One of the first questions people ask when they hear we homeschool is, “how many hours a day do your homeschool?”
Immediately, questions pop up in my own mind because there are so many variables and no two days are alike. Some of those variables are the number of children doing lessons, the number of babies and toddlers that need to also be watched, or which curriculum is being used.
What is Homeschooling?
The most important thing to make sure to understand is that homeschooling is NOT like the same style of learning that occurs in a public/private/parochial schooling. There are as many styles of homeschooling as there are homeschoolers. Each of those families will also tell you totally different responses to the question of how many hours a day do you homeschool?
Where to start
If you are at the beginning stages of thinking about homeschooling your children, your first stop should be Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) to learn about your state homeschool requirements. Some states actually mandate a certain number of hours of instruction for homeschooled children in a given school year. Oddly, these mandates are written by people who do not know much about homeschooling nor do they really grasp how little actual instruction a child in a school building indeed receives. Some states do not mandate a certain number of days or hours, but you will need to review your states’ requirements and adhere to them.
There is a famous motto from a style of schooling that says, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life.” Many homeschool families model their lives around learning. These families consider the everyday work of living as opportunities to build character, virtue, and teaching lessons. When Dad makes a loaf of banana bread, the children helping are learning about fractions from the recipe as well as how to lovingly work for the needs of one another. Children helping as Mom weeds the garden are learning about plants, plant life, insects, ecology, and the discipline of doing that which needs to be done.
Some homeschool families are regimented about maintaining a specific schedule to their day. Families with children in varying age ranges can benefit from maintaining a schedule such as the one discussed here. Families schooling maybe just one child, with non-school age siblings will maybe want a routine like the one discussed here.
As a rule of thumb, children in the early elementary grades (kindergarten-4th grade, approximately) should not spend more than 1-2 hours doing seated learning. Most of a young child’s learning time should be spent outdoors, playing or doing the things of life such as helping with cooking, cleaning and gardening and listening to read-alouds. There is an amazing website devoted to families reading aloud called Read-Aloud Revival. You will learn about the benefits, books lists for every age group and podcasts about the topic.
Children in the middle grade years (5th-8th grade, approximately) will slowly increase the number of hours of seated learning from 2-5 hours as they get older. It is still important that children in this age group get plenty of time outdoors, time to play, do independent reading as well as listen to family read-alouds. This age group will also begin to take over household chores and begin caring for young siblings as well.
High school aged young people will spend a considerable length of their day doing lessons. Most will be able to complete assigned lessons in 4-6 hours. This age group will need to be encouraged to get enough time outdoors, but will be a great asset to homelife taking on household chores, errands, childcare as well as household maintenance. All of these activities help a child blossom from infancy to a helpful, responsible, productive adult who has had a love of learning instilled.
Getting going with Homeschooling
Now that you have some idea of how many hours a day to homeschool, you may next wish to learn more about how to start, what style of learning matches your family, what curriculum to use, how to set up your home for learning, how to comply with your state’s homeschooling laws, what records you will need to maintain and how to find support for yourself as your children’s teacher.
If you are new to homeschooling, the topic is vast and the internet is full or so many wonderful ideas. Read from a diverse set of bloggers and homeschool websites, find your favorites that match your teaching style, maybe your faith and then do not try to do it all. You can quickly become overwhelmed. Also, find other homeschool families around you so you can learn what is offered locally. There may be cooperative learning opportunities, homeschool field trips, playgroups, meet-ups, conferences, and organizations.
Planning your homeschool day and year is made easier with a well produced homeschool planner.
There are some really well-written books about homeschooling as well. Please check some of these out from your local library, Amazon carries many and Thirftbooks will frequently have them available as well.
The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart
Homeschool Bravely by Jamie Erickson
The Call of the Wild and Free by Ainsely Arment
Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
Home Grown by Ben Hewitt
The Read Loud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill
Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist
Catholic Education: Homeward Bound by Kimberly Hahn
Managers of Their Homes by Steven Maxwell