Thursday, August 29, 2013

Our Experiment with Year-Round Home Schooling

Last year, my family opted to school year-round.  Learning is our lifestyle, and school time is such a part of our routine that we decided to enjoy the flexibility of using all 365 days of the year for life and learning.  I wrote about my kids' request , and we "officially" started our school year on the local public school's Back-To-School Day.  The kids decided to count the "school" days, and here we are, back to the beginning of school again :-).

Was it a success?  

YES!  Our experiment in year-round schooling worked so well, we will continue.   In case you are considering a year-round schedule, I'll share our discoveries.  

How many school days did our 3-4 day school week actually total during our experiment year?  

Typically a school year equals 180 days of classroom instruction.    Anyone who has ever sat in a classroom knows that a class hour is not 60 minutes.  (Remember, I have high schoolers now).  Classes let out 10 minutes early to allow students to get to the next class at the top of the hour, so a class hour equals 50 minutes.  180 days of 50 minutes of class equals 9000 minutes, or 150 clock hours of instruction (in theory).
Of course, none of the above calculations subtracts minutes for classroom announcements, taking attendance, daydreaming, and finishing one's work and waiting...waiting for the bell to ring.

We tallied 160 days of school, not including field trips and other learning activities during free time.    So, we definitely had plenty of school days and accomplished more schooling than in our previous nine-month years. 

What are the benefits of year-round schooling?

The major benefit for our family was Freedom.  We felt free to take a day off whenever necessary to attend to Important Events.  In spite of an emergency week-long hospital stay for my dear husband and numerous doctor appointments afterward, my previously unknown chronic spinal condition rearing its head and demanding attention and a lot of rehabilitative time, and preparations for my daughter's wonderful wedding, our educational habit kept us plodding along all year, reducing stress. 

Another benefit is that with consistent learning, my children are breezing through introductory review sections in their math texts.  Spelling improved constantly and is still improving.  Can we say READING??!!  Wow, my daughter discovered a new genre of books and is soaking them up like a sponge, happy happy.  Our science and history gained momentum that has not lagged.  Retention or Recall of information is a definite plus.  

Flexibility in subjects was another unforeseen benefit. Some weeks, my children would focus in depth on history or science, even math, doing much more than one lesson per day.  They had time to take on a big writing project and devote an entire week to it, before returning to the regular multi-subject day. Without artificial time boxes for subjects, my children spent whatever time necessary each day to work in their subject areas, stopping at logical transitions within the subject.  I've seen more self-motivated learning because of this freedom and I LIKE IT. 

One tip for lesson planning in high school, whether you school 9 months or 12:  let each subject's lessons track separately.  Then, if your child gets on a roll, getting "ahead" in one subject won't "mess up" an every-subject-on-one-grid lesson plan. Been there.  Abandoned that.  

Any draw-backs to year-round home schooling?

I can think of one.  Having three months to browse curriculum and plan for the coming 9 months is a bonus.  If you are brand new to home learning and teaching, you may need the summer months to read, to research, to learn and to prepare for this life of learning.  Some people wear themselves out during a nine-month year and need to recharge for three months.  We have had years like that!  But, the flexibility of adapting our lesson plans in response to emergencies, physical challenges, and just plain fun (planning a wedding), turned out to be much more effective for us as we progressed through the year.  We worked hard and stayed on-task when it was a school day, and when it was not, we could completely focus on other work or fun. 
Our year of school was quite enjoyable and stress-free from an education angle.  That was good, since life presented more than the usual allotment of challenges ;-).   When I had a houseful of many young children, and summers full of ministering to neighborhood children, year-round school may not have worked as well.  In this new season of family, it is a good fit!  

How do you fit your home school around your life?

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