It may sound odd or intense, but actually it makes for a more peaceful school year!
If you stopped by my house last week, you’d be treated to an unusual and pretty entertaining sight. My young kids and their cousins were engaged in (very amateur) archery and fencing feats of strength, followed by reciting poetry, all while wearing homemade crowns. The occasion? A “back to school feast,” planned by my oldest, to celebrate the start of his first grade year in mid-July.
When I say that I start school in July and homeschool year-round, friends seem a little unnerved. “Don’t you need a break? Isn’t that a little intense?” The secret is that homeschooling year-round is much less intense, and allows for many more breaks, than following a 9-month academic calendar. Here are the top 3 reasons I start my kids’ school year in July and homeschool year-round …
1We can enjoy the best weather of the year.
Where I live feels like a polar tundra in January and an oppressive heat wave in July. None of us want to be outside for very long in July and August, so why not use all that indoor time constructively?
On top of that, the best weather is in May and September, which are action-packed months for school families. By doing schoolwork in July and August, we can take off a week (or three) when the weather is gorgeous. If we travel during those months, destinations are practically empty. It feels like the best-kept secret of homeschooling!
Interestingly enough, this used to be the school schedule much of America followed: Schools in farming communities had a summer and winter term, with breaks in busy spring and fall. As a lifelong devotee of history, I love that my school calendar is a small connection to the past.
2We can take days off and make them up as needed.
This is the reason that I find schooling year-round to be so much less intense than sticking to a tight 9-month schedule! Inevitably, plans change; the baby is up all night teething, there’s a crisis at work, a school project is taking up much more time than anticipated, or we decide to go on a last-minute excursion.
Part of the beauty of homeschooling is that the school calendar doesn’t rule our days; I am in charge of the school schedule, and can change it whenever I need or want to. By starting the school year so early, I don’t feel anxious about falling behind when things come up and we have to take unplanned days off. Instead I feel at peace, even when the whole day goes topsy-turvy, because I know we have plenty of time to get through all the material I have planned for the year and also dive down rabbit holes of newfound interests.
Some families follow a Sabbath schooling model of six-week terms followed by one-week breaks, which is a more formal way of taking regular breaks in an extended school calendar. Another strategy is to test drive a new curriculum over the summer; that way, if you end up not liking it, you can easily start another program without wasting a big chunk of the school year.
3My kids want to!
Perhaps the biggest reason I start our school year in July is that my kids begged me to! As packages filled with books and curricula started arriving in the mail, my kids couldn’t wait to open them (who doesn’t love getting a package?) and wanted to start reading the books and doing the activities right away. The truth is that young kids love to learn, and it comes as naturally to them as breathing, especially with the enticement of excellent children’s literature and engaging educational programs.
There are plenty of other reasons to homeschool year-round, such as the consistency it brings to our days; my oldest, in particular, gets bored easily and seems much better regulated after a morning of robust academic work. It’s also nice that we don’t need to spend the first part of each school year in review, since we didn’t take a three-month-long break from the material. But my kids’ excitement to do school, right down to the hilariously extravagant “feast” my son planned for the occasion, might be my biggest motivator. If they’re that excited to start the next school year, who am I to get in their way?