- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Summer is here, and school is out. It's time to kick off your home-school shoes and relax. Or is it? This time of year, I'm often asked how long a break our family will take for summer vacation. Many are surprised when I tell them we will begin our new school year July 1. You see, we home-school year-round.

Having the choice to school year-round, I believe, is one advantage of home-schooling. Generally speaking, a school year consists of 180 days. Here in Pennsylvania, the official school year runs from July 1 to June 30. By taking advantage of the summer months, I can start a new school year at the beginning of July and have 364 days in which to complete 180 days' worth of schoolwork.

Besides the extra time to complete a school year, home-schooling year-round allows our children to continue learning new material. Did you know that the first three months of a new school year typically are spent reviewing and regaining skills lost over the summer? By home-schooling through the summer, you can be sure your child won't have to spend valuable time in review.

I know what you're thinking: "This all sounds great, but my children and I are tired of school. We need a break from book work." I agree. By the time May rolls around, I need a break, too. That's why home-schooling through the summer is great. You can continue learning but use all the educational opportunities the season provides.

Here are some practical ways to incorporate summertime activities into your home-education program. For reading, have your child join a local library's or bookstore's summer reading program. In science, you could plant a flower or vegetable garden or study insects. Use "how-to" books and field guides instead of textbooks. You are not just reading about a subject, you are getting hands-on learning.

You also can take advantage of historical re-enactments, cultural and county fairs, art exhibitions and outdoor dramatic and musical performances. You also might want to have your child take up a summer sport for physical education or research a vacation destination before your family hits the road.

Planning a year-round home-school schedule is easy. Begin by deciding the date of your first day of school and continue through each month, taking into account when you would like to take time off. The schedule below is only an example, but it has worked well for our family over the years.

Each month, July through June, allow one personal day per child. During July and August, school four days per week. This shortened week allows for long weekends and also provides an extra day to attend to the lawn or garden. Every other month October, December, February, April, June and August take a one-week vacation. The week can be used to go on a family vacation, catch up on housework or prepare lesson plans for the next several weeks. In December, you can take a two-week Christmas break, and in September, November, January, March, May and July, treat yourself to a one- or two-day vacation any time during the month. Also included in the schedule is a two-week floating holiday to be taken whenever you choose.

It's that easy. With new educational activities, short vacations and extended breaks, everyone teacher, students and the rest of the family will benefit from year-round schooling. By beginning in July and using this plan, we usually are finished with school by the middle of May. Then we take off the month of June for some R&R; and plan the upcoming school year.

In some years, the schedule has required alteration because of unexpected situations, but because we started school in the summer, we did not have to worry that we would not be able to complete our year on time. So, sit down with your family and plan your year-round home-school schedule.

Kim Huber, a mother of four children, has been home-schooling for 16 years. She and her husband serve on the Christian Home-school Association of Pennsylvania's board of directors. She can be reached by e-mail (CHAPKimH@aol.com).

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