One of the first things I always do is hash out what the instructional periods of the school year will be. Sure, one of homeschool’s advantages is that we aren’t bound by the traditional instructional year – and I’ve informed David that we are doing school until he finishes the work I lined out for this year, even if it takes all summer (he is horrified by this). But really, Himself works for a school district and the functional outline of our school year is determined by his schedule. When you’re a teacher or administrator, you can’t just take a week vacation in the middle of October to go camping, even though the weather in Texas is finally nice enough. You need to be there, because the students need to be there, and that’s the way it is.
So, while not strictly necessary, our school year hews closely to the academic year. But I also try to hew to the liturgical year as well, so that feasts can be feasts.
This year actually is ending up with about 4 more weeks of instructional time than last year, but the everything lines up so nicely that I just can’t resist adding the time. I have four quarters of nine weeks each, and each quarter has a roughly similar number of weird off days hanging around that I’ve designated a low-structure day.
Low-structure days are dedicated unschooling days – David may do whatever he wants, but no television, Wii, or iPad until after 4pm, just like a regular school day. We also have Momo Days, which are the two full days and the morning he spends at my mother’s – these days he takes the every day work of math, spelling, and copy work with him. And Wednesday afternoons, and Thursday through Saturday are the subject days, two each of Science and History as well as the daily work. But I’ll talk more about the divisions of daily and subject work later when I’m thinking about curricula.
School starts on August 17. This is a full week earlier than public schools, but it allows us better long breaks during the school year. Himself needs to be back at school a week and a half earlier, so it allows a little bit of adjustment time before digging into the real work. The first quarter is roughly uninterrupted, with a holiday on Labor Day and a low-structure day on Columbus Day, when Himself is off of work.
Second quarter has Thanksgiving smack in the middle. Himself has the first three days of this week off, so they are designated low structure days. Then we have a nice long Christmas break, the fourth week of Advent through the Baptism of the Lord (the Sunday after Real Epiphany).
Third quarter picks up here and runs through till Himself’s Spring Break, when we will take a trip to see his parents and visit their local livestock show. Spring Break is a unique phenomena. It’s not low structure days, because we have trouble restricting screen time. But it’s not dedicated instructional days either, there’s no daily work and no subject work. But it’s socially necessary for us to make this visit, and having it fall at the end of a quarter is the best possible time for it to happen.
Then the two weeks immediately following Spring Break are Holy Week and the Octave of Easter, and we always take these weeks off. Holy Week because I’m far too busy cooking and cleaning, and Easter because it’s Easter. When possible, Himself and I take Easter Monday off and have a dedicated family day after all the guests from the day before are gone.
The final quarter picks up the week after Easter week and runs through till the end of Himself’s instructional year. There is a holiday on Memorial Day, but that’s it. If we finish early, we finish early. If we finish late… we finish late!
I use a custom school year calendar to plot this all out. Here’s a picture:
No, this is not my first copy. This is the final copy after I sorted everything out, probably my sixth copy. The diamonds are days that Himself is off but I still have work. The squares are days we both have off – there are no holidays that I have off and he does not. Quarter and holiday beginning and ends are the solid lines drawn through the calendar, holds are noted along the side, and each week of a quarter is numbered. The circled days are major feasts and fasts, family and liturgical: the feast of the Archangels, All Saints, Saint Nicholas, Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, and Saint David’s feast day. These all require some advanced planning because they interact with the regularly scheduled school days.
And that’s how I organize my year. If anyone wants a PDF of that calendar, you can download it here.