One of the first things your families will need from you is an idea of when their kids will be in school. What holidays will your school observe? Will the school year follow the traditional calendar with a summer break, or will it follow a year-round model? There are advantages to either option, and of course it boils down to choosing what’s best for your school’s families and goals.
Match local public schools
If a lot of your families have children in other schools, it would probably be easier for them to coordinate their family life if your academic calendar matches the local public schools. That way, they can plan family trips, holidays, etc. and it avoids the problem of a different academic calendar being seen as an obstacle to their child attending your school.
Year-round school can be more effective
Students lose up 2-3 months of math and reading skills over the summer, and it takes an average of 6 weeks at the beginning of the next school year to regain it. One way to combat the problem of summer learning loss is to shorten the amount of time students are out of school. Year-round school doesn’t necessarily mean students are in the classroom more often. They’re usually in school for the same 180 days as their traditional peers, but they take shorter breaks more often throughout the year, rather than one long one over the summer.
Our friends at Acton Academy favor a calendar closer to the year-round schedule. Their students attend school for 11 months out of the year in six-week sprints. After each six-week period, the students have a week off of school. An added benefit of this system is that it gives the teachers a week to prep for the next six weeks without concurrently managing a classroom of students. Acton also has a one-month-long break in the summertime for any families who are accustomed to traveling during the summer.
Decide on the rhythm of a daily schedule
Now that you’ve covered which days the students will be in school, what shape do each of those days take? When is drop-off? Pick-up? Lunch? Start thinking about the daily rhythm of your learning center. Will you have independent core skills mastery time in the morning with group projects in the afternoon? Will you have time set aside for art every Tuesday? How often can you block time for the students to have physical activity? If you’d like to see how an Acton school sketched out their weekly schedule, look here.
One idea we like a lot is to launch the start of the day with a Socratic discussion. It’s a good way to build community and get everyone’s brains warmed up for the day. Similarly, it’s nice to close the day with an honest personal reflection on how well the day went, looking at highs and lows, and asking each student to make sure they’re learning to their best potential.
Plan the learning cycle
This is the fun part! Start planning the big picture of what your curriculum will look like. Once you have your academic calendar in place and an idea of how much time you’ll have each day, start thinking about what projects and overarching goals the students in your school will be working toward. This isn’t the time to get into the nitty gritty of each project and lesson, but to sketch out the overview of what topics your school as a whole will be focusing on throughout the year. For inspiration, check out an example from an Acton school.