Reader Question: Do you homeschool on the same 180-day calendar as the public school system?

Reader Question: Do you homeschool on the same 180-day calendar as the public school system?
Homeschooling in winter . . . skiing. Homeschooling in spring, picking blossoms. Homeschooling in summer . . . swimming! Homeschooling in fall . . . leaves.

Reader Lou submitted this question on my last post about our homeschool math curriculum:

Do you homeschool on the same calendar as public schools — 180 days a year? I can see where many subjects could be enhanced with ‘more days’ if there is a need or an interest. (And some subjects with fewer days!)

Yes and no. We don’t follow the public school calendar per se but we do in some ways.

First, we use the natural boost of back-to-school enthusiasm in the fall to fire up our homeschooling and transition to the next grade level or start new curricula. So, we generally do start each year of homeschooling with the public school system.

But there are many places where our schedule and the public school calendar don’t match up. When the public school system might be taking a teacher work day, holiday or a snow day, we just press on. A lot of the curriculum we use (especially the Daily Language Review and Daily Math Practice books), have assignments marked Monday through Friday. While you don’t have to do them in order, it is somehow unmotivating to be doing the Monday assignment on Tuesday. So, we try to stay regular with these assignments doing them every single day. We have also found that you need to be doing them every single day if you want to finish them and still have time to prepare for standardized testing.

If we get behind during a week, we really try to catch up as soon as possible. This might mean that we end up doing some schoolwork on a weekend or over Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.

We tend to end much of our formal learning for each grade level in line with the public school timeline as well. The Commonwealth of Virginia requires that homeschooled students submit evaluations or standardized test scores by August 1 of each year. To meet the deadline we generally end our studies by June 15 and begin our test preparation workbooks at that time.

In summer, we do continue our learning activities but they change nature. Summer is the prime time for my children to participate in camps to learn from other teachers and meet other children. For the last two summers, we have also continued a bit of our Singapore Math curriculum in the summer because we just couldn’t get it all done during the school year. Sometimes we do a workbook over the summer to keep skills sharp.

I’m sure this makes it sound like we homeschool all the time. We don’t. If there are fun things we want to take advantage of, like a field trip or a playdate with friends, we do it. If there are things we need to do like repair the car, or attend a doctor’s appointment, we have to break from homeschooling to do that too. We just have to make sure that if we aren’t homeschooling on a Monday-Friday day for some reason, that we are catching up at some other time.

Bottom line: When all is said and done, we probably put in slightly more hours of instructional time than the public school system does in a year but in terms of overall time spent at school, including riding the bus, eating lunch, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if we come out even or less.

As for changing up the schedule based on the subject matter, I don’t feel experienced enough as a teacher to know how to manipulate our schedule in this way. For now, we just set a weekly timetable for each subject and stick to it throughout the year. I expect more experienced teachers and homeschoolers can better gauge how to skip certain topics or spend more time on others and perhaps in time I will too.

Thanks for a great question!

Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on public school versus homeschool scheduling in the comments.