School's Out for the Summer!
Or is it?
The weather is warm, the sun is calling, and students everywhere are eagerly awaiting their summer vacation! The average school year is 180 days, held August through May, with an extended break in June and July. It’s a schedule ingrained in our culture and a part of treasured traditions. A Memorial Day kick off, an all day and night sultry Fourth of July, and one last hurrah over Labor Day weekend. A plan that works well for enjoying warm summer days and maximizing outdoor time. It’s the way of the world, and it works. Mostly. But what about those of us that aren’t bound to this calendar?
Even for homeschoolers, there are plenty of reasons to not stray too far from tradition. For some, simply the idea that there is a start and finish makes the year easier to manage. The long summer break makes it possible to pause and reevaluate your school plans and goals. Also, most of the extra-curricular activities we participate in are built around a fall start and a busy May wrap up. Summers will be filled with more impromptu plans with friends who are fancy free, and more chances to be outside.
Unless you live your life completely off the grid, you will inevitably feel the rhythm of the school calendar. A case in point -- this past spring break when everyone was out of school for a week, I told my kids we had no real plans and so there was no reason we needed to take off a week just because everyone else was doing it. Until, one was invited to a midday birthday party, one was invited to a sleepover and one just had to go with dad on his two-day trip. As hard as I tried to keep out the ways of the world, spring break found us, and we partied with the rest of them and did absolutely no schoolwork. So much for making up for some travel days.
On the other hand, I love that homeschooling doesn’t impose a strict schedule to which we must adhere. We can pick up and work when we have the time, and not stress when life changes our schedule. Most curriculum programs contain anywhere from 80 – 150 lessons for each subject to complete a grade, and this can be divided any way you like. I try to encourage my kids to think of education as not something we turn on and off, but something we pursue whenever possible, and thinking about school as more “year-round” helps keep us in the mindframe of continual learning. For me, the biggest advantage of stretching out the school year seems to be the avoidance of the “summer slide” when students backtrack their learning due to such a long break. Time must then be spent reteaching and rebuilding those skills.
Deciding how you plan to slice up your school days is something you will figure out as you go along. I find myself, as I do with most homeschool philosophies, somewhere in the middle of the two schools of thought. l can’t help but hear the siren call of long, worry-free days at the swimming pool, but you still might find us pulling out the ol’ math books as soon as I hear that familiar summer refrain, “I’m bored.” No problem, kid, Mom has got you covered.