One of the best perks about homeschooling is that you can make your own schedule. You can homeschool whichever months you want to!
Check your state law
The first thing to consider when making your homeschool schedule is to look at your state law. Some states don’t require any minimum days of instruction. Others say to do 180 but never ask you about it. Others require you to turn in the calendar they provide with at least 180 days checked off that you did school. Still others say 9 calendar months. What does your state say? Check HSDLA for current laws and regulations.
What counts as an “instructional day” to you?
The next thing to consider is, what counts as an “instructional day” to you? If your state requires 180 instructional days, what exactly does that mean? Some families count every day as an instructional day as even going to the zoo on Saturday or Sunday school on Sunday is “instructional.” Maybe you only want to count the days you do a core subject such as math, history, science, or language arts. That’s fine, but keep in mind that kids at school have many days that are field days, clean out your locker days, Valentine party days, minimum days, substitute teacher (aka watch a movie) days. Some days are almost entirely filled with an assembly, fire drills, or a bomb threat. (I remember waiting on the football field for hours in high school after some kid falsified a bomb threat that had to be checked out.)
When I lived in a state that required 180 days I would spend the summer before the school year deciding which 180 days would be school days and which would be vacation days. For the school days I planned a lesson, a review, a field trip, a Christmas party, or clean out school cubbies day all 180 days. Something was planned. And we stuck to that pretty well. If family came into town on a Thursday I’d double up lessons on Tuesday and Wednesday and still count Thursday and Friday as school days because that had been the original plan. Plus, if they were in public school I would have taken them out of school those days to go to the beach or whatever we were doing. (Which is also instructional.) And if they were sick it still counted b/c kids miss school for illness obviously. We just doubled up the lesson the next day. That was my OCD with wanting to make sure we filled the requirement. You may not feel that way at all and that’s totally fine. Go with what you feel you need to do.
Plan the year according to your textbook
We’ve lived in 4 states and only 1 required we turn in a calendar with checks by 180 school days. For the other states, like where we live currently, there isn’t a requirement for number of school days so I just plan the year how I want. Most years I think I want to unschool more and have less school days but then I look at the cool US History textbook I’m using and get excited and want to do 300 days of school. So I find a happy medium and end up with 33 weeks or 165 days of school. The years we buy a LA curriculum those books have 36 lessons so we double up or skip some. And the science we sometimes use only has 14 so we do one every other week and come out with only 28 weeks of science, which is totally fine. (More about curriculum I use here.)
Plan the year according to the lessons you’re making up
Most of my curriculum/lessons I make up myself. Maybe you do too. Say you want to learn poetry, do you want to study a new poet/poem each week? Maybe you have 20 poets you want to study or maybe you have 12. Make a list and plan a poet for each week or one every two weeks. Maybe you keep thinking of more and more poets you want to learn about so your list gets really long. You’ll want to do 40 weeks of school. Or maybe you’ll cut some out so that you don’t have to be learning poets the last week before a vacation or holiday. You’re the teacher and know your family best. If you want to teach your children 40 weeks worth of poets because you’re an English major and want to pass on your love to your children you can. If you know nothing about science and only want to do 20 weeks of it, you can totally do that.
Plan in Review Weeks
So in planning how many school days you’ll have, first see how many are required by law. Then see how much school you want to do by looking through the lessons in your textbook/workbook or planning your own lessons. I highly recommend building in some review or catch up days. I hate getting behind so I don’t plan too much for each day. That way if we do have something come up we can easily do two lessons on one day. I also highly recommend building in some review or catch-up days. I plan the last week of each unit to be a “review week” where we review what we’ve learned (we sit around the table and we all ask each other questions from our history notes and get M & M’s or other candy for right answers.) We also catch up on projects we didn’t do because maybe it was a solar oven but it rained that day. So I don’t plan a new group lesson that week. Sometimes they still do new math, spelling and other lessons and sometimes we review everything, especially the last week of school.
Here are a few ideas of how to plan your homeschool schedule:
- 18 weeks for fall semester and 18 weeks for winter. That would give you the 36 weeks (if mandated by law) that are evenly split before and after Christmas. Start early August and end early May.
- 8 weeks on then 1 week off until you get your 36 weeks.
- Do 10 weeks on and 2 weeks off.
- Do 3 months on and 1 month off year round.
- Take off entirely from Thanksgiving till New Years.
- Take 2 weeks at Thanksgiving and 2 weeks at Christmas.
- Do the majority of school in the summer when it’s too hot and the winter when it’s too cold. Take off 4 weeks in the fall and 5 weeks in the spring for your 9 weeks of “summer vacation” plus a couple for Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July or other holidays.
- Plan it around babies being born, family visiting, kids’s birthdays, weddings, siblings going to college, etc.
- Take off 6 weeks for a baby being born.
- Take off only a few days when a baby is born and homeschool those weeks you are homebound anyway. Then take off when the baby is bigger and you’re wanting to get out and do things.
These are just a few different ways you can make a homeschool schedule throughout the year. Do what works for your family! You can do it the same every year or change it up every year.
Different ways I’ve planned our homeschool schedule over the past 20 years.
For the bulk of our homeschooling years we’ve had either a baby being born or a child being baptized (age 8) during the school year. Family would come for one or both of them so I was forced to schedule school around that and that would be our vacation time. If it was September then we’d start school late July and get 6 weeks in before taking off a couple weeks for the baby and my parents coming. If it was February we’d take 2 weeks off then.
Some years we had both a birth and a baptism. In that case my parents usually came for the baptism because the child wanted grandparents there but the newborn didn’t care. If they weren’t coming for a baby then I’d do school a few days after she was born and I was homebound anyway. Then when they visited later for a child’s baptism I’d take 2 weeks off and we’d all go site-seeing or hang out together. Or you can take plenty of time off for both and homeschool another part of the year.
The rare years we didn’t have a birth or baptism we took off from Thanksgiving to Christmas. That was nice so I could Christmas shop, help the children make presents for each other, send out Christmas cards, travel, etc. Since my dad passed away my mom has come for 2 weeks at Thanksgiving and her birthday the following week, so I take 2 weeks off then and 2 weeks at Christmas. But do 2 weeks of fairly easy school between them in case I’m busy with Christmas preparations.
This year (2022-23) we started school July 18. We were done with all our summer activities/camps and it was hot, humid and rainy, so we were sitting around the house a lot. My older kids who were home in May and June were gone and we were lonely and bored. It really helped us to get back into a schedule, feel productive, and do something together. Additionally, I love taking time off in the fall when the weather is perfect so I decided to take the whole month of October off which we could do if we started mid July. It’s worked great. I loved having October off to play outside, go hiking, do mommy dates, cut and stack wood, and do other projects.
Here’s our 2022-23 Schedule
- July 18-September 30 (11 weeks)
- October 3-28 (4 weeks off)
- October 31-November 18 (3 weeks)
- November 21-December 2 (2 weeks off)
- December 5-16 (2 weeks)
- December 19-30 (2 weeks off)
- January 2- March 31 (13 weeks)
- April 3-14 (2 weeks off)
- April 17-May 12 (4 weeks)
This is a total of 33 weeks of school. I make a plan for each of those days. (Mostly lessons but also a review day, a catch up day, a half day for a birthday, or a field trip.) However if things come up, like my college girls, my mom and sisters were all here until January 6 which I hadn’t planned for when I made the schedule in the summer, we double up on lessons and are able to catch up. One of my college girls comes home May 2 so I’m betting we’ll rush to finish our school books before she gets home so we’re free to play with her. So we’ll probably end up with only 30 weeks of school but as long as we finish our books and do the activities I was most excited about, I’m good with that. Our entire days are filled with educational activities so even if we did no formal schooling they’d be just fine.
Next year’s schedule
This summer my 17 year-old college girl, Alexis, is coming home May 2 – June 13 so we’ll be off school then. My 22 year-old college daughter, Kylie, will be home August 15 – September 15 so I’m thinking we’ll start the next school year in July again when we have nothing going on and take off when Kylie is here. They’re actually at the same college but Kylie is doing two different study abroads this summer and fall so she has a slightly different schedule. I’m glad we homeschool so we can spend time with the girls when they come home. If we were in public school the kids would be in school almost their whole visit.
I hope this helped you plan your homeschool schedule. You have so much flexibility. Let me know if you have any questions!