A frequent question from parents is, “How long does homeschooling take?” It’s normal to wonder how long something will take if you’ve never done it before. It’s also normal to wonder if your school day is taking much longer than everybody else’s.
When we first started years ago, the time factor played considerably into our decision, as the nearest school involved driving dirt roads, paying a toll, and an almost 2 hour round trip. Though my husband and I were 99.9% sure we’d be homeschooling at that point, we were still keenly aware if we ever did decide to put our kids in a classroom, the journey back and forth would have a major impact on our time.
Parents each homeschool a little differently. Kids learn differently, too. I cannot estimate the average length of a homeschool day, because there is no average. But I can tell you this: when my kids were little, they were easily homeschooled (the formal lesson portion) in less time than it would have taken me to drive and pick them up from school twice a day.
It’s time for a little disclaimer. What I’ll be talking about in this article is strictly book work and the curriculum types of exercises that many people view as the “homeschool” part of the day. The reason it’s important you know this, is because kids learn all day long, whether they’re “in school” or not. What I am about to tell you, is how long the book work portion of homeschooling took in our home. But what you also need to realize, is that our success really came from raising our kids in an environment rich with opportunities for learning all day long. Please understand any estimate I could give would account for only a fraction of our success.
Now, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably still wondering how long homeschooling takes. I am about to give you an idea of how long it took my kids, in our home. But, please, make sure to read this article to the very end, as it is only then that you’ll understand fully how long homeschooling really takes.
Preschool / Kindergarten / 1st Grade
(2 to 2.5 hours formal lessons per day)
We simulated a classroom environment in the early years, and my kids did book work from a very young age. I was lucky, as my husband built us a dedicated area for our classroom, which included a learning area, a quiet area, a swing set just steps away so I could see the kids from the window, and a bathroom, too. The classroom model was all we knew, and it turns out, we enjoyed many years of using it, too.
In the early years, we began each day in a very school-like fashion: a calendar lesson, a day of the week, a letter of the alphabet, a weather report, and learning to tell time on a little plastic clock. We’d then read together for 20-30 minutes, and then split up for individual activities.
Because I schooled all my kids in the same room and kept the baby in there, too, it was easy to move from kid to kid. Those years included early curriculum, but also lots of reading, drawing, workbooks, audio and video tapes, and creative projects to accompany whatever we were working on. I kept boxes and boxes of early learning toys in the classroom, which I swapped in and out for children who needed a break or needed to be kept busy as I was doing something else. We had chalk boards, white boards, felt boards, and plenty of ways to learn for the several hours we were in there. We kept pets in our classroom, too, so there was always something fun to do.
I am not going to lie — those years were pretty exhausting. If I had it to do over, I would greatly relax my requirements (learn how) . But, again, it was what I knew at the time and, fortunately, it worked very well for us.
Grades 2 – 5:
(3-4 hours per day)
As my kids got older, I introduced more curriculum for the core areas we covered in the mornings, and more things we could all do together for hands-on and specials in the afternoon. We covered pretty much every subject, every day. Our days varied, but with several young ones in the house, it definitely took all morning long for the older ones to get their book work done — approximately 3 to 4 hours. We also worked through lunch, and I did music appreciation lessons and foreign language (on alternating days) during our lunch breaks at the kitchen counter. On a typical day, our mornings started at 8 or 9, and ended somewhere around 12 or 1 — even 2. The afternoons were when we came together for projects, electives, chores and play time.
Remember I had multiple children, so homeschooling one child would have been entirely different for us in those grades. And in the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t above putting kids for naps or letting them watch a video when I really needed a break — which was quite a bit. These were the years when things could fall apart with no warning, and when I spent much of the time gathering the scraps of our days and counting them as school. Our well-planned days didn’t always go as predicted with little ones about, but there were enough days that finished well, so the accumulation of these years amounted to a whole lot.
(4 to 4.5 hours per day)
The middle years were much more straight-forward in our home. In my opinion, they were easy. My children were assigned things to do, and they did them. I had trained them to work on schedule, they knew where everything was located, plus all of our household and chore systems were well in place by the time they were able to work more independently. Those were also the years when I moved more into a supervisory/tutor/helper role than that of the full-time teacher I had been when they were younger. And because my older kids spent more time working on their own, those years afforded me the time I needed to be with the younger ones. For those who were wondering, that may help to explain how homeschool parents manage to teach multiple children at the same time.
Honestly, if I had it to do over again, I would have skipped some of the middle grades with my kids. The truth is, they were all ready for high school work long before I ever offered it to them. I feel we wasted time during the middle years when I could have been accelerating them forward even faster than I did. Knowing what I know now, I believe traditional middle school is wholly a waste of time. But, I digress…
High School Years:
(6-7 hours per day, maybe more)
It is hard for me to estimate how much time my high schoolers spend on formal book work. That’s because their sleep schedules change (they don’t start at the same time every day), they are able to work for long periods on their own (thus I don’t always see them), and their classes and study periods often take place somewhere else (they take online classes and college courses). In addition, since my high schoolers make their own schedules for the most part (except in 9th, when I schedule them), there are days when they decide to work solely on one thing, and other days when they touch multiple classes in one day.
I estimate my teens spend approximately 6 hours per day on book work, but I think the number could actually be higher. It isn’t that I don’t observe my kids, because I do. I also go over their planners every Sunday night. But, so much happens out of my direct earshot, and so many classes happen somewhere else, I cannot always really know how many curriculum hours they put in. What I do know is that we all meet at the dinner table every evening, and oftentimes my teens have just finished their work, or say they still have more to do after dinner until late into the evening. Their workload varies pretty much every day. Sometimes, I don’t even get to see the work until it’s turned in for grading.
I hope this has given you a glimpse into how we do homeschool in our home, but I remind you that these estimates include only our book/curriculum work, and not all of the other things my kids do during the afternoons and weekends, and the activities they do with other homeschoolers and community groups. For instance, this doesn’t include the coops my kids belong to and the field trips they go on. It doesn’t include the classes they take at libraries and museums. It doesn’t include the things they listen to in the car, read in the paper, discuss at the dinner table, and books they bring along with them to the beach. It doesn’t include the programs they watch, the web sites they visit, the games they play, the hobbies they keep, the lessons they take, the sports they play, the volunteer organizations they work with, and the thousands of other things that add as much — if not more – to their education. I am not boasting about my kids, merely reminding you there is no way to measure all the learning that occurs during childhood by simply counting hours.
Remember, there are many paths to homeschooling success and our way is just one of them. I always encourage families to see what works best in their homes, and continually tweak the process as they move along. Whereas an hour may seem like a long time to work on one topic in one family, it is never enough time in another.
Please, always do what works best for you and your children.
When people ask how long homeschooling takes, though we can give estimates like these, what we also need to do is explain that homeschooling really takes all day. It takes all night, too. Actually, it takes an entire childhood. That’s because education is more than just the books and the schedules. Learning is the work of a child and homeschooling lasts until they take learning into their own hands as adults.
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