After you have determined the number of days in your school year, you will need to decide how you want to achieve that number of days by planning your school year. You know that the year has 365 days available for school. You also know the number of instructional days in your school year. Now you need to decide how you will lay out those instructional days over the 365 that are available to you.
Although most homeschoolers generally follow a typical school year consisting of nine months of school weeks that are Monday through Friday followed by two off days there is no reason you have to do it this way. You might want to plan longer school weeks, say Monday through Saturday, to make the school year shorter or to allow for more breaks through the year.
Speaking of breaks, the number and length of breaks you want to take during the year is another area over which you have control. Traditional schools usually have long breaks at Christmas time and in the spring with a very long break over the summer months. You might want match this general plan. Alternatively, you might want to allow for more frequent but shorter breaks during the year and skip the traditional summer vacation (the basic concept of year-round school).
As you plan your school year, make the following decisions:
- How many and which days of the week will be school days? In most cases, you will likely decide to have school on the five weekdays, but in some circumstances, you might want to choose something different. For example, suppose that your spouse works Tuesday through Saturday. You might want to match that schedule in your school so that all your family has the same two "off" days during the week.
- When and how long will breaks be? Looking at the calendar, decide when you will want school to be "closed." This includes breaks (for Christmas or vacations) and holidays that you want to take off (for example, Memorial Day).
- When will school start? Determine the date on which your school year will begin. In addition to defining the start of your school calendar, this determines when you need to have all your planning and preparation work completed.
How many hours school will require each day should depend on the curricula you have defined for each day. Some days will be longer and some might be shorter depending on that day's lesson plan. Like traditional schools, school days will tend to be shorter for early grade levels and gradually get longer as topics increase in number and complexity.
Be aware that most states define a minimum number of "instructional hours" for a school day. A typical number is three hours. This might seem odd to you because most schools have days that consist of more than three hours. But remember that days in traditional schools are filled with a lot more than just instructional hours. There is the time to get to and from school, the administrative activities (taking roll for example), the time between classes, recess and other breaks, lunch, and so on. The actual number of hours a student spends "learning" in a traditional school is usually quite a bit fewer than the total number of hours in a school day.
Homeschooling can be much more efficient than a traditional school because you can eliminate much of the time that is wasted in traditional schools. You may find that you can get a lot more accomplished in fewer hours than can be done in a traditional school.
Even so, you need to make sure that you can document that you have spent the required number of instructional hours on the required number of days. It is highly likely that you will spend more time than is required, but you need to be able to demonstrate that you have met at least the minimum requirements.