New homeschoolers frequently ask how much time to allow for every subject, every day. Especially when creating schedules and trying to budget enough time for other activities, having a general idea can be helpful when trying to fit everything in to a 24-hour day.
There aren’ts any rules about it, but I usually suggest starting with 20-minute classes for younger students, and 45-minute classes for middle school and up. These numbers were derived from research and experience, and take into account student age — as younger students need time to complete subjects and transition to others, while older students are able to move more swiftly from one subject to the next with no break in between. But you know your students best, and these are only suggestions. Adopt whatever number your instincts tell you to start with, and work from there, keeping in mind that these numbers are purely for planning and will change over time.
Using figures like these, it becomes possible to plan what a typical school day might look like. Beginning at 9:00 a.m. for example, younger children might be able to complete two subjects before snack time, and another 2 classes until it’s time for lunch. Older students starting at 8:00 a.m. might be able to complete 4 or 5 subjects by lunch, plus another 1 or 2 in the afternoon or evening, depending on what else has been planned for the day. Write these plans lightly in pencil, though, as they’re sure to change. But, again, they’re useful at the beginning of the year to help plan what might be accomplished in a single day.
Over time, patterns begin to emerge. Actual lessons may take more time than originally planned, or less, depending on the student, the project, the day, his or her mood, distractions in the home, and other factors. But, after several weeks of practice, families will begin to arrive at more accurate numbers to help predict the rest of the year. If some subjects take only 15 minutes and others take 90, that’s fine, too. Not everything takes the same amount of time, and homeschoolers are under no pressure to complete everything by-the-clock anyhow. Besides, not all homeschoolers study this way, anyway.
Since many traditional schools allot 50 minutes for traditional academic subjects, parents sometimes ask if this formula can be used in homeschool, too. Absolutely. But, do remember that homeschooling isn’t about modeling the same system used in schools, and in the interest of providing a custom education for every student, the same schedule it isn’t always the best choice at home.
Observe your child and use your best judgement when it comes to planning the homeschool day. Begin with 20- and 45-minute periods and go from there!