Ready or not, a new school year will begin shortly…or will it? Having the freedom to choose when to begin the next school year is a tremendous benefit to homeschooling. Also, exploring options that work for your family instead of conforming to a traditional school year calendar can be a motivating factor in keeping homeschooling flexible.
When I first started homeschooling, my children were all very young. Knowing that I could have started earlier in the year or even later in the year here in Texas, where the summer heat is just too miserable for young children to be outside, would have helped me to focus on a family centered lifestyle instead of a public school driven schedule.
The definition of an ideal schedule has changed each year as my sons have grown older. So don’t follow the schedule of somebody else but discover the possibilities that may work for your family.
Ponder the Possibilities
Look at some options for deciding on when to begin the next school year.
If you live in a place where testing is required, which normally is sometime in mid-May, then bump back the beginning of your school year. Beginning at the first of August and ending early April allows plenty of time to prepare for a test and it can minimize test time stress.
Do you like to take advantage of summer fun like swimming lessons and savoring slower lazier days, but don’t want relaxed days to turn into boring days? Then shorten the length of your relaxed days. Take off a month or six weeks and begin mid-June and end closer to March. An advantage to this option is that you could soak up the sounds of spring time along with the warmer weather while you are not schooling. Taking a break during the winter months of November and December when school may be slow is another advantage of this option.
For many years I have schooled year round. At first, I kept up with a strict schedule like 8 weeks schooling and 2 weeks off. However, many times it didn’t work for me because sometimes we were either moving along fine and didn’t need the break or life got in the way and I needed to slow down earlier than planned. I learned that what was important was to hold myself accountable for our schedule and year by tracking our time.
Look at my free 7 Step Homeschool Planner to help you manage your time and plan on when to begin your school year.
Plan on the Possibilities
Other times during my homeschool journey, we have been part of both a smaller and a larger homeschool co-op. Because there are no rules as to when homeschool co-ops pop up or shut down, it is important to plan ahead and determine the dates of co-op classes. Determining when the first homeschool co-op class begins may be a good beginning date for your family too. Several years I used the beginning date of our homeschool co-op classes to give us a slower start to our school year and then worked up to a full load of academics the next month. We tend to treasure the moments when we are with other homeschoolers in our co-op because we have built friendship over the years. Lingering among other homeschoolers in our first back to school month begins our school year on a meaningful note too.
Researching curriculum options also adds another important factor as to when I begin the next school year. Some of my research may be done in spring, which allows us to have an earlier start to the year. Depending on when a homeschool convention is in your area, you may want to start your school year after you have attended your local convention, have time to review the curriculum for next year and otherwise get familiar with it. A couple of years, I started closer to mid-September because I had to make some curriculum changes.
Huge changes like starting high school or additions to your family like a pregnancy or adoption, caring for aging parents, and a long term illness should be factors, where possible, that you want to plan for in your year. Don’t plow ahead thinking that you have to follow a traditional school schedule when you and your family may be in need of some grace especially when your family is experiencing life changing events.
For example, thinking about high school. With my first son who is now graduated, I thought I had to have the whole game plan for high school prepared the minute my teen entered high school. I ended up making several shifts in direction through my son’s high school years not only because of unplanned life changing events, but also because there is a huge change in maturity level in your teen during those years. No longer is there a young boy that I was teaching, but a young man with his own ideas, ambitions and plans for the future, some of which were different than his father and I had planned for him. It takes time to address those significant changes in a young person’s life and fretting over when to begin the school year seemed minor at the time. I had a plan in place but my life required flexibility at the time.
Prepare for the Possibilities
Everybody has a time too whether it’s earlier in the morning or a bit later that they like to get started in their day. Listen to your inner clock and adjust both the beginning of your school year and the beginning of your school day by it. My inner clock can’t stand the summer heat most days here in Texas, so we begin our school year and school day early. During the year, I adjust our day so that we begin later when cooler fall months approach.
When the children were all very young, I began a couple of school years closer to October because my children all slept in during the cool fall mornings. Chasing a toddler, having a new born and teaching another one to read caught me sleep deprived most days that year. Instead of fighting my family’s natural rhythm and thinking I had to conform to a traditional public school schedule, I adjusted the beginning of my school year to fit the needs of my family.
Having come a full cycle now with beginning to homeschool with children that are very young and homeschooling through to high school, what matters most is that you embrace the beginning of each school year by preparing well.
Looking back now and while I’m still homeschooling, having a plan to begin your school year and being prepared are key to infusing your kids with enthusiasm for learning, meeting the goals and the challenges of homeschooling and making your efforts count.
Have you decided yet? When will you begin your school year?
Look at some of my other articles here.