Have you ever considered using alternative school schedules in your homeschool?
As the years go by, you may feel discouraged if school is not finished when “everyone else is,” or if the traditional three-month-long summer break leaves you having to teach long division twice!
A long summer break can sometimes do the opposite of what we hope – causing weariness and sluggishness, as well as learning loss, rather than energizing and invigorating us for the school year ahead.
An alternative schedule can help you tailor your breaks to actually achieve the rest you hope to find.
Reasons to use alternative school schedules
- Greater productivity.
Are you a morning person? Evening person? Middle-of-the-afternoon person? Our family has found that we experience a slump after lunch, but have greater productivity in the morning and late afternoon.
Homeschooling allows us the opportunity to get school done when we are most effective and energized. This applies to the entire year as well.
Common school breaks occur when the weather is the hottest and the coldest, but why not take a break when the weather is temperate?
- Avoiding the crowds.
Summer and spring break are common vacation times, but they are always crowded! Taking breaks in the off-season can allow families to better enjoy their vacations.
- Keeping up with real life.
This is the main reason why my family changed our homeschool schedule!
When a new addition arrives, it can be difficult to keep the momentum of homeschooling rolling. If it makes sense for your family, take a break to enjoy your little one and readjust to your “new normal.”
You can also tailor your school schedule to accommodate family events and extracurricular activities.
Most competitive sports or forensics have a specific season that is most hectic, so planning less school days in that period can help to ease stress and avoid sloppy work just to make it through that season.
- Remember why you are doing this.
Most importantly, give yourself grace! There is no pressure to always use a certain schedule or keep up with everyone else.
Your homeschool schedule should fit you and your family’s needs. That’s what this is all about, anyways!
Requirements to know
Laws in Kansas and Missouri allow flexibility in a homeschool year.
Kansas requires that students are taught for a “substantially equivalent” amount of time as a public school, about 186 days.
Missouri requires 1,000 hours, within the school term set by the parents. (See Scott Woodruff’s analysis of homeschool laws in Missouri.)
Real-life examples of alternative school schedules
- One alternative schedule consists of six weeks of school, then one week off. This schedule skips the standard summer break, but divides the year into small, manageable chunks.
- A variant on the above schedule could be doing school all year round, then taking breaks when life events occur. This schedule would work well for a family involved in activities that have seasons of busyness.
- Why start school in August? Some homeschool moms have decided to start the school year in January.
- Some might opt for a four-day school week rather than the traditional five. This would shorten the summer break but provide more margin in daily life.
- Change your school-year schedule when you need to! My family has used multiple alternative school schedules to fit our needs at the time. Be flexible and realistic – there’s no need to be tied to one specific schedule for the duration of your homeschool journey.
These are just some ideas. Additional resources can be found here.
Choosing to homeschool was one step off the beaten path. Yet many homeschoolers don’t realize that they are not confined to the traditional school year followed by public and private schools.
If February blues cause learning to lag, or the new school year inspires dread of struggling through summer learning loss, don’t give up. There is hope!
Using an alternative school-year schedule may give you the encouragement you need to persevere on your homeschool journey.
Feel free to experiment until you find a system that fits. We would love to hear what works for your family!
We have updated this guest blog post by Magali Laporte, originally published in June 2016, for timeliness and detail.