This is our fourth year homeschooling. When we made the decision to homeschool back in 2012, I originally intended on doing school for eight weeks and then having a break. But then the curricula arrived and I couldn't figure out how to work in a break. So we just took odd days off here and there and went on a few trips like our October 2012 trip to Niagara Falls and our April 2013 trip to San Francisco.
Last year was the first year we did six weeks on and one week off and it happened quite by coincidence. After reading "Teaching from Rest," I'd downloaded the Plan Your Year guide and one of the pages is a six term block schedule. I was also building my own unit studies for History, Science, Art and Music-- shaping them around each other -- and each unit was one week long. So I translated the word "term" to "week" in my head and voila! A beautiful, manageable school schedule that allowed for structure and fluidity.
Here's why six weeks on and one week off works for us:
1. Burn Out: I can tell when we are at the end of week five or at the beginning of week six. All three of us are grouchy, tired and no longer excited about what we're studying. We're ready for a rest from the books. We're just plain burned out. Six weeks is all we can handle. Then we need to take a break to let it all sink in to our brains.
2. Course Correction: My first two years, I discovered that what I wanted to work usually didn't work quite the way I'd hoped and planned. But, I'm too methodical and practical to just scrap an entire curriculum mid-year. I'm also too Type A to just start adding things in and taking stuff out without a fast and hard start and end date. So, six weeks gives me enough time to see if something is working, do research on alternatives or substitutions and then correct our course in the next six week session.
3. Diversity: Almost anything can be studied well in six weeks. For some of our more complex topics, we do multiple six week sections. But, this gives us a lot of diversity and variation in what and how we are learning. I keep thinking that one of these days I'm going to spend a week on art, a week on music, a week on science, etc. That's just a little too amoebic for me at this point, but maybe one day.
4. Reward: I was going to say "flexibility" or "vacation" or "fun" but the reality is, the six week schedule fits our lives. Now, when my mom asks me if we'd like to go with them on vacation, I can say "Yes, we're off school on this particular week." We know that if we work hard for six weeks straight, we have a seventh to rest as our reward. And, now that I think about that, it's kind of biblical if you consider God worked for six days and rested on the seventh.
5. Retention: This schedule means our summer break is a little bit shorter. We actually have a four week term of school in the middle of summer where we focus on just reading, math and Bible. A shorter summer means more retention and better fluidity in their learning. I'm not spending the first month of school reviewing because we haven't been away from our studies more than six weeks. By the time the six weeks are up, we're ready for the structure and formal learning again.
6. Because we can! That, to me, is one of the biggest perks of homeschooling. And, I felt I needed a sixth reason to fit with our six week schedule.
So, what do we do on our seventh week? We bake, read books, play with legos, go for long walks, visit friends, take naps, do some unschooling, go on field trips, catch up on laundry and if we're lucky go on vacation. The seventh week can be anything we want it to be.
If you're feeling burnt out, maybe it's time to tweak your schedule. It's scary, I know. But it might be just the thing you need.