Making the Most of a School Year

I’ve received many questions lately about homeschooling year round so I thought I would take a few minutes today to answer them and provide a clearer picture of what we do. Below I answer questions sent in the past few months that I’ve kept track of.

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How did you end up schooling year round?
I have four boys and live in an enclosed space with them. That is my main reason. I can not leave them untethered all day long because our house would probably go up in flames. I also found that when I had to “fit everything in” according to the traditional school year calendar they had way less free time! Schooling year round has gifted us all with way more free time. We have the time to go more in depth and to take breaks more often throughout the day. Its a gift! Lastly, summers in Florida are hellish. It is rare to find us outside between the hours of 10AM and 4PM in the months of June, July, August, September or especially cruel Octobers, unless we are fully submerged in the ocean or in a pool. Its miserable. Also, we are spoiled during the year when we have the city to ourselves. Once school lets out there are kids everywhere and lines are longer and well, we’d just as soon be inside reading and learning.
What do you consistently do year round, what never changes?
Morning time, family read alouds and math. Every week day. All year long. Math doesn’t mean we do a worksheet every day, sometimes we just play card games or logic games or strategy games.  We read aloud every day. We usually have three read aloud books going at a single time (currently enjoying The Hobbit, Little Britches and The Hatchet). By read aloud I mean books that I read aloud to my children for the pleasure of it. No tests, no comprehension questions. The boys also have their personal books that they read to themselves every afternoon. The house becomes quite for about an hour and its heavenly. HEAVENLY! Morning Time happens first thing in the morning and changes with the seasons. Once Classical Conversations begins it aligns with whatever we are studying there. When we are away from Classical Conversations it aligns to other topics. I’ll give plenty of examples below.

Why do you do math all year?
First, I do math all year so that math will be shorter every day. If its all spread out, we can take more bite-sized chunks. I teach four levels of math. I need the bite-size chunks. Second, math brings harmony and reason into our home. My kids haven’t caught on that I am terrified of it, though growing less terrified the more I reclaim my education and learn it for myself. They hear me affirm math often. They have expressed delight and satisfaction in how reliable and comforting math is and what a spectacular part of creation it is. I want to keep that momentum going, therefore we do math every school day.

When does the school year START for you?
Our new year always starts the first week of June.  Its hot and gross outside every morning and in the afternoon we are besieged by brutal lightning storms. Its the perfect weather for digging in and being cozy with one another. We found what worked for us!

Does everything start afresh?
Nope. Sometimes it takes us a full year and a half to work through a foreign language book or an art history book. I’m ok with things extending past the calendar year. I’m also not a huge fan of grade levels so I tend to ignore that and go with what my kids need or what excites them.

Do you get any breaks throughout the year?
We school six week on and one week off, all year round.

What happens once CC starts?
Classical Conversations lasts 24 weeks with a 6 week break right between the 2nd and 3rd quarters.  These 24 weeks include extensive Grammar and Writing for my eldest children. All children participate in a weekly science project or experiment and they each do a presentation in front of their peers. They have 6 weeks of Fine Arts Drawing, 6 weeks of Orchestra & Composer Study, 6 weeks of Artist study and 6 weeks of Music Theory.   From August through Thanksgiving and from the week after New Years until the beginning of April, we have a bustling schedule!

Winter break stretches from the week of Thanksgiving through the first week of the New Year. We focus on Advent during that time. We visit friends and make gifts and go caroling.  We also spend those weeks more immersed in cultural field trips (Handel’s Messiah, The Nutcracker etc). We also spend a great deal of time refining our handcraft techniques.

Once CC resumes in January we go back to our regular schedule.

Do your kids play any sports?
We’ve been on and off with sports for a few years. Most recently my kids spent a great deal of time in MMA and BJJ training about four to six hours a week in the late afternoons. This winter we will be playing basketball, though not all four boys would be involved. Year round sports are more than likely not in our future.

What about music?
Now this is one area we definitely keep up with. All four boys are in Suzuki violin, the older two are also learning Suzuki guitar. We have lessons one morning each week and all four boys practice during our math hour. I am a classically trained singer and my husband plays the drums and the piano so all four boys have interest in these areas to varying degrees.  Music is a year round, lifestyle deal for us.

So WHAT do you do all year?
I’m sure you gathered from the above questions that we have SEASONS in our homeschool year.  Below you will find each of our FIVE seasons detailed with what we study during those seasons. I have used the current 2018 calendar year as our example. Remember that we school 6 weeks on, 1 week off during all FIVE seasons. The table below shows a typical Morning Time schedule during the CC year for us. We do not do every single topic every day, it is more spread out. Remember that the topics are brief. 5 minutes for Geography, 2 minutes for Hymn study, 7 minutes for poetry, etc.

Spring Morning Time Schedule:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Devo/Bible x x x x x
Catechism x x x x x
Hymn x x x
Geography (5 minutes) x x x x x
Poetry x x
Art Study x
Composer x
Shakespeare x
Fairy Tales x x x x
Biography x x
Nature Study x x x
Architecture x
Memory Work x x x x x

1) Spring sessions (Jan-early April)
Morning Time: Devotional, Catechism, Geography, Bible, Composer, Art Study, Nature Study, Architecture, Poetry, Fairy Tales, Biography, Hymn Study, Shakespeare, Memory Work 
Music/Math/Foreign Language: Practice Violin/Guitar. Right Start Mathematics (older 3), Essentials math games, math numeracy drills, Latin (Memoria Press)
History: American History
Lit Lunch: Burgess Bird Book / Picture book
Language Arts: Handwriting (all four kids), Spelling (3 eldest), Chart work & IEW papers (eldest), IEW Intensive A (2nd born) Phonics/Read aloud 20 minutes (3rd born) 
Reading: 45 minutes of reading quietly for older two, 20 minutes of quiet reading for 3rd born, I read aloud to the youngest for 15 and then he listen to an audiobook while I read.
Science: work on Spring Science Fair projects 
Blessing hour: Clean home

2) Early Summer session (early April- end of May)
Morning Time: Catechism, Devotional, Hymn, Poetry, Folk Songs, Science biographies 
Outdoor Time: Plenty of beach days and hikes
Museum visits: Art museums, Japanese garden, Science museum etc
Nature Study: average is 1 hour on days we don’t have field trips
Afternoon Tea: 1 hour of tea and reading aloud
Math: Right Start Mathematics
Science: Biology
Blessing hour: Clean the house
3) SUMMER session (June-early August)
Morning Time: Devotional, Catechism, Geography, Bible, Composer, Art Study, Nature Study, Architecture, Poetry, Fairy Tales, Biography, Hymn Study, Plutarch, Shakespeare 
Music/Math/Foreign Language: Practice Violin/Guitar. Right Start Mathematics (all 4), Essentials math games (2 eldest), math numeracy drills (all 4), Latin (2 eldest)
History: Ancient History
Lit Lunch: Burgess Seashore Book / Picture book
Language Arts: Handwriting (all four kids), Spelling (3 eldest),  Read aloud 20 minutes (3rd born) Phonics (4th born) Written Narrative Work (2 eldest)
Reading: 45 minutes of reading quietly for older two, 20 minutes of quiet reading for 3rd born, I read aloud to the youngest for 15 and then he listen to an audiobook while I read.  
Blessing hour: clean the house
(Fridays: Friday Exam, Poetry Tea Time and Symposium)

4) Fall Session (August-November)
Morning Time: Devotional, Catechism, Geography, Bible, Composer, Art Study, Nature Study, Architecture, Poetry, Fairy Tales, Biography, Hymn Study, Plutarch, Shakespeare, Memory Work 
Music/Math/Foreign Language: Practice Violin/Guitar. Right Start Mathematics (all 4), Essentials math games, math numeracy drills, Latin (2 eldest)
History: Ancient History
Lit Lunch: Burgess Seashore Book / Picture book
Language Arts: Handwriting (all four kids), Spelling (3 eldest), Chart work & IEW papers (2 eldest), Read aloud 20 minutes (3rd born) Phonics (4th born)
Reading: 45 minutes of reading quietly for older two, 20 minutes of quiet reading for 3rd born, I read aloud to the youngest for 15 and then he listen to an audiobook while I read.  
Blessing hour: Clean the house
(Fridays: Friday Exam, Poetry Tea Time and Symposium)

5) Winter Break (Thanksgiving- early January)
Morning Time: Catechism, Advent, Hymn, Christmas Art study, Christmas Read Aloud 
Outdoor Time: Plenty of beach days, hikes, caroling
Nature Study: average is 1 hour on days we don’t have field trips
Afternoon Tea: 1 hour of tea and reading aloud
Math: Right Start Mathematics
Independent Study: Each boy choses a topic to investigate and we load up on library books for them. 
Handcrafts: Knitting, sewing, crochet, candle making, soap making, etc. 1 hour per day
Blessing hour: Clean the house

** I have to note hear that I have several schedules posted under our rhythm section if all the above confuses you. This was just meant to be an overview of topics we study during the year. For more detailed scheduled please look under the Rhythm or Classical Conversations tabs of this blog.

** PLAY TIME is also a crucial part of our schooling ALL YEAR ROUND. 

How do you plan a full year?
I start by looking at what our topics for CC will be that year and then I write down all that they will be tackling so I can see it laid out. I typically make a chart divided by months and I fill each month with what we will be studying. Those CC months are academically heavy! I don’t bother filling in with things like art projects and science projects during those 24 weeks b/c the kids are getting that on community day. For our months without CC I plan to dive deeper into areas we don’t have time to tackle during the CC Year. We go more in depth with science, art, handcrafts, etc. Its really all about balancing! We have our seasons of more intense learning but my goal is to make sure that even the intense seasons are still restful for all of us. This is an important topic to understand! If you have yet to read Sarah Mackenzie’s Teaching From Rest, please do so!

Do you recommend year round homeschooling for all families?
Here is my favorite thing about homeschooling– you can do what works for your family. That is the whole point! You’ve thrown off the shackles of government education and depending on your state requirements, you get to decide what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Figure out the rhythms of where you live, of your specific family and their needs, of your spouse’s work schedule, of your local co-op schedule etc. Find a way to make it harmonize with the education and life you want for your family. I won’t say whether or not children should be schooled year round, I only know that it works for us.

HOWEVER, I will say that I highly encourage mothers to homeschool themselves year round. Keep learning, Mama. This all starts with you.  Read good books, go back and learn whatever math you didn’t learn at school, memorize poetry, take an art class, pick one small thing and do it each and every day for a few minutes. If you have 8 children 3 and under ( or it feels like you do) spend 10 minutes a day listening to a piece of beautiful music or taking in a beautiful piece of art and let that be your daily deposit for yourself. Art Middlekauf says “that which emanates from the parent” is the atmosphere of education.  I have this quote written on the first page of my commonplace journal to remind me every day that I am setting the atmosphere here.

 

 

One thought on “Making the Most of a School Year

  1. What a great post. Thank you for writing all that up for us to see. I especially love the last paragraph about learning ourselves. Sometimes we’re so focused on schooling the kids and keeping up the house that self-learning falls by the wayside. It’s hard to instruct our kids to make a life of learning when we don’t model it ourselves.

    Like

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