Below I give you 7 priorities for our new year round homeschool calendar.
As most homeschoolers do, when we first began homeschooling we adopted a typical public-school calendar, including a two-week Christmas break, a one-week spring break, and a three-month summer break.
We kept this public-school calendar for our first three years. But homeschooling during December always ended up being such a chore with our busy schedule, and it was so difficult to refocus on full-blown school after Thanksgiving break; the one-week break in the spring wasn't long enough to recover from the long stint of schooling from January through March; and then summer break seemed a bit too long.
So this year we decided to change things up a bit. We switched to having three 12-week terms, taking December off completely, having only a six- or seven-week break in the summer, and then having a two-week break in between terms.
We liked the schedule at first; but by the third term, we ran out of steam. Twelve weeks straight was just too long to "do school" without a break.
And so I'm changing things up again. But this time I have specifically defined priorities — and a year's worth of experience — to help guide me as I make out the calendar. Here are the goals I wanted to accomplish with this school-year calendar.
1. Shorter school terms (ideally less than eight weeks).
2. More frequent breaks to let all of us decompress and recoup in between terms.
3. Each break at least two weeks long, but not so long that the kids and I go stir-crazy.
4. Most or all of June off while the kids participate in our church's summer activities (and so the kids feel like they have at least some semblance of a summer break).
5. Lighter school schedule in December since we're usually so busy.
6. Lighter school schedule in the summer to accommodate the kids' activities with their friends.
7. At least 180 official school days to meet our state's minimum requirements. Trying to accomplish each and every goal with one school calendar seemed daunting at first, but I think I came up with a schedule that will work for us. Here's our 2009-2010 school calendar in a nutshell.
2009-2010 School Calendar
Term 1 (5 weeks, 2 days) — August 20–September 25
Fall Break (2 weeks) — September 28–October 9
Term 2 (6 weeks) — October 12–November 20
Thanksgiving Break (1 week) — November 23–27
Term 3 (lightly-scheduled 3 weeks, 2 days) — November 30–December 22
Christmas Break (2 weeks, 1 day) — December 23–January 6
Term 4 (6 weeks, 2 days) — January 7–February 19
Pre-Spring Break (2 weeks) — February 22–March 5
Term 5 (5 weeks) — March 8–April 9
Spring Break (2 weeks) — April 12–23
Term 6 (6 weeks) — April 26–June 4
Summer Break (4 weeks) — June 7–July 2
Term 7 (lightly-scheduled 4 weeks) — July 5–30
If you prefer a visual look at our calendar, here you go (click the image to enlarge to full-size). The days in yellow are school days; the days in red are breaks. The Thursdays that are bold denote Jaden's science co-op classes; unfortunately six of those fall during our breaks, but I couldn't figure a good way around it.
This schedule gives us 181 school days. Of those 181 school days, 37 days will be lightly-scheduled, meaning I'll schedule less core schoolwork during those days. During the lighter terms I plan to focus on courses such as life skills, music theory, logic, etc. Those terms will also be ideal for field trips.
Even with those 37 lighter days, that still leaves 144 days for working on core studies such as math and English which is plenty of time for most curricula.
The kids and I are excited about adopting this year round homeschool calendar for next year. With the lighter-scheduled terms in December and July, it won't seem too much like year-round school and we will all enjoy having the frequent breaks.
UPDATE: We are tweaking this calendar for the 2010-2011 school year. See our new calendar here.