We were what is considered a year-round homeschool family. In other words, even though other schools took most of their time off during the summer we choose to learn all year long. But I want to clarify. We did NOT homeschool 365 days a year with only weekends off. Instead we opted to take more time off from formal classroom work throughout the year instead of one giant chunk of time in the summer. For our legal recording purposes, we did identify our school year with start and end dates factoring in the time we had planned vacations and other events away from the classroom so that we met our state requirements, but we typically did not adhere strictly to start and stop dates.
So how did we know when our school year was over and a new one was starting? It was sometimes hard to tell because our natural curiosities kept us exploring all the time.
Here are some of the simple things we used over the years as indicators that our formal school year had ended.
- Purchased courseware was finished – When we used a particular curriculum meant to be covered in a school year, it was simple to know when we were done. It was all laid out for us.
- We did "our time" – Our state requires that we have 180 days of school with at least 4.5 hours of instruction per day (810 hours per year). By keeping track of our school attendance, we not only fulfilled our legal responsibilities, but we also had an idea when the formal school year was over.
- Educational goals were met – Each year I would determine what I wanted my children to learn in each subject and what skills they should master. Once these goals were met, it would mark the end of the year for that subject.
- All assignments were completed – I am a planner and always laid out an entire year of lesson plans for each of my kids in a digital planner. I would not only print out each weeks' plan for each child, but I also would print out the entire lesson plan for each subject for reference so that they knew exactly what was expected of them. Sometimes they wanted to work ahead in a subject that they enjoyed, which was perfectly fine with me as long as the other subjects weren't neglected. When the last lesson for a subject was done, it marked the year's end for that subject.
- It was time for a much-needed break – Everyone has tough years and we had our share. There were times when the kids really struggled to learn something or just could not focus long enough to complete everything (thinking about our middle school years). It was in those years that we relied on indicator #2 above and took a longer break to rejuvenate before trying again, often picking up where we left off with a fresh vision.
Even though our state required 180 school days, we usually averaged closer to 200-220 in a year. Homeschooling for us was a lifestyle and not dictated by a calendar. If we didn't understand something, we kept trying. If we mastered something, we moved on. And in between we filled our days with memories of being together exploring the world around us and building family bonds.