For years, there has been a lot of talk, arguing, and freaking out on the topic of year round school schedules (sometimes referred to as year around school schedules). In this blog, I hope to clear up some confusion about the main concern of year round school AND provide a year round schedule that can easily be used in YOUR school.
First, let's get the negative out of the way, and discuss the most common concern people have when the topic of year round school is brought up.
Breaks for teachers and students.
Many people immediately think, "What about the school breaks? That's when we go on vacation!" or "I need my summer vacation for sanity!"
I get it! I have been there and completely understand the exhaustion students and teachers face. I know how ready they are to get their much deserved break. However, there are underlying issues that cause this exhaustion and mental fatigue that requires a break.
I'm not going to go into depth on those issues here (be on the lookout for more blogs that cover these topics). These underlying energy suckers include: lack of resources, outdated/incomplete/inappropriate curriculum, too many expectations, busy work, over testing, unrealistic expectations, not enough breaks throughout the day, etc. (See my blog Play is not good in the classroom...It's Great! for ways to include mental breaks throughout the day.)
When these underlying issues are corrected, then students and teachers can begin to function within their natural power at a consistent rate, instead of desperately needing breaks throughout the year.
Another important thing to note is that year round school does not have to mean that breaks are taken away. Year round school simply means there is not a large gap between one year and the next. However, there can be break spread throughout the year.
This allows students and teachers to take the time away they need, but still get the benefits of year round school.
Now, let's look at the main benefit of year round school.
Continual academic engagement.
Most schools have between 10-12 weeks of break from one school year to the next. Students go almost 3 months without academic engagement. They are playing and enjoying their friends, which is great! However, they are not practicing the skills they have been learning throughout the school year. (Yes, I know many parents have their children complete practice workbooks or attend tutoring during the summer and that is great. I certainly did growing up. But the majority of students are not getting any academic practice during the summer.)
Every teacher will tell you that at the beginning of the year they spend the first few weeks reviewing material taught in the previous grade level. This is because students have forgotten much of what they learned during summer break.
Imagine with me...you take 3 months off from your job (whatever profession that is). You don't think about work or your responsibilities. You don't practice any of the skills you have to use on the job. When you go back to work, what will happen?
You'll be rusty, as we say in the south. Sure, you still know what you are supposed to do, but your mind and body are out of practice. What you were able to do immediately without much thought before your break now requires your complete attention. You will make mistakes. You will have to redo much of your work, until you get back into the swing of things.
This is what happens to our children over summer break. By spreading break times throughout the year (one or two weeks at a time), students and teachers are able to get the mental break they need without losing learning time.
So, how do we do this? How do we spread the breaks throughout the year instead of lumping them in the summer?
We use quinmester instead of semesters. Quinmesters are 5 sections of learning through one school year. You would have 9 weeks of school followed by one or two week breaks. Here is a sneak peak at the sample year round school schedule from my book, Foundations for Mastery: An Alternate Approach to Standardized Education (coming soon!)
You will notice that I have the breaks labeled as "optional." This is because in Foundations for Mastery, I recommend having your school open year round to better meet the needs of parents.
Most parents work year round and need care for their children. Our schools should meet this need by remaining open except on major holidays. During the optional breaks, students and teachers can choose to go on vacation or simply stay home from school. The school would still be open for a "fun week" for students who need care.
However, I do not recommend using this format if you have not addressed the issues I listed above that cause students and teachers to desperately need a break. The purpose of the optional breaks is to better serve our families, not overload students and teachers.
For more information about quinmesters and year round school, subscribe to my email list and download 7 Tips to Teach for Mastery to be notified about future blogs and the release date for Foundations for Mastery: An Alternate Approach to Standardized Education.