Long Range Planning for Your Homeschool

Long Range Planning for Your Homeschool

Have you experienced yet the feeling of public schools getting off for summer, and all of a sudden your favorite splash pads and parks are busy and bustling? 

Often, when someone is new to homeschooling, they jump right into a school year structure, following the local academic calendar of public schools in their area. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but before you jump in and consider it the only way, remember that homeschooling comes with freedom that public schools can’t offer!

By the way, are you new to homeschooling? Our post about what to do if you find yourself suddenly homeschooling is a good starting place!

There are so many options for how to structure your school year. It’s important to know your state requirements–but as far as I know, while many states require a number of school days, none tell you which calendar days need to be school days. With that in mind, let’s discuss the advantages of several approaches to your long-range plans and think about what approach makes most sense for your homeschool.

Pros and Cons of a Traditional School Year

The crowds are bigger in the Summer. Is this an advantage or disadvantage to you?

Begin the school year at the end of summer, with a break for the major holidays, and end the school year just before summer (May or June here in the states).

The advantages of prioritizing a traditional school year for your homeschool’s long-range plans include a long, relaxed summer, time off when neighborhood kids are home from school, and feeling like you’re “in sync” with the rest of the community.

The disadvantages of prioritizing a traditional school year include busier parks and museums just when you’re most likely to visit them, as well as busier vacation spots. Additionally, it may feel like some of the long stretches of school time in a traditional structure are awfully long–the stretch from Easter to the end of the year comes to mind!

You might choose a traditional school year if doing what has usually been done feels the most comfortable to you. If you prioritize freedom and flexibility and doing things differently, you might be more comfortable following a different long-range plan.

Pros and Cons of Sabbath Week Planning

Sabbath week planning is an approach to homeschooling that involves six weeks on and 1 week off. The approach is modeled after the weekly schedule of one Sabbath day of rest for every six work days. Despite the term, it’s not a particularly religious approach and could be called Six Weeks At a Time, instead. Some of the weeks off would correspond to a holiday week, but many wouldn’t, and you would end up with 6 “chunks” of school time and 5 weeks off in between. Depending on how you approach holidays, you could choose to still have a long summer (2 months) or you could add the holidays in addition to the Sabbath Week, and have a shorter summer.

This method works very well for families who want to block schedule some of their work. If a family wants to flip-flop between science and history, for example, the Six Weeks At a Time allows enough time to deep dive on a subject before flipping back to the other subject. This type of schedule works well for a parent who is good at planning and will pick up the ball every six weeks to adjust for the next six weeks.

The Six Weeks At a Time method might present some struggles for families who struggle with a loss of momentum. It always takes my family some time after a break to really get running again, so I’m hesitant to really try this method (but I know families who do it very well!).

You might want to try the Six Week at a Time method if frequent and predictable breaks appeal to you, or if you want to design your curriculum around six-week-long units.

If you will do better with longer range curriculum planning, you might prefer to plan more of your year at once, even if you do decide to take a school break every six weeks.

You might want a different approach altogether if you value one single long break over the shorter breaks created by this approach, or if you tend toward flights of whimsy that will take you away from your schedule often.

Pros and Cons of Year Round or Modified Year Round

Off-season travel is a big perk of year-round schooling.

Many public schools have adopted a year-round model, so it might be familiar to you. This method shares much in common with Sabbath Week schooling. The big difference would be the spacing of the breaks. Breaks may be different lengths or fall at different intervals. You might take a month off around Christmas, a few weeks at Easter, and a solid stretch out of town in the Fall. Yes, you might even take time off during the summer!

This approach is my personal favorite as it blends the freedom offered by homeschooling with enough of a routine for us to gain momentum.

This approach shares disadvantages with the traditional school year, in that some stretches could feel too long, if not well-planned.

Occasionally, I do meet a homeschool family who says they homeschool “year round,” who means they don’t take any breaks. If routine and schedule is important to you, or you have a child who really needs daily review of key skills, you might be drawn to this approach. I would caution with the reminder that kids are kids. Likely (almost always), play and relationships are more important than academics. If you need a routine and schedule, consider scheduling some activities that are more play-oriented for at least several weeks several times a year.

What method appeals most to you? Do you use one of the three discussed, or a combination, or something altogether different?

If you want help with long-range planning, you won’t want to miss our Clarity and Connection Bootcamp (coming soon). Sign up for our newsletter now to be among the first to know when it opens!