We put great stock in the educational value of calendars. Calendars create structure and shared calendars create community, and structure and community are two of the most important things you can give to your homeschool students.
We publish six one-page educational calendars each year for the River Houses, all in printable (pdf) format and all running from September through August — that’s the River Houses homeschool year. These calendars include regular events and anniversaries that we mark on our website and in our Facebook posts, and (eventually, as the River Houses develop) in local events and activities.
Print out the calendars for the topics that interest you, post them on your bulletin board, share them with your homeschool friends, and follow along with us as the year develops:
🗓 RIVER HOUSES HOMESCHOOL CALENDAR · 2020–2021 (pdf) — A simple one-page calendar of educational events, historical anniversaries, and holidays that will help you create a light structure for your homeschool year. (If you’re just getting started, start with this one.)
🗓 River Houses Poetry Calendar · 2020–2021 (pdf) — A calendar of fifty literary friends-for-life that your students can get to know over the course of the year. Most are high-school level works that you yourself may also enjoy. We discuss them each week in our “Wonderful Words” posts.
🗓 River Houses Star Calendar · 2020–2021 (pdf) — A calendar of twelve great stars to name and know in the northern-hemisphere night sky. They are detailed each month in our “Star Bright” astronomy posts.
🗓 River Houses States & Countries Calendar · 2020–2021 (pdf) — The annual schedule for our Sunday States & Countries posts that review all the U.S. states and the nations of the world over the course of the year.
🗓 River Houses Calendar of American Birds · 2020–2021 (pdf) — The annual schedule for our Friday Bird Families posts that introduce a different North American bird family every week, and that teach a little science and natural history along the way.
🗓 River Houses World Heritage Calendar · 2020–2021 (pdf) — The annual schedule for our Weekly World Heritage posts that introduce a different UNESCO World Heritage Site every Wednesday. Spend a few minutes with this calendar each week and learn a wealth of new historical, geographical, and cultural information.
And here’s a one-page conventional calendar for the whole school year in a matching style:
🗓 The River Houses Homeschool Year · 2020–2021 (pdf) — A standard day-week-month page to accompany the specialized calendars above, showing the whole year at a glance.
❡ Cygnus, Orion, Leo, and Hercules: As you’ll see on our printed calendars, we divide the homeschool year into four three-month terms named for prominent northern hemisphere constellations: Cygnus Term (September–November), Orion Term (December–February), Leo Term (March–May), and Hercules Term (June–August). You can read more about them in our regular blog posts at each term’s beginning.
We also have printable daily, weekly/monthly, and annual planners. These are very simple one-page blank schedules that will help you map out your teaching plans and document your homeschool accomplishments throughout the year:
🗓 River Houses Annual Homeschool Planner · 2020–2021 (pdf) — A simple one-page blank schedule similar to our thematic calendars (above) to keep track of a whole year at glance. Print multiple copies and use a different one for each subject or each student.
🗓 River Houses Weekly/Monthly Homeschool Planner · 2020–2021 (pdf) — A simple blank schedule with two columns to keep track of two weeks at a glance. Print it double-sided and fold it lengthwise and you’ll have four weeks on one handy half-sheet that you can pin to your bulletin board, attach to your refrigerator door, or fold and put in your pocket.
🗓 River Houses Daily Homeschool Planner · 2020–2021 (pdf) — A simple blank schedule with two columns to keep track of two days at a glance. Print it double-sided and fold it lengthwise and you’ll have four days on one handy half-sheet.
❡ Students can use them too! Print some extra copies of these simple planners and teach your students how to use them to keep track of their own work. Have them record the topics they are studying, or the number of pages they read each week, or the temperature at noon each day, or the birds they see at the family bird feeder. Drop the completed planner pages into a folder each week or each month and you’ll have a ready-made record of your students’ homeschool accomplishments throughout the year.
Our collection of homeschool calendars is not specific to any particular curriculum. These calendars are enrichment tools that you can use to supplement whatever curriculum you choose to follow. They will give a light structure to your educational year and will help you furnish your students’ minds with facts, ideas, concepts, experiences, and language that will let them build up a picture of the world around them.
The items in these calendars can be incorporated into your teaching schedule in a great variety of ways, from simple to complex. You could (for example) take five minutes at lunch every November 19th to read the Gettysburg Address aloud, and with that your little lesson is done. Alternatively, you could make that entire week into a special Civil War history review each year, or a week to study famous American speeches, or Pennsylvania geography. On the anniversary of the first moon landing (July 20th, which is also Gregor Mendel’s birthday) you could have your students memorize the famous line “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” — one of history’s most famous quotations. Alternatively, you could use that anniversary as a focal point for a week-long study of space exploration, or the geology of the moon, or of how someone becomes an astronaut. As you (the teacher) browse these calendars each month, be on the lookout for names, dates, places, and vocabulary that you can drop into your daily conversations with your students — items that you can reinforce each week by taking note of various calendar events.
Add to these simple calendars as you see fit. Perhaps in your homeschool you’d like to include a monthly mountain, or museum, or Messier object. Or perhaps a weekly wildlife refuge or a weekly work of art. Special dates that are important in your local community should have a place as well: your hometown’s famous Fall Rutabaga Festival, for example, or the annual May Queen Parade, or the first day of trout-fishing season. Every town and region has its own distinctive annual rhythm, and by adding your local events to our more general calendars you will comfortably anchor your students in their home communities and in the cultural, historical, and natural world.
OUR EDUCATIONAL CALENDAR PHILOSOPHY
Calendars are ideal educational tools because they help students build up a mental picture of the world in which they live. Calendars teach students to remember and anticipate; they illustrate stability and regularity as well as change and progress (and sometimes decline); and they create space for agency (because recurring events can be acted upon). Individually they create structure, and when they are shared they create community.
Here are some of the features of calendars that we think make them particularly well suited to homeschool education:
The calendar comes to you. You don’t have to go in search of it. The Fourth of July, and the Perseid meteor shower, and the spring equinox, and the first Song Sparrow singing in the backyard will all arrive on schedule whether you are ready for them or not. (“Whether we wake or we sleep, / Whether we carol or weep, / The Sun with his Planets in chime, / Marketh the going of Time.”) In this sense, learning with and through the calendar requires no planning on our part: it will keep happening no matter what we do if we are alert to the world around us.
The calendar repeats. As long as the earth keeps turning on its axis and orbiting the sun, the calendar will keep returning, year after year. (“The world is always turning toward the morning.”) Learning at all levels typically involves repetition, so the fact that the calendar repeats makes it an ideal educational tool: what we learn this time around can be reinforced the next time; what we miss can be picked up the next time; what we learn in outline at first, we can learn in depth next. And as our own experience accumulates, we discover new things with each calendrical cycle.
The calendar is everywhere and in everything. The calendar originates in the natural world — in the seasons, in the stars, in plants and animals — and from there it extends and gives structure to human activity through the patterns of history. Because the calendar is everywhere, you can take a calendrical approach to education in any subject: the mathematics of dates, or the birthdays of famous musicians, or the annual arrival times of migratory birds, or the rise and fall of empires. Want to teach or learn about a new subject and don’t know how to begin? Start by making a calendar.
The calendar can be simple or infinitely complex. The calendar is a fractal kind of thing — it is infinitely expandable. We can collapse ten years of terrible war into a sentence, or expand a single day into a 100-page volume. The depth and richness of the calendar means we can pull out any theme of our choosing for educational use and teach it at any level of resolution, and add as many thematic layers as we wish. Your youngest beginners can learn (for example) that the American Revolution was in the 1700s, the Civil War in the 1800s, and World Wars I and II in the 1900s, and their little lesson is done. Your advanced students, in their turn, can spend an entire year on (say) the timeline of the First Continental Congress.
The calendar is universal. The calendar applies to everyone and encompasses the whole world. All of us on earth, young and old, swift and slow, king and peasant, experience the same phases of the moon, the same movements of the stars, the meteors in their season — every nation has its holidays, every place its birds of passage. The calendar includes many of the most common reference points for the entire human race, and many others which encompass whole hemispheres and continents.
And yet the calendar is also personal. We all have our own calendars — for ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods — calendars that no one, or only a few people, have in common with us. Family birthdays, anniversaries of personal events, the date we planted the cherry tree in the back yard, the place we always visit at a particular time of year. These different individual calendars shape our own perspectives on the world and are important aspects of our individuality.
Shared calendars create community. Calendars can be shared. And when your calendar overlaps mine, and both our calendars overlap our neighbors’, then we are a community and our strengths are multiplied. And a collection of strong local homeschool communities is just what we hope the River Houses will become. 😊
❡ Explore more: Your recommended River Houses almanac and history encyclopedia (riverhouses.org/books) contain a wealth of information about calendars, national and international holidays, historical events, astronomical alignments, and much more. Why not scan through them today for additional dates to include on your own personal homeschool calendar! 🗓