The School Calendar: Being Different

I’m a fan of year-round home education. After all, plenty of learning happens in homeschools even when the books are closed. To work better for my family’s needs and schedule, we decided to change our official academic calendar from the typical September through May school year to January through December.

NOTE: Hip Homeschool Moms offers FREE printable calendars for your non-traditional school year! You can get yours in the article The Benefits of Homeschooling Year Round. You’ll find calendars for school years beginning in January, July, and/or September.


Calendar for Homeschool Schedule


Our basic schedule is:

  1. We start a new school year in early January and study for six weeks before taking a one-week hiatus in mid-February.
  2. Then we study for roughly six more weeks and take another week off in late March or early April, adjusting as necessary each year so our vacation week coincides with Easter.
  3. We take a third week off in mid-May and then study through the end of June before taking our summer vacation for the month of July.
  4. We start school again in early August and extend our study weeks to seven or eight in a row–taking a week off in late September.
  5. Then we begin school again in late September and take our next week off for Thanksgiving.
  6. After that, we study for a week or two more before breaking for most of December as our winter vacation. (In other words, we finish our school year in late November or early December and are done for the school year until our new school year begins in January.)

All in all, such a schedule amounts to about 190 official school days, though we log closer to 200 when counting field trips and other incidental educational activities that occur during our hiatus weeks and on some weekends. (Keep in mind that schools include field trip days as school days, so we also include them.)

This schedule works very well for my family for a variety of reasons.

  • First, it motivates my children. I aim to make their bookwork as engaging as possible, but the fact remains that all kids enjoy free time. So when my daughters realize they get a vacation every six (or seven or eight) weeks, they more readily focus on their lessons.
  • Second, having shorter vacations enhances learning and memory because they never take more than a few weeks at a time away from their formal academics.
  • And third, it prevents boredom. Our longest hiatus is four or five weeks long, and for at least two of those weeks, my kids are occupied with church camp and our annual family lake vacation. They readily occupy their time during the remaining weeks and never reach the point of feeling they have “nothing to do.”
  • Additionally, it eases my workload. I plan in six-week increments instead of feeling the need to organize a semester or even a whole year ahead of time – thus eliminating much of the potential for burnout.
  • And, finally, it illustrates for my sphere of influence the truth that there is nothing sacred or magical about the typical public school calendar. In fact, the way things are done today is very different from public school calendars in earlier eras. So by being different, we demonstrate that today’s typical school calendar is simply one option, not “the way” to do things.

One beauty – among so many – in homeschooling is that each of us has the freedom to do what makes sense for our particular family. When the “norm” is not our preference, we can do something different. We can go against the flow.

What about you? Have you considered customizing your family’s home learning calendar even if that means it runs counter to tradition? Why or why not?

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  1. I’m leaning towards this philosophy, too. Not because of the reasons you stated necessarily, but because it’s so hot in Okinawa during the summer months. We don’t play outside, so we might as well be doing school. In the fall and spring, we’ll take longer breaks when we can get out more readily and enjoy our island. In Okinawa, they school year round, too. They begin in April and go through March. They don’t have a long break like our summer break.

    1. If I lived in a hot climate, I would absolutely adjust in a way such as you’re describing. The beauty of homeschooling in terms of scheduling is that we can do what is logical for our family’s situation – not just what “everyone else” does.

  2. <3 this, and I totally agree! We are getting ready to start our homeschooling journey, and I can't wait to take advantage of the flexibility it will provide us. (Plus, it will help prevent the boredom my kiddos tend to experience over the long summer breaks.) Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. I love the idea of schooling Jan-Dec but since I started in Sept one year I can’t seem to make it work that I finish in Dec to re-start in Jan. But, we do school year round and take longer breaks around holidays or when we travel. Love your blog!

    1. I started on a traditional (northern hemisphere) schedule, too, and we did it that way for a few years. When I finally decided to switch – after much hemming and hawing and then consulting with my husband (who was totally supportive even though I’d feared he’d think I was nuts!) – we essentially “deleted” one “semester” of “4th grade” for my girls and had them start “5th grade” in January even though they’d started “4th” the previous August. It was a bit odd, but since I use non-traditional curriculum and work on materials until we finish/master anyway (instead of finishing everything all at one time to complete a “school year”), it’s worked out well.

  4. Great post! We accidentally discovered year-round homeschooling last year because I was anxious to begin our first year homeschooling, and therefore started a few months early. It worked out so well in giving us the holidays off that we wanted off. We’re doing it again this year, but our school year begins in July and runs through May/June, depending on how strictly we stick to the plan. I’m a firm believer that summer is the perfect time for learning! So much to do and see; so many festivals (we just went to our state’s Colonial Fest) and other opportunities to learn. Instead, we’re taking all of December off, since it’s our favorite time to relax and enjoy the season. I think we’ll stick to year-round schooling!

  5. Universities and colleges in Belgium use the semester system, dividing the academic year in two equal parts of fourteen weeks of courses. Universities start the first semester in the third week of September, and no ‘autumn break’. Colleges start one week earlier, in the second week of September, giving them right to the ‘autumn break’ of one week. After 14 weeks of courses the ‘Christmas break’ starts (around December 20), which is used to study for the 3–4 weeks of examinations in January.

  6. We school year round, I love it! It makes learning an everyday thing. We do not have a set in stone date, for starting new subjects. We work on them till they are done, the take a week break from that subject then start the next level of that particular subject. So, we have new subjects starting at all different times of the year. It makes me a little crazy, but it is also not a bunch of new stuff, all at once for my children.

  7. I am very intrigued by this as my children are close to homeschooling age. One thing I have been searching for is do you promote your children to the “next grade level” in January as well? Thank you!

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