Scheduling a Low-Stress School Calendar

We finally may have found our low-stress school calendar that works for us.

We've been homeschooling for five years, and in that time we've experimented with a number of different school calendars.

We started off following the public school calendar, beginning and ending at the same time, and taking the same breaks at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break.

Then in 2008 we changed it up a little, moving to three 12-week terms, taking the entire month of December off, and schooling through mid-July. We loved the longer break in December, but soon discovered that the 12-week terms were just too long and stressful.

So for this school year we shortened the terms to 6 weeks, planning to take 2 weeks off between each term, then schooling during the month of July. This schedule went well for most of this school year; the shorter terms relieved a lot of stress for the kids, and I really enjoyed being able to plan 6 weeks of school at a time. But I felt that the frequent 2 week breaks were too much. (I'm never satisfied, am I!)

As a result, since Christmas we have changed to 6-week terms with only 1 week off in between. And this finally seems to be the right fit for us.

So for the 2010-2011 school year, we are planning 6-week terms with 1-week breaks. With the calendar I've set up, we have some flexibility that will give us anywhere from 180 to 200 school days.

Here's a look at our school calendar for the 2010-2011 school year. (Click the image to view full size.)

I'm thankful we've finally found a low stress school calendar that works for us. I'd love to hear what works for you.

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Comments

  1. says

    How did you make the calendar, if you don't mind my asking? That is a lot like what I am *planning* on doing with our school year…key word is planning. Haven't got it all figured out yet!
    .-= Blossom´s last blog ..Blog Button =-.

    [Reply]

    Joy Reply:

    @Blossom, I just used my ancient version of Adobe InDesign. The monthly calendars are just tables, so you could do it in a lot of different programs.

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  2. says

    That kind of rigidity would make me nuts, but good for you! lol
    We school year-round, taking breaks based on the weather. We school the most in the summer and winter when it's too hot and too cold to be outside. In the spring and fall, just whenever the weather is nice we slow-down (3 Rs only) or stop completely. I definitely school more than public schools this way, but I love the structure that homeschooling provides to my day and my kids don't know any better. ;)
    .-= Ginger´s last blog ..Jon Voight calls out Barack Obama =-.

    [Reply]

    Joy Reply:

    @Ginger, Ha! We've run the gamut of rigidity when it comes to scheduling. I've discovered that we definitely need a framework like this calendar. If we don't have some kind of routine, then nothing gets done.

    We do still take days off when the feeling hits us, but having this ideal goal in mind helps us stay focused when we need to. It's definitely not for everyone, and for me, it's actually freeing :)

    My kids really like that the term is only 6 weeks. It's not so far away that they can't see the end of it, and that also means if they want to rearrange their day to go to a friend's house, they can see how they'd have to adjust their schedule to still finish their assignments by the end of the term.

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  3. says

    We school six days a week, year round. I don't plan any weeks off during the year. We just take days off when something else comes up. Since we school so much that's never a problem. School is not a stress in our house. We have two hours of quiet school each day which corresponds with nap time. We'd be home then anyway and it makes it easier for the little ones to nap when everyone else is quiet too. Plus I like having the quiet time in the middle of my day. Quiet school is math and writing (related to our history and science–which I do 6 months of each). During noisy school time (before and after nap time) the children use the computer, usually something to do with their history or science, plus any art or music on their own. I never schedule reading because my kids love to read. I just bring out any book I want them to read and they take care of the rest. Plus we go on a walk all as a family any day it's not pouring rain! That's all. Nice and easy. No stress. No need for breaks.
    .-= Lee´s last blog ..Civil War =-.

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  4. says

    This is how we school at our house as well. The only difference is that we do 4-6 weeks at a time with 1 week off. We also take July off. We are just on the last stretch off our 1st year on this schedule.

    [Reply]

    Joy Reply:

    @Joelle, Oh, yay! I've not met anyone who uses a calendar like ours yet. How did you like it this year? Do you plan out the schoolwork for the whole term during your breaks?

    [Reply]

    Joelle Reply:

    @Joy, It went well this year. I plan the whole year by weeks. During each break I would check how we were doing and adjust consequently. I planned on doing the same thing for next year. Both the kids and I benefit from the break.

    [Reply]

  5. Lori Barrett says

    Dear Joy, thanks so much for this info and your visual! We're in our 5th year of HSing and I know things need to change! Like you said, I need a schedule (I'm Type A!), but I still need those refreshing breaks in there! This year we schooled for 3 months straight Jan.-Mar. and I said, "Never again!!" ;-) We are using Sonlight, which has the days laid out for us, so this way I can just pick up where we left off and still have time for the "fun stuff" which I never seem to get to!

    God bless, Lori ;-)

    [Reply]

  6. says

    We try to stick to a schedule very close to this. However I haven't sat down and planned it out, yet. This is something I have decided to do. We are currently on a break. When we start back we will have a calendar as reference. Then if something happens and school doesn't, I can simply take from our break times.

    The only differences are that, I take off more time before Christmas. We typically do school for 2 weeks in December. And start up the first week of January, sometimes I give them one or two days off into January. Along with that, we don't typically like a large summer break either. I plan our summer breaks during our canning/preserving time.
    OKAY so I will write a scheduling our year post, and let you know when I do, then you can read it.
    I doubt it will look quite as nice, though. I have no idea how to make a calendar like that!!!

    [Reply]

  7. says

    Thank you for sharing this. As a hope-to-be homeschool mom one day this gives me some food for thought as I consider how I will be structuring things.

    As a former school teacher I am all for removing the LONG break that most kids have. My students only looked forward to the first few weeks and then told me how bored they would get. Their minds need more in the summer.
    .-= Janna @ The Adventure of Motherhood´s last blog ..I Put Mabels Labels to the Test: Watch My Video =-.

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  8. says

    Hi Joy,
    We've done the 6 half term method for a few years (i.e. 6 week sessions like you). When I needed more breaks for health reasons, we swtiched to 4 week sessions with a week off in between, but that makes the school year stretch out, and I have teens wanting summer jobs, so that no longer works.

    Now we're trying one mad 12 week stretch, but we need to take garden breaks, and that's a problem. I find that we need to readjust our schedule every year. But I still plan by terms and/or half terms.

    So enjoy your schedule while it works, but be prepared to switch it again in the future! LOL

    Annie Kate
    .-= Annie Kate´s last blog ..Yummy, Simple Banana Ice Cream =-.

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  9. says

    We made a similar progression, except when stepping down from 3 months on/1 month off, we went to 3 weeks on, 1 week off. We start August 1st and go through the end of June. It works well for us because it's easy to move the 1 week around in a particular month if we need to, to make it line up better with a holiday or planned vacation. Keeps things flexible. =)
    I do like the sound of six week terms though. Hmmm. ;)
    .-= Amber @ Classic Housewife´s last blog ..Back to the Grind, er, School Day =-.

    [Reply]

  10. says

    We do a VERY similar calendar… We use 6 6-week sessions, but we only "do school" 4 days a week! Since my husband's work schedules vary so much from week-to-week, we allow our school schedule to, also. I plan 5 days worth of school into 4. If Dad's home and we plan to do something educational, that's our 5th school day. If he's not going to be home, we relax a bit more and go ahead and do 5 days of "less" school each day. Someday, we hope to make piano lessons be a regular part of our week, too.

    WE LOVE the 4-day week! Though we have to remain strict about getting our assignments done each week, the flexibility of each day makes me sooooo less stressed!

    I'm thinking of doing four 9-week periods this year, with one week after the 1st and 3rd. Longer breaks in December and summer. Ever tried that?

    [Reply]

    Joy Reply:

    @Christa @ No End in Site, Nope, never tried the 9-week schedule. I did try the 12week, and that was way too long. I definitely like the shorter 6week terms, so I think I'm spoiling myself so much with that I'd never want to try anything longer now. :)

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  11. says

    We discovered the 6 week on 1 week off after following the public school system schedule for 4 years and finding I was spent by the end. The last two years of doing the 6-1 has been awesome. I always seem to struggle to not have an 8 or 9 week stretch at the end though. It seems that I have a 3-1 in the fall due to how holidays fall, so I need to tweak it so as to not have such a long last semester. I will take a look at yours and see if you have solved that already :) I have learned that 9 weeks is the pits. My kids have loved this also. I have to say, I am amazed at the moms that are so laid back and can just go with the flow. I wish I was more like that.

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  12. says

    This is the schedule I'm currently working on myself. I would like to make a similar calendar to yours. How did you get the blocks of color? Did you ues a particular program?

    Thanks!
    Elisabeth

    [Reply]

    Sarah Reply:

    @Elisabeth,
    You can do the same kind of thing in Excell (PC) or Numbers (Mac) or even Word or Pages. You just make a table/spreadsheet that is 7 columns wide, and 7 rows – 1 for the month title, 1 for days of the week, and 5 for the numbers. You can recolor the cell boxes as desired.

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  13. says

    Oh my goodness! Do you know how happy I am to have found your blog?? I am just starting a 6 week on 1 week off schedule this year!! So this helped ALOT!..I have a question, the 2 weeks in July is that when you start a new year or the same school year? I just don't know if I could take a whole month off and then start back school unless it was the break before starting a new school year lol…

    [Reply]

    Joy Reply:

    @Amanda Smith, The July semester is ideally a wrap up for the previous school year, where we'd be covering things we didn't quite get done as well as working on extra curricular activities (like home ec).

    And I want to stress the word "ideally" because I'm not sure how well this will work out for us this year. I may be adapting the schedule even more now that I no longer teach piano lessons. As such, we won't be as tied to a public-school-year mentality. I'd love to be able to continue the 6:1 pattern year round.

    [Reply]

  14. says

    Hmmm..Ok..considering I am a goof when it comes to designing anything like this on the computer, would you be willing to make me a calendar like this but have us go to June 9th and then a vacation until July 11th, which would be when we would start our new year:).. I would so totally pay you to create one! lol!;)

    [Reply]

  15. Costanzo says

    Great planning..we are trying a similar schedule this year with the exception of a light week before and after Christmas. During the breaks in between,we make any necessary adjustments. Thanks for sharing…

    [Reply]

  16. says

    My friend just showed me this post, last night, and I am loving this schedule!! This is how I wsih I could do school. I think I'm gonna try this. Thank you!!!

    [Reply]

  17. MomStarr says

    What do you do when you have a week where there is sickness? Also what if they didn't finish all the work you had assigned during the 6 weeks? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Joy Reply:

    We just put off that work until the next available time. If we don't get all the work done in the 6 weeks, we just move it to the next term. However, that usually doesn't happen.

    [Reply]

  18. Carrie K says

    Hi, I'm new to homeschooling. Can anyone explain to me if I could get a school years worth of work done in 4 days of school with 6 weeks on, 1 week off? I'm still trying to learn how this would go. Any help would be so appreciated:)

    [Reply]

    Joy Reply:

    @Carrie K, A lot depends on your state. If you have attendance requirements, you might have to work around those. But for the most part, figure 180 days of instruction. If you do a 4-day school week, that means you need 45 weeks of school. So yes, you could do seven 6-week terms and then one 3-week term (maybe during December?) and still get your 180 days of official schooling in each year.

    [Reply]

    Carrie K Reply:

    @Joy, Thanks Joy. That made it alot clearer. I live in Arizona and I believe there are no requirements for attendance. Any advice you could give someone that in new to this?:)

    [Reply]

    Sarah Reply:

    @Carrie K,

    Arizona homeschool laws: http://www.homeschoolacademy.com/resources/state-laws/arizona-homeschooling-laws/

    Although these kinds of summaries are helpful, be sure you read and understand the actual laws of your state. I know they are long and in legalese, but if you know what the actual law says, you won't be fooled by any well-meaning (or otherwise) school district officials or friends who tell you that you need to do this or that. Good luck!

  19. says

    Thanks for posting your calendar! My son is only preschool age but I was planning on doing something similar. It was very helpful to see it!

    [Reply]

  20. Carrie K says

    Thanks for the info of the Arizona laws. I really appreciate it. Also, does anyone have any ideas on getting kiddos on a daily schedule and weaving blocks of time in the day to work with each child? Thanks so much for your help.

    [Reply]

  21. Nancy says

    This is a great schedule. We started up school in mid-July as I'd just had surgery and it was blazing hot outside, so it was a good use of our time when we were home-bound anyway.

    The long summer off is antiquated and not at all useful or efficient. Much better to be able to take days off when the weather is fine and tourists are few. During the summer we still get to the pool in the afternoons after we are done with our school work, and take days off to have fun with our friends who are not in school.

    It's great to have the freedom to not have to squish all our schooling into one old-fashioned schedule. Planning a school year of close to 200 days gives flexibility when one gets sick or the temptation to play is just to great. This has really reduced the stress for us!

    [Reply]

  22. says

    Thanks so much for this post. I began homeschooling my daughter for her Preschool year. I figured that although I was terrified, how could I mess up numbers, letters, and shapes (right?!!). Well, it's been such an amazing adventure. My husband and I decided to take the leap and continue homeschooling for Kindergarden (and as long as the Lord permits). I was terrified of scheduling. Then I came upon this post about 3 weeks ago and I loved it! 6 weeks increments with week long breaks in-between made so much sense to me. I can handle 6 weeks. I will be printing out your calendar. Thank you so much for the free printable!

    [Reply]

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