When I started hanging out with homeschoolers last summer, I wondered openly why so many of them took their family vacations during the summer time, when everyone else in the universe does. Travelling in the summer means having to pay top dollar, face crowded attractions, and compete for lodging: so if you’re not bound to a district’s schedule, why do so? I knew once I was homeschooling, our school would run through summer, and we’d have our big break in early Fall, especially since the Comic-Con pretty much dominates Peter’s summer schedule, and he’d often not psychologically free for vacation until late August–exactly when the district school year begins.
I realized many of the homeschoolers I associated with were doing their program via a public or charter school, where their child could be in school sports, or sign up for small classes. And others needed to work with the schedule of other family members, who might be off from college for the summer, or who might work for a business, educational or otherwise, that had a summer break. But that didn’t explain everyone.
And this summer, I discovered why: even though it makes sense to have school during summer, it’s hard exactly because everyone else in the universe isn’t, and so many special events and attractions are set up during the summer time for just that reason.
It hadn’t made so much sense last summer, because frankly, the friends Neil had made during fourth grade had developed a serious case of over-schedulitis. I tried, time after time, to have his friends come over for playtime, and yet, their parents rebuffed me over and over. So hanging out with the homeschoolers made up for it, though even they made only rare appearances in the summer.
This year, he had some different friends with less insane schedules, and Neil was able to hang out with them the way friends do when they’re not signed up for infinity camps, trips, and clubs. Plus, his boy scout program required him to do some daily calisthenics for a month, so during most of June, we were walking over to the local school (which had a chin-up bar and was conveniently 1/4 mile away for testing running speed). That had the effect of having Neil run into many of his neighborhood peers, including one boy whose brother was one of the nicer boys in Neil’s former Webelos troop. They’ve started hanging out regularly for a round of Rock Band followed by pool play, and what could make for a better summer than that? And on top of that, even with my aversion to driving with such high gas prices, there was the irresistible fun of downtown San Jose, farmer’s markets, summer movies, free concerts, and the state fair.
As a result, the rigorous plan I had for schooling was pared down. Right now, Neil only has 4 or 5 subjects a day (math, literature, history, science, handwriting) so he’s done by early afternoon. And even then, that’s only 4 days a week and we had a big four week break, around Neil’s boy scout camp, Comic-Con, and the usual chaos of regrouping complete with my birthday celebration in the midst of all that.
Kelly starts kindergarten next week, and after the expected confusion that will make of our schedules, Neil will go back to full schooling, and add German, spelling, fine arts study, and logic to his curriculum. But we’re still having our big month-long family vacation in October, not summer. And I have to wonder if next summer I’ll allot Neil and Kelly even more free time than I did this year.
Is Kelly on year-round schedule and is going to be on track break? If not, how are you going to handle it with the school district when you pull her out for the big vacation? Not that I think it matters because she’ll learn more with you on your travels than she will at school, but once a child is legally enrolled in the system, even at the lowest grades school districts can be very anal when it comes to attendance. When Mary missed school for a week because of an extremely bad cold, a day or two after her return I received a nasty gram from the school warning of the truancy laws and informing me that kids with X days of unexcused absences can be held back a year. I was told to make an appt with the principal RIGHT AWAY to discuss her absences and to work on a plan to get her back on track in terms of attendance. Of course I ignored the letter, since I had already written the required note clearly explaining the reason for her absence, and it was clear the school apparently couldn’t bother to program the system to look for an ‘excused absence’ flag but still, I hope you cover yourself well.
We were able to take week-long vacations with Neil while he was in school by requesting a temporary independent study plan. I’ll be doing the same. But even if that isn’t approved, it shouldn’t be a problem, since kindergarten is not a mandatory grade, and Kelly’s on the young end for it already. At worst, she’s dropped, and I either re-enroll her or homeschool her.
We often take off for family vacations in Spring. We’ve been able to arrange house swaps a couple times. This helps keep the costs down. Once we went to Hawaii.
We do try to homeschool through the summer, but it is more half time, and often the focus is a bit different. During the school year we do the normal academic stuff. Then in the summer we’ll have our daughters memorize poems, work on their weak areas, and so on. But it is a much lighter load.