I wrote earlier about the daily and weekly rituals that hold and sustain our homeschool. But there are also larger, seasonal rhythms that we use to structure our time. While we use a fairly traditional school calendar, we use the seasons and the church calendar to decide where the hard stops in our year go. Our year falls into different categories. Each has its own length and its own feel–some more structured and school-ish, some more celebratory.
This is the most academically rigorous term and comes right at the beginning. The school supplies are fresh, the bookcases are organized. I spent the Summer watching my kids and plotting our path. We are ready to go! We ease our way in, feathering in the subjects one by one. We’ll work this rhythm through Thanksgiving, often using the week before Thanksgiving to slowly taper off and change gears.
Advent + Christmas
Our favorite season! We spend the month of December reveling in the goodness of the coming child. Our history studies–the spine of our homeschool–shift and we study redemptive history with the Jesse Tree. We read picture books and sing the songs of the season. We make things and enjoy our friends. We wait full of expectation and joy. We also keep the party going all through the 12 Days of Christmas and let Epiphany mark our return to our studies.
From January to the beginning of Lent, we work on restoring our daily routines and school structures. After time off in December, it’s hard to get back to our schooling. So, we ease in just like we did in September. We let the saint day celebrations of St Agnes and Candlemas help.
Here we shift again and incorporate Biblical studies into our day. In past years we have done a Jesus Tree–very similar to a Jesse Tree. But this year Lent came sooo early that I decided to try something different. I got a Parables Pouch from Jesse Tree Treasures. It contains simple symbols from the parables of Christ in unfinished wood. I read the story, and the children polish the pieces with beeswax. It’s been a happy addition to our morning.
The last big push! The days are longer, the earth is waking up. The time after Easter is our last big academic focus for the year. It’s where I assess where we are and how much more we can finish before our Summer break. It’s where I start to figure out what books and resources we have already and what we’ll need to purchase for next year (this year the big question mark is MATH–Math-U-See or Teaching Textbooks, that is the question! Any advice?) We fully soak in the goodness of the fifty days of Easter and wait for the coming of the Spirit and the birth of the church on Pentecost. We study Shakespeare in the Spring and try to take the show on the road a few times a week and do school in the park.
We don’t do school in the Summer, but the learning continues! We spend lots of time reading aloud, playing outside, adventuring with the family, watching Shakespeare plays. Our Shakespeare study is rooted in performance. We see at least two plays during the Summer. We celebrate St Anne in July–the patron saint of all homeschooling mothers. And it’s my time to plan our coming academic year and lay in supplies!
I want our years together to be marked by learning progress, but also by joy. One way we prioritize peace is by observing the natural waxing and waning of attention and energy. The in breath and the out breath in our yearly rhythms help create that nurturing space. How do you structure schooling years?