For those of you that don't know, our school year is not on a traditional schedule like the public schools. Instead of two semesters with a large summer break, we are broken up into trimesters with three smaller breaks. Three months on, one month off, with a stray week or day(s) for additional holidays. Basically, three 12 week terms beginning the day after Labor Day. This approach is a recommendation of the Charlotte Mason curriculum and teaching principles that our household follows. While it was different than anything I was comfortable with, I saw many more benefits than challenges.
First, retention. I have many public school teacher friends and almost all of them say that the first month of a school year is basically spent reviewing last year's information and getting the students into a new routine. As the newbie homeschool teacher, I found this disheartening. I did not want to spend all this time and energy educating my boys only to have to spend a big chunk of time reviewing at the beginning of the year! With a three months on, one month off schedule, we are allowing for a decent rest three times a year and still it not being too large of a break where retention was impeded.
Second, burn out. I remember being a kid and just not being able to wait until Christmas vacation or summer vacation. Or the stray day or two off here or there for some odd holiday. Sometimes as kids we just needed a BREAK! The adults too, for that matter. It just seemed like the district holidays were too short and never often enough. I've read so many testimonies of Charlotte Mason taught families that a trimester approach keeps attentions fresh and burn out at bay.
Third, advent. I really wanted to do everything possible to take the entire month of December off schoolwork and focus on the spirit of Christmas. Typically, December is full of shopping and travel and juggling parties and concerts and school schedules (gah!) that the spirit of what we are celebrating is completely lost. January comes and I sit exhausted, feeling completely defeated...again. I struggle with it every single year. It seems I can never get out of the holiday rat race. So this year, I really want to spend time with the boys and give them a good understanding of what Christmas is about. I hope having an entire month off from schoolwork will allow us to remove ourselves from that hamster wheel and still be educational!
The benefit to homeschooling in general, whether one uses Charlotte Mason's program or another, is that Momma is the teacher, principal, and superintendent. I am in control of the curriculum and the environment and the schedule. While at one time, having control of those three things completely overwhelmed me, I have since embraced the freedom that comes with it. Work hard Monday - Thursday to get the week's work done so Friday can be a field trip day? Sure! Take Spring Break during a non-high-tourist time? Sure! Take a day off because it's your firstborn's birthday? Sure! It's gorgeous outside after weeks of desert-like temps, so you want to play outdoors instead of school at the kitchen table? Sure! This flexibility has been one of the biggest blessings. While we haven't had to institute many differences scheduling-wise YET, I know it's there if I need it. It's nice to know that since I'm in charge, if we needed to make school up on a Saturday, we could!