We just finished our sabbath week break from our homeschool, and I thought I’d share how this works for our family in case others want to consider it.
For the most part, we school year-round. This is very flexible, and depends greatly on our summer traveling schedule accompanying my husband to camps and mission trips. For the past two years, we’ve roughly taken off school for the month of June, but that’s really been the longest break we’ve taken, and even during that time we tried to continue handwriting practice and math 2-3 times a week.
We chose year-round schooling for several reasons. Firstly, I love the principle of continuing education and an atmosphere of learning…we want our family to see this as a lifestyle and not just something we schedule onto the calendar. Secondly, by schooling year-round, we don’t feel like we are ever “behind” on the point in our education. This also prevents gaps in learning or regression in skills subjects like Math and Language Arts. Lastly, we love the flexibility that comes with it. If needed, we can take longer breaks due to unforeseen circumstances. If the need arises for a sick family member to need our care and attention, we want to be able to stop everything and give that. If my husband asks me to start a dog breeding business and one of our dogs gives birth before her due date, I want to be able to pause school for the day to assist in labor and delivery and not feel like we’re behind. Maybe you aren’t running a dog breeding business, but I bet you are living your own unique set of circumstances, and life happens – circumstances like broken dryers (which also happened to us last week) or illnesses or new babies entering the family can cause you to need to pause for a while, or adjust workload temporarily. By schooling year-round, these breaks aren’t getting us off track, but simply showing us how to adapt and flow and continue education as a lifestyle versus something we pencil into a strict calendar.
Other than our larger one month break around the end of Spring, we try to do school for roughly 6 weeks, followed by a seventh week where we take a break from our regular curriculum. Sometimes this is adjusted based on holidays. For example, we usually take a week break around Thanksgiving, two weeks around Christmas, and a week off at Easter. Because we follow a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education, our curriculum has our school year broken down into three terms, each 12 weeks long. So 6 weeks of work equals half of a term.
As mentioned previously, we are pretty flexible with this. One example of how we adjusted recently was that we finished our second term at the end of January. However, we’d only been schooling for 4 weeks straight due to taking a break around Christmas. I could tell we were good to continue on, so we did two more weeks of work into our third term, and then took a break this past week for Valentine’s Day (February is known to be a challenging month for homeschoolers…something about the middle of winter and the point in the school year, haha). One of the reasons I chose to do this was because I had purchased a set of special Valentine’s Day morning time plans from Brighter Day Press, and we chose to do it this week for our Sabbath week.
I’ve found that our Sabbath weeks function well with some structure, while still taking a rest from our regular curriculum. The way we often do this is by changing up our morning time plans, but still observing a morning time, followed by 2-3 days of continued Math lessons. It’s definitely still a break from our usual routine, but continues to provide light rhythms that we believe in and desire to be daily for our families regardless of being “in school” or not – namely, our values of time in scripture and time reading aloud together. Morning time embodies both of these values well, and the break from our regular curriculum allows for some extra fun activities like trying new handicrafts or recipes. Brighter Day Press is for sure our favorite resource right now for providing plans for what we do during these sabbath weeks – it’s a sweet break and focus for us, and I highly recommend these resources, even for non-homeschooling families. It’s a sweet and intentional way to spend breaks and extra family time.
Another way we use our sabbath weeks is for family vacations, whether for the entire duration of the break, or just a few days and nights of it. We usually start our new school year cycle mid-summer, so that we can get six weeks under our belt before we go on a family vacation toward the end of August when my husband is done traveling for the summer, and when most public schools are beginning. This allows for a slower family experience in high tourist areas since they aren’t nearly as populated. Last August we took our first ever two week vacation where we visited three locations in Colorado. Since our travel days were scattered, we covered one week of school work on our travel days, and took breaks on the days we were camping in each place. It was such a joy to have this flexibility and continue our rhythms of education as a lifestyle, learning in various experiences.
Another aspect of our sabbath weeks is that I schedule time to do tasks that don’t necessarily fit into our regular school weeks – things like doctor/dentist appointments, house renovation projects, deep cleaning, etc. It’s a week for the kids to get extra imaginative play time, and for me to tend to managing our home in a variety of ways. Here’s an example of what I scheduled and was able to do this past week:
- organize garage
- rent carpet cleaner from Home Depot and shampoo all the carpet in the house
- organize laundry room
- organize boys’ closet
- pickup two new dogs for our dog breeding business
This helps eliminate additional stress by always wanting to do more and feeling like I don’t have time for it. By simply putting it aside and waiting to do it during our sabbath weeks from school, it takes up less space on my mind, and gives me a focus for what to do during the extra time we have on those weeks.
One more note about our regular school weeks that we’ve found helpful – we cover most of our school week in four days, Monday-Thursday. We do schedule a few things on Friday, shown below:
- An abbreviated morning time
- Narration Notebooks
- Language Arts Dictation
- Math test over that week’s concept
These are all items that can be covered on Thursday if we have something planned on Friday, like our Adventure Club gatherings, which are co-op enrichment-type meetings with other families every other week. This also allows for a catch-up day if we had something come up or scheduled another day earlier in the week. We can use Friday to fill in the gaps for what remains on our lesson plans.
So there’s a brief description of how we structure our school year. I’m grateful for friends who shared this with me, and pray it’s helpful as you consider what rhythms work best for you and your family.