As my Facebook and Twitter feeds fill up this week with back-to-school pictures of smiling kids with brand new lunch boxes in hand, we’re settling into week FOUR of first grade. This picture of Big Roo went up on July 29: our first day of school for the year-rounders.
When I first knew that year-round school was a possibility in our school district, I might have just died a little inside at the thought of it. BUT MY KIDS WON’T GET A LONG SUMMER BREAK LIKE WE USED TO HAVE? BUT THEY’LL BE IN SCHOOL ALL THE TIME? But, but, but. Then, the year Big Roo was about to start kindergarten, our best school choice was a year-round school. In fact, it’s considered one of the best elementary schools in our area.
And so I began to shift my paradigm, open my eyes and see the real beauty of year-round school. We’ve been through a year of it and I couldn’t be happier with our schedule.
I often field questions from curious friends, bloggers or even strangers. So I wanted to lay out the things I love about year-round, especially for those parents who might have the option for a year-round schedule but aren’t sure what to think. And this post is also for the curious (sorry in advance if I make you a little jealous that your area doesn’t have a year-round option)! Ha!
In our county, many elementary and middle schools are year round schools. High schools are all traditional because of sports schedules. Our year-round schools are broken down into four tracks, each one with different breaks. This gives the schools the ability to teach more children since one track is always out of school at any given time. There are about 3 weeks and a few holidays where the entire school is out at once.
Here are the things I love about year-round school:
We Get Breaks All Year Long
There’s not as much end-of-year frazzling going on when you get regular breaks throughout the year. Year round is a bit of a misnomer because people envision kids working away like a 9 – 5 job, getting a two-week vacation and a spring break. Nope. Not even close. We get four breaks: three are called track-outs and one is called summer. In the track Big Roo is on, our breaks go like this:
- School starts: late July
- October: 3 weeks off
- December – January: 5 weeks off (Holiday break plus 3 weeks)
- March- April: 3 weeks off
- July: 4 weeks off
Our Breaks Are Just That: BREAKS
If I had a kid out for an entire summer, I might be inclined to make Big Roo churn out some school work so he doesn’t forget the entire grade he just passed. But when it’s just a few weeks? Pffft! We actually enjoy the breaks. We read daily and learn from the things around us, but I don’t try to stuff his days with worksheets and workbooks. He gets to truly enjoy his breaks and I’m guilt-free about it.
We Can Take Vacations in the Off Season
Whoop! Whoop! With so many breaks, we don’t have to cram our vacations into the summer like everyone else. (Though I admit last year I was invited to the Disney Social Media Mom Conference so I DID take a break during the school year). We have a few non-summer months to snag great deals on vacations, plus some time in the summer for trips to the beach. And since we totally owe Arizona a return visit after living there for 5 years, I’m glad we don’t have to return during those lovely 115 degree temps.
We Still Get a Summer… but with Less Whining
One of the things I was most worried about was feeling like my kids were getting gypped on a proper summer. But with one school summer break behind us, I felt like it was just the perfect amount of time off. Big Roo got to enjoy some lazy days, go to camp and spend a week at the beach. I didn’t get nearly as much “Mom- I’m BORED!!!” and huffing around as I know my parents got from me. I’d say less whining is a BIG plus.
It’s a Working Parent’s Dream
I work about 20 hours a week. Even as a part-time working parent, I can’t take off 2-3 months in the summer while Big Roo is out of school, nor do I want the cost of back-to-back summer camps. I want him to FEEL like he’s getting a break too. With a year-round schedule, we only have to worry about filling up the days a few weeks at a time. We typically do track-out camps and then I take off time around the holidays and part of summer break. And since my schedule is somewhat flexible, I can enjoy some time with him and still get my work done.
Are there any downsides to year-round school? Well, one thing is that the entire school rarely gets to do anything completely together. We have two walk-a-thons, two field days and multiples of other events since one track is always out of school. The plus side? It’s much easier to park at the school during those events.
I’m sure if I had a traditional school schedule, I’d like that too. But I can truly say I’m pleasantly surprised with how year-round school is working out for us.
Does your area have a year-round option?