Tuesday, September 23, 2008

School Year Calendar

Note: This is actually my second attempt at this post. The first time just before I hit "publish post" I highlighted the text to change the font and... poof! It was gone. Now that was a bad bloggin' day. So if this post seems lackluster, I can assure you it was better the first time. And if you love this post, I'm sure it was because it I spent double the time on it.

Writing about
slowing down and taking time for mom got me thinking about something that has made a huge difference in the success of Blue House Academy, our school year calendar. One of the smartest decisions I've made in homeschooling is developing a calendar that reflects our family's needs and limitations. It is well-documented that children forget a lot over a long summer break, and I can especially see this with Ryne. He also really needs the structure homeschooling provides our days. But even more important than these needs, my personal limitations greatly affect our schedule. For years I have dealt with undiagnosed fatigue issues and occasionally some odd stress-related symptoms, so I can only go so long before I just hit a wall. And let's face it -- homeschooling is hard work. By the end of the day I'm exhausted. Shorter and more frequent breaks enable me to run this marathon called life.

So I was intrigued when I read the scheduling suggestions in
The Well Trained Mind. The authors give three options for stretching the school year out. The main difference between the three plans is how the breaks are distributed.

Option 1

School - September, October, November
Break - December
School - January, February, March
Break - April
School - May, June, July
Break - August

Option 2

School for three weeks and break for one week, year round.

Option 3

Adjust breaks around holidays and times when everyone is growing tired of school (the authors include a detailed sample schedule of how this option might work).

I decided against Option 1 almost as soon as I read it. There is just no way I could go 3 months straight. What I ended up with was a modified Option 2 that takes some ideas from Option 3. If one were to strictly follow Option 2, the school year would be 39 weeks long. I decided to go with the more traditional 36 weeks, adding those extra 3 weeks to the Christmas break and summer vacation.

Last year was our first year to use this schedule, and it worked great! The breaks came just when we were starting to get burned out, but they weren't so long that we settled into a life of laziness. On the contrary, I use the breaks to get caught up on all the planning/record keeping homeschooling tasks as well as home projects. Not completely caught up, of course. I thought I'd be able to use one of my weeks off to paint the living room, but now I'm starting to think that will just have to wait until Grace leaves for college.

This year the calendar was a little more difficult to plan. The 3 weeks on/1 week off schedule wasn't lining up as nicely with the holidays as it had last year, so I reluctantly decided on a mostly 4 week schedule. Here is our 2008-2009 School Year Calendar:

The weeks highlighted in peach are the weeks we "do" school (because homeschooling really happens every day, right?). Fridays are a lighter shade of peach because I only plan for a half day, which includes art, music, and/or field trips, or for just catching up on work not completed earlier in the week. I can also easily move this half day around within the week, in case we have a dentist appointment, food co-op delivery date, or something else that interrupts our week.

I love our calendar, but we are certainly not married to it. Flexibility is one of the great things about homeschooling. In fact, this year we had to "tweak" our calendar the first week of school! When I set up the calendar I didn't realize that Anna would have her final two championship swim meets the week we were scheduled to start school. So we pushed our start date back a week and took out our August break. Seven straight weeks of school just about killed me, but I'm glad we did it. I now have confirmation that frequent breaks are good -- for me and for the kids. Our calendar has helped us greatly in our goal to slow down, and it has been crucial in taking care of mom.

To download a copy of our calendar, click here.


  1. Our option is more like 6 weeks on, a week off. We take off a week around Thanksgiving, two around Christmas, and 3-4 weeks in summer. We also take "mental health days" here and there when we're burned out and rather sit around and read in our pjs all day. ;) I love those days.

    Loved hearing about your schedule thoughts.

  2. So, do you like that I disabled the word verification? : )

    I don't know how you even have time to homeschool! I just spent the last hour looking through all the archives at Graphically Designing -- you are a busy momma! But very talented too, so I'm guessing that spills into homeschooling as well.

    (Anyone reading these comments, please go visit 3 boybarians to see her fantastic blog. She is going to be giving Blue House Academy a makeover in the near future!)

    Thanks for visiting!

  3. This seems like a really sensible suggestion. I will have to talk to my husband about it. I think it would work well for us, but actually having it written down would be important so I didn't fudge it too much! Thanks for the help.
    ~ Sharon from Equip Academy

  4. Sharon,

    Yes, I think it does help to have things in writing because it helps keep you accountable. Glad you found it useful!


  5. found this older post of yours, spotting it by 'The well Trained Mind'.
    I'm in the throws of an upcoming move, and want to keep on task, somewhat... so I guess I was looking for inspiration, and voila, your last years schedule post.
    I have always been in favor of option 1 3 months,to 1 month, but that doesn't really play out( I think you have said that well). So I think I'll have to go with the 3 weeks to 1 option. I like staying consistent, not stopping for long periods of time.
    more on the 'move' soon on my blog.
    p.s. I'm sorry but I'm so curious about this bread link but am having trouble finding it. You may have posted it today and it hasn't shown up on my list yet. I'm sure it will turn up. no hurry, I'm still buying ww bread(the real stuff) as we have some other busy matters. but it will sure help out on $ when I can get in a groove.
    Thanks for staying in touch- Laura