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Practical Homeschooling® :

Don't Go Back to School!

By Joyce Swann
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #19, 1997.

Five reasons to consider a 12-month school year.
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Joyce Swann

In keeping with a growing trend, many homeschoolers will not be going back to school this fall. Are they dropping out? Are they returning to public and private schools? No. These homeschooled students will not be returning to school in the fall for the simple reason that they never left.

There are several reasons why more and more homeschooling parents are opting for a twelve-month school year for their students. First, eliminating the traditional three-month summer vacation means that valuable basic skills will be kept sharp. We all remember the way our own public educations played out. We returned to school the day after Labor Day and began a six-week review of what we were supposed to have learned in the previous grade. When May arrived, little if any real learning took place during that final month as we reviewed what we had learned previously and prepared for tests. Even if we do not consider time off for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, just this initial review and final winding down ate up ten weeks of the school year. Add to that the twelve weeks of summer vacation, and we had a total of twenty-two weeks in which virtually no learning was occurring and much of what had been learned was forgotten.

Second, when children are not in school they tend to develop bad habits. Because they do not have enough to occupy their time, they constantly want to be going somewhere and doing something. Bodies grow restless and minds grow lazy as they look for ways to entertain themselves. Of course, we can always find plenty for our children to do, but most young people do not consider weeding the garden and mowing the lawn "fun" activities, and as soon as they have finished their work, they revert to that summer cycle of boredom.

Third, a twelve-month school year is excellent preparation for the adult world. Apart from helping with household chores, going to school is really a child's first "job." His "paycheck" is the grades he earns for mastering each aspect of that job. Going to that job five days a week twelve months a year (with time off for holidays and that two-week family vacation) is one of the best ways that I can think of to prepare a child for the adult work force.

Fourth, a twelve-month school year makes it possible for a child to make years that are often largely filled with "wasted time" some of the most productive in terms of genuine learning experiences. I remember with regret how unproductive my own teen years were. I made good grades and graduated from high school as the salutatorian of my class, but I learned very little during my twelve years of formal schooling. It was the memory of those wasted years that prompted me to implement a twelve-month school year for our children when we set up our homeschool. I always believed that if we used those childhood years wisely, the children would be the big winners in terms of quality learning experiences.

In most cases, following a twelve-month school year results in early graduation, since a child normally finishes one grade level and immediately begins working at the next grade level. In other cases, parents keep their children at grade level with their public school peers but use the summer months to refine reading and math skills and undertake special projects. For instance, a child might write a well-documented library research paper on a subject of his own choosing, or the parent and child might work together on a special science project that is too time-consuming to attempt during the regular school year. Summer is also a good time to study foreign languages and take art and music lessons.

Fifth, a twelve-month school year makes it easier on Mom. This was one of the major reasons I chose year-round schooling for our children, and I find that many other homeschooling mothers choose it for the same reason. When basic skills are kept sharp and bad habits do not have a chance to form, the home teacher's job is much easier. A learning atmosphere which prepares students for the kind of work schedule they will encounter in adult life and makes the best possible use of their time also helps create a disciplined lifestyle which will help them succeed for the rest of their lives.

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