So, hello there! I am back. Well, today at least.
I get questioned a lot about how we homeschool year-round. I hope to answer most of those questions here and lay out for you specifically how I plan my school year.
We chose this system for it's ease and adaptability. We have used this system from the start and I would never want to use the traditional system after the years spent loving year-round schooling.
Most homeschoolers use the public school system "9 months of school to 3 months of vacation" rule. You have your major holidays off, a spring and fall break (usually consisting of 3 days to a week in length) and then a long summer break.
That is not quite the way year-round homeschooling works.
When I plan out my school year, first I count to see how many weekdays there are from my start point to my end point. So, my school year this year will start September 11th and end September 11th. The end date is a "target". I may or may not actually end on that day. By "end" I mean complete my Tennessee law mandated 180 days (find your law here). I may not take as many breaks as I intended and finish early, or I may have some big catastrophe that mucks up a whole month and our school year may end a week later (like the 2 births I have had to add in over the past 7 years-- this is not to be confused as a catastrophe, by any means, but births do throw a wrench into your perfectly scheduled year) . Of course, the beauty of this system is that you plan for those catastrophe days in advance so you can slip them in unnoticed, barring an overlap in school years.
To count out and plan my school year, first I print a calendar year out or use the calendar that is usually in the front of my teacher planner book. I print all my calendars here. I use this basic planner. Then you count all the weekdays from your start day to your end day. This is an average of 260 days, depending on the year and where your start and end dates lie on the calendar.
Our count for the 2012-2013 year is 261 weekdays. Be sure to jot your number down. Next, subtract your law mandated days by your weekdays number. Here is my math: 261-180 = 81. 81 is now my favorite number. That is how many days I can now choose to take off throughout my school year.
Now for my favorite part. You will need your calendar and some highlighters. --Side note: I love highlighters. Can't and do not want to live without them. End side note.-- Look through your calendar and mark off the days you KNOW you will take off. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, etc. Maybe you already know when your beach vacation will be, or when you make your family visits to relatives half-way across the country. I choose a yellow highlighter for my vacation days. Here is how my calendar looks at this point in the planning system. (yellow highlighter does not show up on the scanner, so for your benefit, I made this one with x's representing our vacation days)
*this calendar does not include our last month of school in September '13
I have marked off our Beach Vacation, Thanksgiving Break, Christmas Break, Spring Break, and Fourth of July Break. This took off 35 days and giving me a remainder of 46 days. I like to leave myself between 20-30 days of sick/mental health days. I can use these for just about anything that comes up. That leaves me with about 15 more vacation days to plot out. I decided to add an extra week to our January and July breaks and then I threw in a Fun Friday May and marked off all the Fridays in May. This left me with 31 sick/mental health days. Here is my next revision with the additions marked in green x's.
Again, this looks much prettier in highlighter. As you can see, though, we get a wonderful spattering of breaks throughout the year.
You can now hole punch this calendar and place it in your notebook or folder or planner and use it as your attendance sheet. I highlight every day we are at the school table (or on a field trip) with a green highlighter.
Here is a look at what my calendar for this past school year looked like. This is almost a whole school year's worth of tracking.
My yellow vacation days are not visible (we decided to take off whole months- September/December/March. I didn't like these long breaks as much, so I have adjusted accordingly for this upcoming year), but you can clearly see the days I have marked for attendance in green. The slashes were sick or mental health days. Next to each month I have kept track of where we lie in the 180 days we need to have, and how many days we did school during that month. Our school year last year didn't actually start until October, so we did really well this year and have finished a bit early (we finish in 12 days to be exact- about 2 1/2 weeks earlier than I had planned). These days will not be added in anywhere else. I didn't like starting in October (it messes up too many of my co-op plannings), so ending early and just "eating" those extra days is worth the earlier-in-the-year start. My goal is to get back to August start months. Having our fourth child, Harry, in October three years ago caused a late start year and now we are just trying to slowly work back to a normal- or, normal to my other homeschooling friends, haha.
Another question I am often asked is how I turn in my grades. There is no difference in how I turn in my grades than anyone else. I keep track of all my children's grades in a simple notebook and when the time comes to turn in the grades, I mark that as the end of a semester, average the grades, and turn them in. There may be an overlap of a grade level in the grade average (say 3rd grade Grammar blended into 4th grade Grammar mid semester) , but that is OK and rarely happens. I always begin a new grade level on a different page, so that I can keep track of grades per grade level for my personal records. If an issue ever comes up, or anyone comes after me looking for my record of grades, I have them at the ready.
I try to always make it a goal for each child to begin their new curriculum (ie: newest grade level) by the beginning of the public school system's school year. This happened for us perfectly this year, with the exception of my daughter's Math. I didn't want her lost in a sea of unfamiliar fraction multiplying-long division, never finding land. So, we took our time, sometimes taking 2-3 days on one lesson. She is now a half year behind on her Math. I am OK with this. I know that she "gets" her work instead of us just giving up and moving on.
One final question I get asked is whether my kids hate me for making them school through the summer. For one, we have always schooled this way, so fortunately my children are used to the system -- it's all they know. There will be the weeks where my daughter is itching at the seams to play with her friends who are on summer break, but this only acts as motivation and most school days during the summer she is done early and can play. By the time summertime hits our school year, we have finished the extra-curricular subjects and the kids only have to zoom through their core work.
And second, it is soooooooo hot anyway, especially here in the south. It helps us to stay in where it is cool during the hot summer months and take our breaks when the weather is milder.
I hope this covers some of the major questions about homeschooling year-round. I plan on making my semi-yearly curricula picks post soon! Keep an eye out for that! Find me on Pinterest if you discover yourself missing me. You can always find me there, haha.