The more I think about why we school year-round, the more I realize just how much it benefits us. After writing my last post, it occurred to me that schooling year-round is the reason I have been able to educate my children at their own pace, which was once of my initial priorities when we decided to homeschool.
Having the whole year at my disposal makes it much easier for me to teach at each child’s pace for each individual subject. If we schooled on a more traditional calendar, I would really struggle with this. I know my personality; I would be pressuring myself to complete all of our books by whatever date we had designated as the end of the year. This would likely result in me rushing through material and getting frustrated when we had to slow down to facilitate understanding. I would be a slave to the lesson plans to ensure we finished everything on time. As it stands now, we work through each book until we’re done without arbitrary deadlines dictating our pace. Some books we finish much quicker than anticipated, others take longer.
Let me give you an example of how this has played out for us. With Andy, who is currently a second grader, we started homeschooling kindergarten in September 2011. He had completed kindergarten by March 2012. We took several weeks off and jumped right into first grade in April. (This is how we initially fell into the pattern of schooling year-round. I had to decide what to do with the extra time we had inadvertently incurred, so I decided to make the most of it.) With his first grade books, I gave him complete freedom to move at his own pace. He completed some material in only a couple months, most took the “standard” amount of time (about 36 weeks), but a couple books took several months longer. Because he completes different subjects at different times, at one point this year he was simultaneously working on 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade material, depending on the subject.
This works out really well for us because it eliminates so much frustration. He’s not stuck doing work that is too easy for him for a designated number of days, nor am I getting frustrated trying to force him to master a concept in an assigned amount of days. More often than not, we find ourselves to be ahead of where he would be if I were to enroll him in school. Right now, he’s working on second and third grade material, but by mid-summer it will all be third grade. By utilizing the whole year, he can move more slowly on some subjects yet still come out either ahead of or on track with a more traditional schedule.
Just to be clear, I don’t allow him to move forward in one subject while ignoring another more difficult subject. He has to complete all assigned work for the day before he can do extra work in any other book. He usually gets ahead because he loves the subjects that are considered extra at this age. For example, science and geography are two of his current favorites, but they’re only designed to teach 2-3 times each week. He often choses to work on these every day. Sometimes he’ll choose to work on one of the subjects he really enjoys during our afternoon quiet time. With all of these extra lessons, he completes the content of the curriculum much more quickly than it is intended to be completed. Once he completes a book, he gets to choose how to move forward: progress to the next grade level in that subject, go back and explore something in more depth, or take a small break from that subject to lighten his overall course load. If we were trying to make our learning fit into a more traditional 36 week timeframe, we would miss out on this freedom.
I can’t tell you how elated was when I realized that Andy was working on material spanning three different grades. It’s really important to me to educate my kids at their own pace, and this was a giant affirmation that I was doing something right. I really believe that the individualized education I am providing is only possible because we school year-round. If I were schooling on a more traditional calendar, I know I would also trap myself into material that corresponded to the grade level we were “supposed” to be working on. Year-round schooling allows us to progress at a natural pace for each topic, for each child. I really, really love that!