First off, as for the idea of having the longer breaks...it is/was wonderful! I asked the kids how they liked the new 9-week straight terms with longer breaks in between and here are their responses:
Savannah said, "I loved it. It was much easier. I needed the break."
JJ's response was "You feel more refreshed and relaxed because you have one big long break."
Jason and I both agree that the year long method of scheduling is a great improvement. Some of the advantages that I have found so far are:
- We can actually finish units and not be interrupted by shortened weeks. When we were trying to follow the regular local school year calendar, it seemed like we had shortened weeks constantly. The public school gets off for holidays as well as teacher meetings so every time we turned around, we had a day off. I am not complaining about the days off because believe me I look forward to days off just as much as the kiddos, but it seemed to really disrupt our normal flow of school because the random days off were constant.
- We had something to look forward to....we knew that we would be working really hard for 9 weeks and that the hard work would be rewarded with a relaxing extended break.
- We are also able to fit our schedule more along the lines of my husbands job. As a handyman, it is really hard for Jason to schedule time off in the warmer summer months. With this schedule we will be planning our winter break as an extended break during one of Jason's less busy times...the holiday season. We will have a full week off at Thanksgiving (instead of the traditional Thursday and Friday),and we will take 3 weeks during the December/New Year time frame.
- Many subjects/lesson ideas are just better taught in a full week session. Maybe it is just old habit of a traditional 5 day a week lesson plan, but (for example) spelling lessons fit a lot better when you have a full week to complete it. When it comes to spelling, we have an order of doing things. We introduce our words on Monday with a "pretest" to see what words they know and what words they need to practice. We practice the missed words that day. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, their spelling book provides an activity for extra practice. We do another review-practice test on Thursday and have the final test on Friday. Even as a public school elementary teacher, it was always frustrating to have the week shortened by losing a Monday or a Friday to break. You end up either shortening the lesson for the spelling unit in order to get it done, or you have to extend the unit into 2 weeks. Of course, the problem with extending the unit is that there are typically 34-36 units in a spelling book which accounts for the exact number of school weeks in a school year. As for shortening the lessons, if there are words that the kids are having trouble spelling, they need that extra day to practice and prepare before being tested.
I will stop there for now with advantages. As for disadvantages to our new calendar, the one biggie that I noticed was the "getting back into the swing of things" lag. I knew that it would be a possibility and was actually expecting it. While I was excited to get back to work, the kids were thoroughly enjoying their free time. Part of it is that we had finally had some relief from the extreme heat and drought that was happening here in Oklahoma. (We actually had rain!) The back to school lag was not bad and would be compared to coming back to school after a 3 day weekend...getting used to getting up earlier and going to bed earlier...those kinds of things. So, the one idea that we have of trying to combat it is to have the first week a shortened Wednesday to Friday week and add the missing 2 days to the end of the session. It is a promising proposal because that would give us 2 days at the end that would strictly be for wrapping up the lessons. I am still working out the logistics of it, but it is a promising possibility for Term 3.
In a nutshell, I am really pleased with the change so far. I am sure that as time goes on and new changes and scenarios arise we will be forced to adjust, but that helps make home schooling more interesting and fun!