Monday, August 8, 2011

The 12 Month School Year

What’s that?  12 months of the school year?  Didn’t You mean to type 9??

Well, no, I didn’t.    You see, we didn’t take a summer break this year, our first summer of home schooling.  We took several summer vacations.  We celebrated the accomplishing of all of our academic goals for the end of our inaugural partial year of home education with a mini-break.  We celebrated the end of the district’s end of school year by taking off their first full day of summer vacation, so the kids could play all day with an ecstatic neighbor child.   We took a couple of random days off when the brutally hot weather—too hot to enjoy the swimming pool or beach, let alone hang out much outdoors—broke here and there, and just hung out at the pool and the beach, or I turned them loose to play with the neighborhood kids when it was cool enough to play outdoors.  We traveled to with my husband to a math conference, an event that was both fun AND educational, and we spent a week at our family farm, gathering with our extended family and hiking in the mountains and swimming in a mountain lake.  We’ll take my DS7’s birthday off of course—when you homeschool, your birthday is an official day off from school—and head to an amusement park, which is his preference to a bunch of presents.  In his words, “Mommy, I have enough things.  I’d rather have a really cool day with you guys.”  Done!  Okay, he’ll get a couple of presents.  And in between, when it was brutally hot, it was back to the books, experiments, reading, and everything else we do.

So what is business as usual in the Hillandale Farm School in summer?  I mean, isn’t it just cruel to do school all summer?

So, for their “What did I do over the summer” essay, my kids could easily write about heading to Vancouver, or hiking by waterfalls in northeastern PA, or jumping waves at the beach, having sleepovers with friends, watching the incredible fireworks and fountains fourth of July display at Longwood Gardens, or they could write about declining nouns in Latin, conjugating verbs in German, reading about Ancient Egypt and excavating a miniature pyramid and wrapping a mummy of their own, learning to play an ancient Egyptian board game using throwing sticks instead of dice, attending a book signing for a newly released book by an author they personally knew, learning about Pi or multiplication and division, memorizing funny poems about Egyptian pharaohs and stanzas from “Horatio at the Bridge,” making cartouches of everyone’s names, and practicing Cuneiform writing in clay with a stylus, reading about King Arthur and Sharyar and Sharaazad, exploring the Civil War site of Fort Delaware, learning how to draw a map of the world’s continents from memory, taking trumpet lessons and learning recorder, blowing the library's summer reading program out of the water, learning how to identify trees by leaf and bark characteristics, learning to compost, raising a tadpole into a tiny froglet on the back porch, building molecular models, and doing amazing chemistry experiments with balloons, static electricity, water, oil, food coloring, baking soda, vinegar, hot water, Coca Cola, batteries, Mentos, and test tubes, and comparing double negatives in speech to double negative signs in arithmetic, and more. 

Or, they could write about all of the above, because we had plenty of time for school, travel, and play, and still lots of time to just sit and drift on the swingset out in the back yard, and even (heavens) to play some videogames.

So, you're cool with making your kids social pariahs, just like all other HS kids?

Yes, we had a few confused knocks on the door from time to time from the kids in the neighborhood, but since they all know we homeschool, and we could generally give an answer regarding what time school would be done that day, they’d happily enough come back at the appointed time to play that afternoon.  Most of them had summer camps strewn throughout the summer, and didn’t think it was all that odd to be busy in the summer—with just one week of camp each this summer, my two kids, as it turned out, were actually two of the most available kids in the neighborhood in their age group, as summer camps have become so ubiquitous in this two-wage-earner or single-parenting world.  We also had many instances in which kids in the neighborhood thought what we were reading or studying was just so cool, they requested permission to join us.

Don't you guys ever burn out then?  I mean, I loved summer, because I needed down time from school!

Despite a school year that is planned to last about four weeks longer than a typical PS year (40 weeks), we still anticipate extra time throughout the fall, winter, and spring to take days off to go hiking, apple-picking, traveling, or just have a day off when we wish, thanks to having ¼ of our year done before most people have even started (some year-round homeschoolers actually maintain a 3 weeks on, 1 week off schedule throughout the year, for regularly scheduled mental breaks or hobby time.  Right now I’m not that organized, but I can see the appeal).  We’ll have extra down-time during the more pleasant fall and spring seasons, when it’s actually nice to be outdoors, and when we can go and enjoy local and distant attractions when everyone else is in school or at work!

So, in the long run, getting the first quarter of the school year done over the summer seems like a pretty small price to pay for the flexibility we will now enjoy for the rest of the year in terms of having an ability to take time off when we need or wish to do so.  Illness, travel, or opportunity to explore need not derail our educational plans, and instead  of review and time spent getting organized and back up to speed, come September all we have to do is just keep on rolling.

Thanks for Reading!


  1. The reasons you listed are the same as why we homeschool year round. It came in especially handy during a three-month bout of pneumonia last winter; some days taking a shower then required a nap. :) But we still had our 180 "official" days done by April!

  2. I read somewhere that if you use all the summers "off" over the course of all K-12 education it adds up to over two years/grade levels of additional school time.