different schedules before finding one that works. Remember to be flexible and don’t feel pressured to follow the crowd.
Have you found a homeschool schedule that works for your family?
We’ve only homeschooled for 2 years, but we have followed the traditional school year. We attend classes through our local alternative school, which is in the school district. Summer is also glorious here, and we like to do a lot of hiking and outdoorsy stuff we can’t do the rest of the year. We pretty much stick to a Labor Day – Memorial day “formal learning” schedule, but this year my DD will be beginning kindergarten, and she is asking to learn to read, so we have been working on that. My DS is struggling in math, so we have been doing some math learning, as well as games to keep the skills fresh. Of course, we all know we don’t stop learning just because it’s summer. It just looks a bit different.
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Though we aren’t “officially” homeschooling yet (my babes are still quite small), I think year round homeschooling really appeals to me. It gives us the opportunity to take breaks whenever we feel it necessary, and not be too concerned about keeping a strict schedule. Whether or not that will work in later years (High school, specifically) I have no idea. Great post!
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We like to schedule the year around my husband’s university and teaching calendar. We’ve done that for several years but now I’m finding that as my girls get older and more involved in extra curricular activities it’s harder to have the flexibility to travel and take breaks when we want and according to his schedule. We have to be here for the regular elementary school year so that the kids don’t miss dance classes, coop classes, field trips etc. We can still take extended vacation days (no school even if we aren’t traveling) throughout the normal school year and only take a month off during the summer. Living in the south means we don’t go out much in July and August anyway!
We’re still figuring it out at our house, but we decided that, since we live in the Southeast, where, for a large part of the summer it is just too hot to go outside, that we’d take our “summer” vacation in late spring (which just so happened to coincide with the last few weeks of the university semester, during which my husband and I are very busy grading). We worked diligently for about 6 weeks, took a couple of weeks of while my husband and I attended conferences, and are starting fresh next week with new and exciting activities. I’m hoping that we can charge through another 6 weeks and take another short break as the weather cools off.
I do not function without a schedule. Otherwise, it’s too easy to “just let it slide”. However, I am so concerned about teaching high school this year. Getting it all accomplished, and doing it well. yikes!
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In South Africa our school system does run from Jan to December – I guess since the December/Christmas holiday is the longest, and also in our mid-summer. I have definitely found that keeping summer as less scheduled means that my 3 and 5 year old boys get in a lot of gross motor stuff at that time of the year. And winter (which is now for us) is more table-work, indoor crafts and games etc.
I love this post for reminding me that one of the reasons we are homeschooling is for the freedom/flexibility so I am trying not to feel pressured to stick to the school calendar.
My family has been following a 4 weeks on and 1 week off schedule for several years now. We take 1 wk. at Thanksgiving, 2 wks. at Christmas, 1 wk. in Spring, and about 6 wks. in the summer. So some of our 1 week off will fall on these other weeks. But this gives us a much needed break and I can grade, lesson plan, and finish up projects. We love it. Plus summers here in the south are very hot. Not much to do but sit inside, so might as well be doing school.
We start our school year in July. It’s just to hot and humid to go outside and play here in the middle of the summer, so I thought why not have school where we can enjoy the ac. Then in the Spring & Fall we take longer breaks because both are gorgeous here. We also home school 6 days a week. It may seem like over kill to some, but our oldest loves it and begged for us to start it. I am flexible though and if we all need a day off we’ll take one. I’m all for having a few lazy days where all we do it read, play and lounge around the house. This year he asked if we could just do school year round from now on because he enjoys it to so much, so we’re going to give it a try and see how it works for us.
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We will start this coming Monday and finish May 18. However, we have vacations and days off scheduled into that. That gives us a 2 month Summer break.
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When my kids were younger we schooled year round and took breaks whenever. As my kids have gotten older we’ve started following the public school schedule. I’ve found outside classes and volunteer oppertunities follow that schedule and it’s made things easier to do the same.
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Like a lot of other Southerners said, it gets so hot here in July and August that I figure start school in July and finish in the spring. This gives us the months of May and June (and part of July we start usually the 3rd week) when the weather is nice to enjoy being outside. This also gives us extra weeks during the school year to be off (like this year when our newest baby is due to arrive in September.) I don’t think I could ever school year around, though. I love having a long break to look forward too allowing us all to stay up late, sleep late, and just enjoy a good season of down time.
We’ve just started schooling this month. It is simply what worked for us this year. With multiple moves, a new baby and a whole new way of life-this is it. I can’t say I know how it’ll look for the rest of the “school year”, but we’re doing it now, even if we’re the only ones!
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this past year was our first year homeschooling. we started late summer, after our slew of summer guests ended. we were finished with our school year by the beginning of april. i planned it this way b/c we had a big move in april and i really wanted to not have to pack and repack books and supplies. we took a week off for christmas and about 3 weeks off in january for various traveling. there were quite a few half-weeks thrown in there and i usually didn’t schedule them. they were from unexpected things popping up! our transient life definitely showed me how to go with the flow!
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I have recently decided to follow a schedule that I read about here:
That means 6 weeks on, 1 week off, 6 weeks on, 1 month off…all year round. Since we are a Unit Study family, this kind of scheduling is perfect for us…6 units a year and I plan them on the breaks.
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I have 8 kids and have homeschooled for 15 years; my oldest has graduated 🙂
when the kids were younger, we schooled year round. taking breaks when a new baby was born, etc. one year I realized I really needed a summer break! we then switched to a 4 day a week; the 5th day being our PE/fellowship day. a few years later, and several in high school, I couldn’t lose a whole day to PE, so we now are on a schedule similar to the public schools. we don’t always have the same breaks they do, but we start mid-Aug and are done in May. I would love to take off from Thanksgiving to New Year’s and am going to see if I can make that work for us. I love the flexibility of doing school when and how it’s best for our family.
This is our third year of homeschooling and I like to start in July and take a nice Christmas break (3-6 weeks). We usually end around the first week of May. We also like to have a 4 day school week where we double up one day a week to make it the equivalent of 5 days work. Our day off is for running errands, playing catch-up, baking, volunteering or whatever we want to do that day.
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I don’t know about there, but in Australia the 4-day week model is very popular, we used it growing up.
I am considering something closer to year round homeschooling though, because it gives me the flexibility if we want a day off to just take it.
Living the Balanced Life
We homeschooled for 8 years. We probably tried all of these over the 8 year period. One of the hardest was working around our business schedule. Our business was seasonal, 2 busy months in spring and fall. We would typically only school 3 days a week during those times. We basically schooled year round with some extneded breaks. This enabled us to work our business and also take some time to travel during the off season.
Th awesome thing is the flexibility we had. I loved homeschooling! Kids are all graduated now!
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I had planned to start my kids in June for our first year of homeschooling – but really haven’t done much yet. My girls are only 3 ad had been asking to learn letters and do school (I teach elementary school and they want mommy to teach them not my school kids LOL) so I figured we’d start a simple pre-k routine. Since I teach in a PS I wanted to establish the routine when I’m home in the summer so it wold be easier to adjust to in the fall. I haven’t been able to give up my time off though to plan anything, so we are just doing a lot of reading out loud and pointing out letters in the environment (signs, books, cereal boxes, etc…). I am giving myself till August though then I want to add in a calendar/circle time and intro “work boxes.” I figure we’ll only do three days a week for this year though since they are so young, but probably go year round with time off when we feel like it.
Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith
I am really drawn to the four day a week schedule for sanity sake, however wondering how to make that work when 180 days of instruction are required for school? Any suggestions?
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We’ve homeschooled for 8 years now. When we first started my husband worked 12-hour shifts (3 days on, 3 days off) and we followed his schedule. My kids have always taken specials (art, music and PE) at the local school (amazing specials teachers!), so when my husband began working “normal” hours, it was natural for us to begin following the school schedule. My children now take a couple academic classes at the school, so we continue to follow that schedule. We do not take snow days or teacher workshop days though and often finish our work before school lets out. My kids continue math and reading throughout the summer.
I think we are going to start following the PS schedule in the Fall. I would like my children to be able to have days off at the same time as their PS friends. And of course we still have room to tweak things if we need too.
I am still totally new to dipping my toe in even researching home schooling (my son is 2) – but I have always loved the idea of year round learning.
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Actually finding a proper schedule has always been a challenge for me as a person…and now with homeschooling it’s even getting worse…hope I’ll make….. Thanks for the great info!!
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wendy aka frugalhomeschooler
I do a modified public school schedule. We finish our school year by Memorial Day and we start back up again around the middle of August, (it’s awfully hot by then to do anything outside) and takes breaks as needed. Last year, DS went on a one week vacation with his nana in early September to enjoy a fall festival out of town. I also take off one Friday a month to do all of my shopping.
Sarah in GA
my husband is a middle school teacher in public school so we basically stick to the same schedule he is on. however, we mostly do a 4 day week with the 5th day as our fun/field trip/hang out with other kids day. we also try to continue to do read-alouds and handwriting during the summer months.
I have been homeschooling since 2004 after my son’s diagnosis with a brain tumor. I decided to homeschool both of my children. My daughter graduated in 2010 and my son is entering high school this year. Homeschooling has been a huge blessing since we have so many doctor appointments for him. We were able to continue doing school during his radiation treatments at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. We live in Kansas but were able to load up our books and do school as he felt like it. He is currently having cognitive issues (possibly due to the radiation treatments on his brain) so I am able to give him extra activities to help with that aspect. The flexibility has been wonderful and we schedule his checkups in Memphis as our “spring break” and try to do something fun while there. Due to his change in memory, we will probably be going to a more year long schedule to keep his brain function up during the summer. Homeschooling has been a God-send!
We tried the school calendar the first year we homeschooled our two kiddos. I realized that teaching curriculum during the holidays was borderline impossible.
So…we did an accelerated year the following summer (1 full year in 6 months) and then started our 3rd year in January. We now school from the first or second week in January and finish the week before Thanksgiving. That seems to be when all the holiday buzz starts in our household. Our format is: 4 weeks on, 1 week off, 5 weeks on, 2 weeks off. Sometimes things come up and we have to move around or combine weeks but we always get it done without stress and with all the breaks we never seem burned out. It also leaves us plenty of time in the holidays to focus on the true meanings and do some off school unit studies.
We also do a 4 day week leaving the fifth day for cleaning and any unscheduled fun, appointments, and such. However, that open day is different each week. It’s wonderful because it makes our schedule feel less rigid. I just follow my deep cleaning schedule which is loosely based off of fly lady. Instead of deep cleaning throughout the week, I assign one day a month for each zone to deep clean. Otherwise, I never finish it.
This is our 1st year of homeschool. My girls are entering 4th and 5th grades and I have been working in the public school system since my youngest started Kindergarten. I am a homeschool kid and have always wanted to do this for my children and I have taken a leap of faith to do this by quitting my job. I am an art teacher and I plan on at least once per week to be teaching local private schools art as well as teaching for local homeschool groups. So I am in the process of deciding on a schedule and I really appreciate this article as well as the comments from readers.
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We homeschool year round but for 4 days each week. We love it!
We are all year round but I try to focus more on school during PS times. Learning is all year around anyway especially at younger ages. My son is creative and wants to build all kinds of things, he’s 8, eager to learn (most of the time). We have our days where he don’t want to do any work but we work around that in another form of learning. I love Homeschooling my son and he loves it to.
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We are coming up on the end of our first year of homeschooling and I see us following a year-round schedule with perhaps a little more relaxed attitude in the summer. We haven’t put any emphasis on “official” breaks during the year which has allowed us to guilt-lessly take our breaks when we have family visiting or other things come up.
Because I work part-time (mostly from home) and am working on my bachelor’s degree, our homeschool schedule is 3 trimesters (12 weeks on, 1 month off). We actually took about 6 weeks around the holidays and she will have off about 2 months in the summer before starting the next grade. It all works out to 180 days like ps though. This way, my school and her school overlap a little less. Also, I have to go into the office 1 day a week on Thursdays, so we do M, T, W, F, and Saturday. I do love having the flexibility to homeschool on the schedule that works for us – eventhough people are totally thrown when they hear our schedule – LOL! Oh well!