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Homeschooling Articles

Question: Now that we’re homeschooling, how should we structure our school year? Is it better to study more or less continuously with short breaks or to follow a more traditional schedule with longer vacations?

Lara Ashmore responds: The answer to this question is “Do whatever works best!” There is no single correct answer that is right for every family. One of the most of appealing benefits of homeschooling is flexibility. You have the luxury to experiment with your schedule. For some relaxed homeschoolers or unschoolers, structured schedules are unnecessary because lessons are part of day-to-day living and do not usually require advanced planning. However, for some families (and especially new homeschoolers), a structured schedule is an absolute necessity for organization and peace of mind!

When deciding on the overall approach that is best for you, consider the following issues:

• the structure and format of your homeschool curriculum (if you use one)
• your teaching style
• your children’s learning styles and preferences
• work schedules
• lessons, activities and sports schedules
• schedule of family members who may be in school
• family vacations

A traditional approach with a long summer vacation works best for many families. Some benefits of this popular approach are:

• Your family schedule will coincide with most local and community classes and activities.
• Your children’s schedules with match those of their non-homeschooled friends.
• Children can attend summer activities such as special camps and classes.
• Children can have the option to work in a summer job.
• Summers offer the opportunity to explore areas of interest maybe not covered in your curriculum.
• Parents get a longer break from teaching, and children get longer break from lessons.

The major drawback to the traditional approach is the long period of time between lessons and the difficulty of getting back on track after the long break.

For other families, a continuous homeschooling approach with more frequent but shorter breaks works best. Public education has experimented with this type of year-round calendar, but research studies shows mixed results in terms of its cost effectiveness and educational benefits. Public schools are very different from your homeschool, though, and there may be more benefits of this year-round approach for homeschoolers. For example, with more frequent breaks you can:

• cover more topics in short periods of time over the year
• provide more frequent breaks for children to explore other interests
• avoid burnout by having more breaks for yourself
• take family vacations and educational trips during less popular travel times when there are fewer crowds and better prices

A drawback to the year-round approach is that your children’s schedules will probably not match that of their non-homeschooled friends. Your children are will also be in “school” during the summer when their friends, neighbors and other family members might have more time available for free play. If these problems are not an issue for you, you may find that this type of schedule works great.

Take advantage of the freedom homeschooling offers to accommodate your family’s needs. Periodically evaluate your schedule. If something significant changes in your family’s life, you can always try a different approach.

© Lara Ashmore

Lara is the founder and director of the Dallas, Texas, vegetarian group Veggie KIDS. She currently works with the Robert Muller Center for Living Ethics exploring creative uses of technology and conducts parent and teacher education workshops on a variety of topics including multiple intelligences, parenting in the digital age, multimedia scrapbooking and digital storytelling.

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