Structuring the School Year

Now that you have begun your home­schooling schedule, there are various questions that trouble you. Should you study continuously, take a number of short breaks or a long vacation? What about public holidays? When should you take a break?

The answer to these questions and many more like these are actually quite simple: Do whatever suits you best. This is one of the appealing benefits of home­schooling. You do not have a set pattern to follow. You do not HAVE to take that autumn break, or close shop for a prolonged summer vacation. Flexibility is the key here. For some practiced un­schoolers, even a definite curriculum is not necessary because lessons are a part of their day-to-day life. But this may not be the case with beginners. Beginners may need to chart out their activities to fall into a pattern.

One thing to be aware of is that most states define a minimum number of &lquo;instructional hours&rquo; for a school day. A typical number is three hours. This might seem odd to you because most schools have days that consist of more than three hours. But remember that days in traditional schools are filled with a lot more than just instructional hours. There is the time to get to and from school, the administrative activities (taking roll for example), the time between classes, recess and other breaks, lunch, and so on. The actual number of hours a student spends &lquo;learning&rquo; in a traditional school is usually quite a bit fewer than the total number of hours in a school day.

Before you plan the structure of your classes, consider some of the most important issues. What method of home­schooling will you be following, what is your teaching style and your child's learning style,

what are the work and play schedules, what are your vacation plans. Some families plan small 1-week vacations at different times of the year. Other families prefer to go away for a month or more. Consult with the members of your family, and chart out a holiday schedule that most suits you.

There are some positive benefits in following the traditional summer vacation schedule. Firstly, your children can benefit from the various summer activities, camps and classes. Your child's schedule will coincide with that of his school-going friends. A summer job may be possible. A longish summer break also means that both parents as well as children get a break from their daily lessons. This could also be a major drawback, as it is sometimes difficult to get back on track once the classes resume.

On the other hand, there are some advantages to taking numerous small breaks in the course of a year. Firstly, children do not get bored since they get time to explore other interests. You can cover more topics in the extra time that you save. You can also take family trips and vacations during the less popular periods of travel. This means lesser crowd and better prices. But beware if your child becomes restless when other children are enjoying their long summer vacations.

As far as home­schooling is concerned, you and your family are the people in charge. Taking care of the individual needs of the child is the primary focus of this system. So, tailor the school year to suit your child's needs. Periodic evaluation is a must. Set some realistic goals and see if you are able to achieve these goals. Most importantly, avoid burnout - both in yourself and your children.

If you are interested in reading more on this topic, please read: Record Keeping in Home­schooling.