Disclaimer: I live and homeschool in the state of Texas, where the laws are very favorable. I realize that some of the things I mention here might not work in states that have more strict requirements. However, I have read about many families who have learned to school their own way and still keep the required records for state approval.
I've mentioned before that we usually school year-round at our house. I also mentioned one of our top reasons for homeschooling is the freedom to set our own schedule.
When I say 'schedule' I mean daily, weekly, and yearly. You see, the schedules that public and private schools follow (180 days per year, 8-3 each day, etc.) are set up to manage hundreds of children efficiently. Since we are not a public school, I am not bound by those timetables.
This mindset affects all other areas of our homeschool.
The School Year: For starters, we school year-round because of the flexibility it affords. The weather has a lot to do with this. When it's 100+ degrees in the summer, the kids don't like to go outdoors as much. That's a perfect time to have school! But when the refreshing days of autumn arrive, all of us want to go out in the backyard, or go to the zoo or the park or a hike at the lake. So when all the 'school kids' are stuck in a classroom on beautiful fall days, we are taking a break and enjoying the great outdoors. This goes for Winter and Spring, too. Winter weather might chase us indoors for more school, and then Spring invites us out again.
Flexibility also helps when there is a family illness, new baby, or even for last-minute plans.
The Week: We never have school five days a week. We have school as many days a week as we can, but I'm not a stickler. Typically, a busy week is 4 days. We've also been known to have school on Saturday. Monday through Saturday are open season for schoolwork, and my kids have gotten used to that.
At this point, you might be thinking, "But what if you get behind?" My answer to that is, "Behind what?" This is where you really have to start thinking outside the box. In this case, the box is the public school's system.
The only way I can be behind is to try to follow the public school's schedule of learning. Since I don't receive taxpayer money for my school, I don't have to follow the state's guidelines for what my children learn and when. We don't take state achievement tests. I don't worry that multiplication is learned in 3rd grade, or algebra in 8th grade, or Texas history in whatever grade (I don't even know when they do that). As long as we do learn it, it doesn't matter when. As I've stated before, the schedule used by public schools is in place to manage hundreds of children efficiently.
I have 3 out of 4 children who are school-age right now, and they are all learning things at different levels than their public school counterparts; some might be considered ahead and some might be considered behind. But they are all learning constantly, and they will know what they need before they graduate.
The Day: Our school day looks more like what you'd expect. I try to follow a schedule, which helps to manage several children at different ages. (Click here to see an actual day.) But, that schedule varies, again, depending on our circumstances. I usually like everyone up by 7, but right now, with pregnancy and the constant exhaustion that accompanies it, I may sleep til 8 and then wake the kids. We try to aim for 10:00 for our start time because we can. : )
Does this idea appeal to you or scare the heck out of you? Well, just take a look back at our history (I love to take a look back at history!) and examine the evolution of the school system.
In the early days of American history, parents were responsible for their children's education. They taught them to read, write, and 'do sums.' They also taught them real world stuff, like a trade, how to manage the farm and home, etc.
As time went on, some communities decided they wanted a school for their children to attend. So the local townfolks would discuss the idea, someone would donate a piece of land, everyone would pitch in to build a school house (which sometimes would double as the church), and they would begin looking for a teacher. This teacher might be a teenager who had finished her studies, or could be a single woman or man who needed the work.
For the most part, especially in the small towns and communities, there were no grades. There were only 'readers,' similar to the McGuffey readers. Once a child completed one reader, they moved on to the next. This could happen at varying ages, depending on how much schooling the child had been exposed to. The teacher in this school taught all ages, all day. And that learning could be accomplished in just a few short years. For a look at a typical pioneer education, click here.
The public school system we know today didn't come about unil the early 20th century, when more and more women moved into the workplace. When you read up about the founders of the public school system and their true intentions, it can be downright horrifying. For just a glimpse, read this. If you're interested in a thorough look, go here.
If you are homeschooling, or contemplating it, remember: you are not a public school. So free yourself from that kind of thinking, and have fun learning with your kids!