6.05.2011

Our Home Learning Schedule: Casting a New Die

I am a fan of year-round home education.

After all, since I wholly subscribe to the philosophy that "all of life is learning," I know that plenty of education occurs even when the books are closed. And, what's more, there are a good many reasons for all children to continue with year-round formal academics, too - and all the more so for home-educated kids, since (unlike institutional schools) we generally face few real barriers to it. And, besides all that, I resonate with the idea of purposely being different from traditional schools in any way I can - just because I can! So, as the girls have been enjoying a short break from all their academics after we recently completed our second year with My Father's World (MFW), I've been gearing up to implement our third annual summer term schedule.

Though we've had "summer session," I've still wanted to afford the girls plenty of summer playtime, too, so our summer schedule has always been lighter than it is for the rest of the year. And the easiest way to accomplish that goal seemed to be to set aside MFW for a few months and focus, instead, on the basics (reading, spelling, and math), along with a couple of supplemental, "fun" things. That's what we did the last two summers, and that was my plan for the time between Memorial Day and the second week of August, at which point I'd calculated we should start our next MFW core, Creation to the Greeks (CtG). Of course, being "Rou-Tina," I'd even taken quite a bit of time to create detailed weekly grids to track our summer progress. And I was looking forward to implementing our new schedule once my Teachers' Tots kids went home for their summer vacations at the end of this week.

But then, out of the blue one day last week, a new thought came to mind (and wouldn't leave!): Why do we need to wait so long in between MFW cores?

I spent several days trying to brainstorm reasons to maintain the delay - but, really, an honest evaluation (even though we do have a couple of "big events" this summer) - revealed no legitimate cause to put it all off until August. I could start CtG and still make sure the girls have lots of daily playtime and are still able to enjoy our family vacation and other fun events. What's more, I could see a lot of good reasons to jump in sooner, not the least of which is that continual learning is simply more educationally sound from a cognitive perspective.

My husband generally leaves all the home education decision-making to me, but before definitely embarking on this new course of action, I decided to ask him - and I honestly thought he'd lobby against it precisely because it is so "different" from the norm.

To my surprise, though, his immediate response was, "Well, why not? I work all year - and it's not like it'll be all day. They'll still have plenty of time for fun. I really like the idea of being really year-round."

So, with that, the die was cast. We'll start our re-vamped plan this coming Friday, the day after Jeff leaves for a two-week missions trip to Sri Lanka and the Teachers' Tots kids go home for their summer break. And I'm planning for now (unless/until there's a good reason to alter things again) to implement this new annual schedule - which (yippee!) moves us even further from imitating institutional schools - at least until the girls start high school (when we'll re-evaluate based on the realities of our family situation as we enter that phase of their lives).

To make this work for us, I came up with three alternate daily schedules: Schedule A for full days (4 to 5 hours of academics), Schedule B for moderate days (2.5 to 3.5 hours), and Schedule C for light days (1 to 1.5 hours). In all cases, most MFW activities are generally four days a week and most other academics are five - and then the subjects in parentheses happen less than that, sometimes three days a week but sometimes just once or twice, depending on what else is going on (which accounts for the time span variability for each schedule, too).

~~~~~
Schedule A
MFW Bible
MFW History
MFW Vocabulary
(MFW Science)
MFW Art or Music
MFW Read-Aloud
Reciprocal Review
Math
Spelling & Language Arts
Reading
Literature
Spanish or Typing
Piano Practice
(Piano Theory)
(Home-Making)

~~~~~

Schedule B
MFW Bible
MFW History
MFW Vocabulary
(MFW Science)
MFW Art or Music
MFW Read-Aloud
Math
Spelling & Language Arts
Reading or Literature
Piano Practice
(Piano Theory)
(Spanish or Typing)
(Home-Making)
(Enrichment Activity)

~~~~~

Schedule C
Morning Devotions
Math
Spelling & Language Arts
Literature
Piano Practice
(Piano Theory)
(Spanish or Typing)
(Art)
(Read-Aloud)
(Home-Making)
(Enrichment Activity)
~~~~~

I also figured in a monthly enrichment day/field trip; weeks of seasonally-based enrichment days around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter; and regular days off. And then I printed an academic calendar to map out everything for the next 13 months (the rest of June and then what will become our new regular "academic year," July through next June).

For the rest of June, we'll operate on Schedule C and also leave time for days off and field trips when a friend visits in two weeks. After July 4, we'll start CtG and launch into Schedule B until it's time for the Teachers' Tots kids to return near the end of August; we'll make allowances in July for our family vacation and the girls' week of Vacation Bible Camp at church, but we'll still do some academics even on most of those days. Then, the two weeks before Labor Day, as we get used to the little kids' return, we'll take a late-summer break. Finally, we'll gear up to Schedule A after Labor Day - by which time, we'll already have six weeks of CtG under our belts, enabling us to more readily take off here and there through what is the traditional academic year - and go from there.

I don't think the girls will have a problem adjusting to this because our previous summer term schedule got them used to doing about two hours of bookwork a day - and, because MFW balances bookwork with hands-on activities, I know they'll enjoy CtG as much as they have our previous cores. In fact, some of it won't seem like "work" at all. Plus, while they certainly enjoy whole days off on a regular basis, they've never complained about starting back to academics after short breaks and generally seem to thrive on the structure that some daily bookwork provides. So we'll give it a whirl and see how it goes!

As an unexpected bonus, this will enable me to more accurately keep track of our "school" hours on the attendance record that my state's home education statute recommends we keep. Now, instead of just marking an X on days when we "do school," I can put the appropriate letter, depending on the schedule we've followed. I'll have to come up with a way to document time for field trip and enrichment-only days, but, overall, this new system will be helpful in terms of accuracy. Now I don't have to feel "guilty" counting a day that wasn't a "full day;" instead, I can count them all and simply note what type of day each was.

What do you think? Is this similar to your academic calendar...or do you operate with the type of modified year-round schedule I've used in the past...or do you not do year-round at all? Why have you chosen the schedule you favor?


Photo Credit: ThinkFastToys (http://www.flickr.com/photos/thinkfasttoyscom/3912810640/)

5 comments:

Erika said...

We (this year) follow a pretty typical "public setting" school year. We will start after Labor Day and end in May. However, we did this because this summer we are SO busy with church work (hubby is a missionary and most of our activities happen this summer). Now, we planned a family vacation to Yellowstone, so learning will be present- just not sit down and do book work. I like your idea though and would consider doing something like that- if I wasn't so busy helping hubby! :-)

Anonymous said...

We go year-round.
Stopping all school work for more than 2 weeks is NOT an option!
Did that once. Don't have to repeat That mistake.

But, we do take off sporadically throughout the PS year. Family Birthdays, our Anniversary, & if daddy says No School today (so we can get better control of our small packed house.

Owner of Homeschool Faith and Family Life Website said...

We typically take most of the summer off from "formal" lessons; mainly because I enjoy the reprieve with so many full time students in the house (8, this coming year!)
However, what I like most about your post is that you are living out what I believe to be one of the greatest blessings in homeschooling, Tina: Discerning where God is leading YOUR individual family insofar as academics and learning styles + curricula are concerned and then following that, without worry or anxiety about what another family's schedule/style might be.
Good for you! Enjoy your new way of doing things:)

Melissa said...

Since this is our first year homeschooling, I was planning on following the traditional public school calendar. We started after Labor Day and will hopefully be finished this month. However, we just took a three week family vacation (aka long spring break) that took us on a 5,000 mile road trip. Now that we're back in school (we're starting week 30 of ECC), I can clearly see why year round schooling is superior. My youngest especially has forgotten things we've worked on. And since we finished up MFW-K at the end of March, we haven't practiced handwriting much and I can see now how we really need to have daily practice. It definitely makes me rethink having long periods of time off. I think it's just not that productive since they have to relearn what they are out of the habit of doing. I'm not sure what we'll do this summer. I honestly was looking forward to the break because even after school is finished for the day, I haven't been able to incorporate relaxing time for myself to decompress because of other school preparations and normal household duties. It's probably partly a balance thing, I'm still trying to get the hang of my new lifestyle I guess. Sorry to type a novel! ;-)

Kimberly said...

While I love home schooling and MFW curriculum I do enjoy a break from the formal learning. Our summer is so short here in ND that I want to be free to enjoy what we can in the outdoors. Plus I plant a big garden that takes some time to take care of over the summer. In the past we have tried doing some formal school in the summer but it fell by the wayside. Too, I think generally speaking, girls enjoy doing sit down school more than active little boys who would much rather doing anything other than school. I can totally see my Leah enjoying it each day. But Daniel needs his break from it. We have about 6 days left of CtG. It was a great year.

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