The following was originally posted on www.homeschoolfacts.com in September 2015. We felt the content would be helpful for our UDL readers. Copied with permission. Enjoy!
If all the homeschool parents filled a big stadium one day, our fight song would be entirely about flexibility. We, the homeschool army, take full advantage of our freedom to strengthen our muscle of flexibility- and we do it in every way possible. If your state laws allow it, then it’s most likely done.
The “Homeschool Nation,” as I like to call us, tends to be the system-buckers, the do-it-yourselfers, the outside-of-the-box-thinkers. We like to choose our own curriculum, choose which hour of the morning or night we will start school, pick out eclectic extra-curricular activities, vacation when the masses aren’t and create classes with other members of the Homeschool Nation when we want them.
So, after taking the final plunge to live this crazy lifestyle, one of the most fun things to plan is the academic calendar. In my corner of the Homeschool Nation, every year has been vastly different than the others because of crazy life situations. One year, we moved 900 miles in August and everything was in storage for 4 months unexpectedly. Last year, I began our school year in July knowing a baby was to arrive in December, only to have the baby arrive early and require extended recovery. My self-given 6 week maternity vacation had to be extended to a full 10, which caused all of my planning to be off by an entire month. I learned two things in my super-planning endeavor: Don’t trust my own predictions and don’t date an entire year’s worth of lesson plans.
While flexibility is the beauty of every homeschool calendar, there are several different models a family could embrace. Here are a few:
Your homeschool calendar can look identical to the calendars used by schools around you. This is fun because, while all of your friends are posting back-to-school pictures, you can too. You also don’t “stick-out” to the waitress at the local pancake house when you’re still on summer vacation while everyone else is at a desk somewhere. Plus, the buzz about everyone else starting up their new grade helps you to gear up, too.
The Time Shifter
You could create a total shift in the time/space continuum and begin your school year in January or some other time of the year. I admire those that are able to do such counter-cultural things like this, but I don’t think I could. Perhaps my public school education trained me too deeply, but I will always associate fall leaves, new lunch boxes, bright white Keds and sharp pencils with September. If you’re the time shifter, I applaud you and wish I could adjust to change as well as you can!
3 On/ 1 Off
But there are all sorts of ways of developing a school calendar that fall somewhere in between the standard and the time shifter. Within the first year or two of homeschooling, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who happens to be one of the greatest educators I know. She and I were talking about an ideal school year calendar. She told me that if she was in charge of developing the public school calendar, she would insist on a 3 month on/1 month off system. Three months gives adequate time to dive deeply into a theme, subject, or historical time period. Then, by taking a longer break, the kids and teachers are recharged and ready to go. This becomes a year-round type calendar. Based on the energy level in her own classroom, she felt it would provide the kids times of intense learning, then deep rest, thus creating excited and effective learners and teachers.
4 On/2 Off
A modification of the 3on/1off system, is the 4on/2off idea, which is much like many university calendars. This would be a great calendar style for high school students as it would get them used to a longer time of intense study before college class schedules hit hard.
So Homeschool Nation, I trust you to strengthen that Flexibility Muscle and take advantage of an entire year. Forego the cute planning notebooks if they don’t fit your learning schedule, snap back-to-school pictures in March if you want, enjoy school all summer because of the air conditioning, or stick to the tried and true model. Whatever you pick, make sure it works for your family, that you get in all your required amount of days, and have fun.
As a side note, the best way to meet new homeschool families if your area is to wait until the surrounding schools start their year and immediately hit public places such as libraries, playgrounds or other local sites. Chances are, those other families you see enjoying themselves aren’t skipping school, they are probably homeschoolers too! Go say “Hi” – you just might have found the newest members of the Homeschool Nation.
Does your calendar require some flexibility?
Online homeschool curriculum could be the key!
Lindsay Banton is a caffeinated mother to three great kids. She never expected to homeschool, but has found that it is a wonderful addition to their lifestyle and wouldn’t change it for the world. In addition to homeschooling, Lindsay works alongside her husband in campus ministry at a large university in Connecticut. She grew up in Virginia but has settled into life in New England, learning to love the long winters, cool springs, green summers and gorgeous autumns- and has built a boot collection to meet all the demands.