What are the key features of the local school calendar?
Highlights of the calendar include (but are not limited to) the following:
· Regular term dates – September to December for the autumn term; January to March for spring term; April to July for the summer term.
· Main school holidays – mid-December to early January for Christmas; mid-March to early April for Easter; mid-July to early September for summer.
· Half term holidays – mid-October (1 week), mid-February (1 week), May Day Bank Holiday weekend.
· GCSE/A-Level exam dates – mid-May to the end of June
· Study leave – up to 2 weeks before exams begin
These are what we argue for adhering to as much as possible, even when homeschooling. You can run a daily schedule in whatever way you see fit, but these more far-reaching milestones are well placed, and your family would benefit from sticking to them.
Why stick to the school’s calendar?
1. Because rest time is as important as study time
Holiday times are not just time to skip work and do nothing. Rest time is a constructive and important period for children to relax, process what they’ve learned and engage in important social and educational activities outside the realm of school. Term dates that appear each year are not just arbitrary dates chosen randomly. They are what most students and teachers feel are manageable chunks of time to learn, review and reflect.
2. To let your kids’ social life line up with friends
You can’t ignore the importance of your kids’ personal and social development. One of the advantages of attending a state or private school is that on top of the education your child gets, they also receive passive instruction in life’s social order. They learn to make friends, cultivate relationships with others, cooperate, and deal with conflict. In the homeschool setting, this feature does not come woven into the educational fabric.
This means that as a homeschool family, you need to give extra attention to social life. Lining up your schooling dates with that of the local schools means that your kids and their friends will have the same times off to play and socialize together. You’ll be glad of it when your homeschool child is able to develop these crucial social skills at the same pace as their peers. Not doing so can create problems when it comes time for them to leave home and go to university.
3. It helps you to plan your academic year
Finally, there is a further practical reason to stick with the school’s calendar, and that is so that you can better plan your year ahead. When it comes to GCSE and A-Levels, your calendar will be swamped with critical milestones --- registering at the exam centre, submitting coursework or assignments, breaking for study leave, individual exam dates and more. You need to be able to plan, and the school year calendar is already lined up to absorb these dates efficiently.
You may take issue with the ways that local schools structure their working day. You may think there’s too much time cooped up in the classroom and not enough spent outside exercising. You may feel that the school doesn’t provide enough opportunity for students to explore hobbies and extracurricular activities to expand their horizons. If this is the case, then set your own daily schedule is a positive move, and you may be able to do better for your own children.
That being said, the settings of the annual calendar are worth following for the reasons we have stated above. The daily and annual calendars can be thought of separately. You can have your daily schedule while still gaining the benefits the annual schedule brings. We hope that our advice has helped bring you some clarity.